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Volkswagen Vento Diesel Automatic : Road Test

  • Dec 22, 2014
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[caption id="attachment_15039" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Front Right Quarter Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Front Right Quarter[/caption]

Volkswagen’s Vento has always been one of the classiest offerings in the mid-size sedan segment. It oozes class with its simple, yet elegant design lines that gives it a very mature appearance along with a perfectly balanced profile.

Volkswagen India recently gave it a mid-life face-lift with subtle design changes inside-out to refresh its appeal. But this particular car has a new heart as well. Volkswagen has downsized the earlier model’s diesel engine to 1,498cc. And that’s not all, the car we have here also comes with a seven-speed double clutch automatic gearbox that earlier was only available on the petrol Vento TSI.

This combination has dramatically altered the very nature of the diesel Vento automatic. But before we get there, lets take a closer look at the updated Volkswagen Vento.

 

[caption id="attachment_15062" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Front Lights On Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Front Lights On[/caption]

Exteriors

On the face of it, everything remains the same with that well chiseled profile consisting of a flat bonnet with mild design lines running from the inside of the headlamps to the A-pillars, a twin slat chrome lined grille with the VW logo placed prominently in the centre, the bumper has a large central air dam underlined in chrome and oval fog lamps at either end. The black background double barrel headlamps are new and definitely lend to the premium appeal of the car. If I have a complaint here, it is that the Vento needs brighter headlamps. Out on dark roads, while the low beam offers sufficient lighting, the high beam of the Vento has limited spread.

[caption id="attachment_15049" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Left Side Profile Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Left Side Profile[/caption]

The side profile of the car consists of a steeply raked windscreen, the roof line blends beautifully with the boot, the glass house has a black outline along with a black B-pillars and ORVM mounting areas. The wrap around head lamps and tail lamps lend some flair to the side profile of the car as well. There is a mild crease running from the head lamps to the tail lamps, along with mildly flared wheel archs and angular lower sections for the doors that connect the wheel archs. Wrapping up the side profile are new multi-spoke alloy wheels. The whole profile has a tipped forward stance that gives it a very subtle sporty touch.

[caption id="attachment_15054" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Rear Left Quarter Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Rear Left Quarter[/caption]

The rear profile of the car consists of a large rear bumper, subtle design for the tail lamps, while the boot lid has a central recess for the license plate and a chrome lined boot lip.

[caption id="attachment_15040" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Interior Dashboard Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Interior Dashboard[/caption]

Interior

The interiors of the VW Vento are as elegant as its exteriors. There is a light brown interior colour theme with beige sections thrown in to liven up the cabin. This along with the sliver centre console, piano black and sleek chrome inserts on the steering wheel make the Vento’s cabin a classy place to be in. Build quality and fit and finish of all the materials is top notch. The switchgear and control stalks feel solid and expensive to use. The instrument binnacle now uses white back light that makes it easier on the eyes, and the driver information display gives you an array of data from distance traveled, distance to empty, time, service intervals, exterior temperature, two trip meters, average fuel consumption display, an electronic speedometer and more.

The front and rear seats are very comfortable with the perfect amount of cushioning to offer good support. The front passenger seat has a stow away function that can be operated from the rear seat. The rear bench has been set perfectly and under thigh support is good. The only issue here is that the high center tunnel intrudes into the leg space of the middle passenger.

[caption id="attachment_15041" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Interior Front Seats Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Interior Front Seats[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_15044" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG rear seat Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG rear seat[/caption]

An ergonomic issue is the front centre arm rest. If you stow it away then you keep hitting your elbow on it while operating the hand brake or otherwise. If it is in place then it is uncomfortable to reach the handbrake. Otherwise the cabin is pretty much spot on. What it could do with perhaps is more storage space for your kick knacks, illuminated front storage at night, there is only one rear cup holder and the rear door pockets are too small.

While the Vento is well equipped with features such as electrically adjustable ORVMs, height adjustable driver’s seat, tilt and telescopically adjustable steering wheel, remote central locking, boot opening and window controls, one touch power windows, front seat stow away from the rear, climate control, Bluetooth/CD/USB/SD card/AUX, steering mounted audio controls, rear defogger, rear a/c vents, day/night interior mirror and front and rear fog lamp, it misses out on goodies like a keyless entry and start-stop system, cruise control, rear camera, chilled glove box etc. Also, the rear fog lamp turned out to have a white bulb, which can confuse other road users.

Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Rear Fog Lamp

 

[caption id="attachment_15032" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI diesel Engine Bay Volkswagen Vento TDI diesel Engine Bay[/caption]

Engine and Gearbox

As mentioned earlier, the updated Vento gets a 1.5 litre four cylinder common rail turbocharged diesel engine that develops 105PS of maximum power @ 4,400 rpm and 250Nm of peak torque between 1,500 rpm and 2,500 rpm. Also as mentioned earlier, the engine is mated to a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission.

More gears in the tranny have allowed Volkswagen to give the car shorter lower ratios which helps negate turbo lag better. That’s not to say, there isn’t any turbo lag. There is a fair amount of it below 1,500 rpm, but the double clutch unit is a very clever one and downshifts very fast for an automatic when you need more power. Ofcourse, there is that odd gap in normal ‘Drive’ mode between your foot going down hard and the powertrain responding with more power, but once the system responds, the Vento surges forward with good force. But this is in the interest of better fuel efficiency and is understandable.

