August 16, 2016 @ 04:46 PM

Review: Volkswagen Vento 1.2 TSI - What’s in a name?

It isn't often that a facelift is accompanied by a name change but Volkswagen thought that a new turbocharged engine justified it and we have to agree, albeit not wholeheartedly.


Understandably, many eyebrows were raised when Volkswagen Group Malaysia (VGM) announced the arrival of the Vento; effectively a facelifted Polo Sedan that sells under the same nameplate in India. Cosmetically, it was practically unchanged so that would mean that the upgrades delved beyond skin deep and as it turns out, worked wonders to rejuvenate its previous also-ran status in the B-segment.
 
VGM has big plans for the Vento but it starts with a small engine.
 
All great things come from humble beginnings and nothing can be humbler than the 1.2 litres of displacement that the flagship variant is powered by. Yes you read that right, the range-topping Vento has a smaller engine but the ace up its sleeve is the turbocharged and direct injected petrol engine that crowns it as the first turbocharged entrant in its segment; shuffling it a new hand against the current top draws at the table, chiefly the Honda City, Mazda 2 and Toyota Vios.


 
It has to be pointed out that there will be three trims of the Vento - Comfortline, Trendline, and Highline, and only the Highline will be powered by the aforementioned 1.2-litre TSI engine mated to a seven-speed DSG tranny. Yes, no wax in your ear again, this one gets the trick double-clutch gearbox as well.
 
The Comfortline and Trendline variants retain the 1.6-litre naturally aspirated MPI engine and six-speed torque converter automatic from the previous Polo Sedan.
 
Cosmetically, there isn't much to differ the Vento from the Polo Sedan. Nitpick and you will pick up on the larger grille, redesigned bumper and rectangular fog lights that take a leaf from its larger Passat sibling’s styling guide. Many mentioned that the Vento possesses more than a passing resemblance to the chic Passat, and that is no bad things in our book.


 
Out back, it gets LED taillights and the bumper is refreshed as well. Filling the four corners are larger 16-inch wheels wrapped in chunky 215/45R16 rubbers that are also the largest in its segment.
 
The familiarity breeds into the cabin as well with is largely carried over from the Polo Sedan. It isn't the most inspiring dash but function always precedes form in a German machine and the build quality is unmistakably continental.


 
All the materials are top-notch with leather exempted from even the Highline. Instead, the seats are wrapped in a special ‘Cable’ fabric that is Highline-only and though plastic fantastic is the overall theme for the cabin, the grade is exemplary with a solid feel. If we had to gripe, the knobs for the air-conditioning seemed to have a mind of its own and the twists didn’t always translate into a change in the setting.
 
Furthermore, the manually-adjusted seats lacked the support that some of the Japanese marques have worked into their seating and finding the right seating position was an ultimately futile affair. The same can be said for the bench-like rear as well that lacked the side bolstering for support.


 
There is a spot of cowhide though in the cabin and it resides on that sweet flat-bottomed steering wheel lifted right off the Golf Mk7. Chunky to the touch and rightly sized, it is one of the cabin’s saving graces.
 
Cubby holes were aplenty and you will be able to stash water bottles, handphones, Smart tag, and pretty much anything else you would be carrying with you in the cabin. Boot space is a decent 454 litres and the rear seats can be dropped to fit in larger cargo if necessary.


 
Equipment consists of the 320G infotainment system with USB, SD and Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, rear air-conditioning vents and four airbags with stability control. It also has anti-pinch windows all around; something that manufacturers shouldn’t really skimp on but that memo seems to keep hitting the spam folder everywhere else except VGM.
 
You can even lower all four windows simultaneously by holding down the unlock button on the keyfob, a thoughtful feature in the crazy heat that encapsulates us.
 
The Polo Sedan wasn’t anything to write home about. Truth be told, it left us scratching our heads trying to piece together a paragraph about it. That isn't the case at all with the Vento.


 
On paper, the specs hardly do it any justice. 103bhp is scoffed at these days in the B-segment, what more an eight-valve engine that displaces less air than a large bottle of Coca Cola. The City, 2 and Vios all make more power but the twist is in the form of torque (pun intended) and what a turn for the better it makes (again, pun intended).
 
With a 175Nm on tap from a lowly 1550rpm, the Vento is one nippy city slicker. While the rest of the pack has their torque roll in at about 4000rpm, the Vento has already pulled ahead, what more with the quick DSG shifts.


 
The real characteristic transformation is the engine and transmission combo. Seven forward ratios and two clutches make full use of the torque early on and give the Vento some quick feet. Never once did it feel out of breath or underpowered with the extra cog allowing a wider spread of the ratios to compensate for the lack of power.
 
On the highway, this thing will swallow up miles of asphalt without dropping a beat and it will do so with some pretty darn impressive fuel usage. The official figures quote an optimistic 18.18 km/l but after a full weekend with the Vento and a fair mix of urban and highway driving that totalled approximately 200+km with some minor doses of lead foot treatment to the throttle pedal, we got an average of 15.3 km/l. If we had to explain in as simple a manner as possible, even with around 200km clocked on the trip, the fuel gauge was still hovering at the 3/4 mark.


 
In the real world, the Vento is not just able to play with larger-displacement sedans but will easily toy with them on the road. Case in point, we found that quite a handful of D-segment cars that struggled to pull away from the diminutive Vento. The chunky rubbers also lend it plenty of mechanical grip.
 
As a mechanical package, the Vento is far superior to its rivals with only the SkyActiv tech of Mazda perhaps able to muster a worthy challenge. It drives better and will outrun anything in the B-segment without so much as a huff.


 
If there was one area that only time will tell on, it would be the reliability. VGM are adamant that the DSG issues of yore are firmly in the past but its mechanical complexity could also backfire against it as the simplicity of the Japanese powertrains have inscribed reliability in their brochures.
 
Nonetheless, the B-segment is the most competitive class in the market and the Vento has just upped its ante in the class with a bold move. If you’re in the market for a B-segment, the Vento has just elevated itself to a serious contender that is at the very least, worth a look.



Volkswagen Vento 1.2 TSI Highline
Engine: 1,197cc, inline-four SOHC 8V, direct injection, turbocharged, 103bhp @ 5000rpm, 175Nm @ 1150rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed DSG, front-wheel drive
Dimensions (l/w/h): 4384mm, 1699mm, 1465mm
Weight: 1178kg
On sale: Now


 

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