Looks like Volkswagen India has finally given in to the demands of India’s unique sub-four metre segment. Even a quality driven company like VW cannot ignore the facts – excise duty on sub-four metre cars is a mere 12% while anything bigger gets a solid 30% slapped across its extended haunches. This has resulted in several manufacturers trying to optimise the segment by making a sedan or a crossover out of a regular hatchback – and it’s worked out pretty well for them.
The Volkswagen Polo is VW’s highest selling product in India – it offers unmatched quality and driveability even though it’s always been a costlier and less roomy option if you’re in the market for a hatchback. Even though its simple, clean-cut looks have aged remarkably well, the Polo’s design doesn’t lend itself to a sedan form. And that’s pretty evident here. The new VW Ameo is a neat piece of design, but it’s certainly not more appealing than its hatchbacked counterpart. However, since the aspirational value of sedans play a huge role in the purchasing decisions of the average buyer, we now find ourselves staring at an all-new compact sedan.
Technically it’s not new at all. With only the 1.2 litre petrol available at the moment, we’re dealing with the same engine in the same state of tune. Even the suspension and the wheelbase remain the same with no change in settings for the former. The boot space gets bumped up by 36 litres (330 litres in total) and the roofline has been altered from the B-pillar to the C-pillar, making the latter more slender in order to accommodate the boot space. VW seem to have done the best they could within the parameters they were allowed to work with. Even the extended lip on the boot-lid adds a little length to the car, trying to make things more proportionate. When viewed in isolation, the boot is a finely cut and proportionate appendage, but the overall profile isn’t exactly sensational.
Inside things are pretty much the same, save for the recline angle of the rear seats. Naturally, this works in favour of the Ameo, since interior quality has always been a strong selling point for the Polo. So that leather-wrapped, flat-bottomed steering that we all love, finds its way onto the Ameo, as does the dual-tone dashboard. Apart from the top-end fitments such as a reversing camera, rear A/C vent etc, the Ameo gets a few exclusive features like automatic wipers, one-touch window buttons and an option where the windows can be operated via the key fob. ABS and front airbags are standard.
Although the 1.5 litre, turbo-diesel option will arrive by the end of autumn, the 1.2 litre MPI, petrol engine is what we get to work with for the moment. It’s a naturally aspirated, three-cylinder unit with 74 bhp – reasonably strong at the bottom end, but its resolve weakens after the 4,500 rpm mark. On the performance front, the 1.2 litre unit only delivers within urban confines, where you aren’t required to speed up very often. Any overtaking must be done within the first two gears because the engine’s busy catching up in higher gears. That’s not to say that the gearbox isn’t well-engineered. Solid, slick throws and well sorted ratios make this one of the best units in the segment. VW will also offer the Ameo diesel with an optional DSG – a feature only available on the Polo GT TSI.
The big draw for the Ameo is definitely its price. At Rs 5.4 lakh (Ex-showroom, Mumbai) it undercuts the base Polo’s price by about Rs 10,000. The Ameo is, much like its competition, aimed at tackling urban environs. And everything about it is tailored to give you that plus a bit more on the utility front.