[caption id="attachment_15042" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Gearlever Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Gearlever[/caption]

I have to make a special mention of the excellent job that Volkswagen has done in setting up this engine and gearbox combination. It has made the Vento diesel automatic extremely refined. NVH levels are extremely well contained for a diesel car. Its only during cold starts and when the stereo and air con fan are off that you can make out that this is a diesel car, otherwise most of the time and under linear acceleration you can’t even tell that this is a diesel car. Its that quiet!

And when you do go heavy on the throttle you realize how refined the engine sounds. The engine has a somewhat gruff note at the top end of the rev band and a milder version of the sound track at the higher end of the mid-range. Apart from that, the car feels so very refined and quiet in every circumstance. Infact, less discerning drivers and passengers will not even realize at the top end of the rev band that this is a diesel car. It really is that good!

[caption id="attachment_15033" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Front Dynamic Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Front Dynamic[/caption]

As the speedometer needle surges past the three digit mark the Vento pulls well and even when you approach 180 km/h the engine feels zingy. While power fades past the 4,400 rpm mark, the motor feels lively anywhere between 1,500 rpm and 4,400 rpm. It is a very different experience from that of the same engine mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, I must add. True that there are faster diesel mid-size sedans out there, but they aren’t faster by much and the DSG unit makes the drive feel more exciting with great power delivery.

While there are no paddle shifters for the car, I was never complaining as the ‘Sports’ mode holds revs longer and down shifts faster than in normal mode, making it fairly rewarding to drive the Vento. And if you are looking for more, there is always the tip-tronic mode that allows you to change gears manually via the gear lever. While it is not as responsive as a manual gearbox, the unit is responsive and allows you good control over the car.

[caption id="attachment_15057" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Right Side Pan Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Right Side Pan[/caption]

The Volkswagen Vento diesel automatic is 22 kg heavier than its manual counterpart. But thanks to the taller top ratios, it is very fuel efficient. The car can easily return 17.7 km/l under urban driving conditions when you are careful and use tip-tronic mode to upshift early. Out on the highway, achieving the 20 km/l mark is also going to be very easy if you stay below 110km/h. When you go heavy on the throttle, the worst efficiency I managed to get was 12.24 km/l, which is also not bad for a diesel mid-size sedan. The Volkswagen Vento diesel DSG has an ARAI rated fuel efficiency figure of 21.21 km/l, slightly more than the manual version.

 

[caption id="attachment_15035" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Front Right Dynamic Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Front Right Dynamic[/caption]

Ride and Handling

The Volkswagen Vento is underpinned by a monocoque chassis with McPherson Strut front suspension featuring a stabilizer bar and at the rear, the suspension has a semi-independent trailing arm setup.

As far as diesel mid-size sedans go, the Volkswagen Vento has got it spot on when it comes to the ride and handling department. The suspension isolates you from the road very well. It cushions wavy roads with aplomb and dismisses road imperfections with absolute ease. Even the sharpest of bumps are dealt with very well. Road noise is also minimal and its only the sharpest of bumps that are audible to an extent. But overall, the Volkswagen Vento is a very comfortable car.

[caption id="attachment_15034" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Front Right Cornering Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Front Right Cornering[/caption]

Throw the Vento around a corner and the 15 inch 185/60 section tyres offer good grip, post which the stability programme kicks in when it detects understeer or wheel slippage. The ESP system then limits power and brakes individual wheels to guide the vehicle along its intended path. Switch the system off and you can get the car to do some nice skids. And its at this moment when you realize how sorted the chassis of the car is and how predictable the car is at its very limits.

So its not just comfort where the Vento excels, positive road manners and limited body roll make the Vento a fun to drive car in its segment.

As is the case with electronic power steering systems, the unit in the Vento is light and communicative, but could do with more feedback from the front tyres.

 

[caption id="attachment_15037" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Front Right Quarter Dynamic Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Front Right Quarter Dynamic[/caption]

Safety

The Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG comes with passive safety features such as impact beams and crumple zones. Active safety features aboard the car include anti-lock brakes, electronic stability programme, hill hold control and dual front airbags.

 

[caption id="attachment_15053" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Rear Left Quarter Dynamic Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Rear Left Quarter Dynamic[/caption]

Verdict

The automatic Volkswagen Vento diesel is a very impressive car indeed. It is inclined as much towards buyers looking for an upmarket mid-size sedan as it is towards enthusiasts who love to drive. Its positive road manners, excellent suspension and eager powertrain makes the VW Vento DSG diesel a hoot to drive while also being efficient.

At Rs. 11.16 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), the Vento diesel automatic is priced approximately on par with its rivals. It may have a few features less than some of its rivals, but none of them, apart from the Skoda Rapid, offer a double clutch automatic gearbox. This makes the Vento DSG diesel stand apart.

[caption id="attachment_15052" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Rear Dynamic Volkswagen Vento TDI DSG Rear Dynamic[/caption]

Ofcourse, like every car, the Vento has drawbacks. It is not the most practical car out there. It could do with more storage spaces and better legroom for the middle rear passenger. The car also needs brighter headlamps.

But most of this is not even remotely going to affect its customer base. For, the Vento simply leaves behind its competition when it comes to its elegant design, great ride, handling and comfort, along with that fantastic powertrain. Those who love to drive and want an efficient and safe car, will pick up the Vento diesel automatic in a heartbeat. It truly is in a class of its own!

 

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Photography by Siddharth
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