VW Ameo - First Drive Review
Anjan Ravi, I'm a true-blooded petrolhead. Hope you enjoy our news stories, launch coverages, motorshow coverages and test drive reports.
Volkswagen - Here is a company which actually developed a sedan capable of driving at 300 km/h all day with an exterior temperature of 50 degrees Celsius while maintaining an inside temperature of 22 degrees. A car, which despite incurring huge losses and voted as one of the 10 most loss-making cars of all time, over 100 patents were applied for.
So why has it taken the same company so long to add a simple boot to the Polo, one may ask, and one indeed asks.
The VW Ameo may be late to the party, but, this is the most significant VW product to launch in the country after the Vento, which was introduced back in August of 2010. And though the Ameo is positioned in the high-volume compact sedan segment, VW India still expects the Polo to be its best-seller.
The exterior is not the most defining aspect of the VW Ameo. When viewing it on say a website or paper, the Ameo indeed comes across as an in-betweener of the Polo and Vento, which is what it is. The same feeling is carried forward in reality - The Polo’s front fascia now appears overused, while the rear-end is not particularly to anyone’s taste. The design doesn’t offend anyone, at the same time it doesn’t get your pulse racing either. Then again, the sub-4 meter sedan segment in general is not known to make ‘pretty’ cars.
Thanks to the subtle crease on the front bumper borrowed from the Vento, you can tell apart the Ameo from the Polo. Designers have also carried forward the Polo’s rear door and quarter glass panels which further bolster the fact that the Ameo and Polo share wheelbase dimensions (on paper though, the Ameo’s wheelbase - due to the positioning of the rear axle - is measured 1 mm more than the Polo).
At the tape, the VW Ameo measures 3,995 mm in length, 1,682 mm in width, 1,483 mm in height and 2,470 mm in wheelbase. Depending on the variant, the Ameo is 11-16 kg heavier than the VW Polo.
The interior of the VW Ameo is carried from the VW Polo. The dashboard layout is clean, pleasing and obviously built to high standards. You get the same flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel as in the Polo and Vento, which feels joyous to use.
The interior is of the dual-tone black and beige theme (the Trendline will get the all-black layout), whereas the center console gets the silver insert, just like the Polo and Vento. In addition to the Polo, the Ameo offers a center armrest up front (wish all manufacturers give this feature!).
Where the Ameo has completely missed the point is in rear space. Where rival manufacturers generally focus on rear seat comfort, VW has decided to go ahead with the Polo’s measurements. Space at the rear is not uncomfortable unless the front seat is adjusted for a sizable individual. The front seat backs have been recessed and are devoid of map pockets to add to that crucial millimeters of legroom, but overall, the Ameo’s rear legroom is nowhere close to class-leading. The Honda Amaze continues to dominate here. That being said, the Ameo offers a rear AC vent, and though you’re sat a bit low, the seats are very comfortable. A rear center armrest is not provided however.
The VW Ameo shines in this area. All variants of the compact sedan get dual front airbags, and ABS, making the Ameo future proof for the proposed crash test rating norms expected in the country in the next 18 months.
The top-end Ameo gets alloy wheels, cornering lights, keyless entry, ORVMs with integrated turn signals and electric adjustment and folding functionality, steering mounted controls, cruise control, automatic wipers, automatic day/night inside mirror, automatic climate control, a touchscreen MirrorLink entertainment system with AUX/USB support and voice command, a chilled glovebox, reverse parking camera, reverse sensors and a rear AC vent. This makes the Ameo the most feature-packed compact sedan.
Engine and Gearbox:
VW India will first launch the petrol-powered Ameo, which is powered by the Polo’s 1.2-liter three-cylinder MPI engine capable of 75 PS and 110 Nm of torque, paired to a 5-speed gearbox.
Now, aside from the Ameo, I’ve been driving the Polo in this engine guise rather extensively in Mumbai traffic the last few days. Where this engine lacks outright performance it makes up for in low-end torque and well thought out gear ratios. The first three gears especially are short and ideal for bumper-to-bumper traffic.
This motor is all about low-end torque. Between 2,000-3,000 rpm is where it performs best, and in city driving, it makes you forget that it is the least powerful car in its class (on paper). You get a sufficient shove in the first three gears, even if you’re doing say 20 km/h in 3rd.
Out on the highway is where this engine shows its shortcoming. With three people on board and a boot full of luggage, the Ameo struggled to get onto triple digit speeds in fifth gear. One has to really work the gearbox to get to even speeds of 110-120 km/h. On the bright side, the Ameo does come with cruise control, a feature unseen in this segment. What the petrol Ameo asks of you in the highway is a little bit patience, aside from which there’s nothing much to complain about this engine.
At low speeds, it does have a tendency to stall, and the noise and refinement levels are a step below its rivals, which are equipped with four-cylinder petrol engines.
To sum up, majority of buyers who are looking to navigate urban traffic on a daily basis and an occasional highway run will have little complaints with this engine.
Ride and Handling:
The ride and handling characteristics of the Ameo are similar to the Polo. What this means is that you get a car which is well suited for average road conditions most of the time. The occasional sharp bump or pothole will throw the Ameo off-guard, but apart from this the McPherson strut up front and the semi-independent trailing arm at the rear do a good job of keeping you comfortable.
The Ameo, like the Polo, is a safe and predictable vehicle when it comes to handling. The steering is very comfortable in that it is light at city speeds and moderately light at higher speeds. Though the Ameo is not an enthusiast’s delight, the average joe should have no qualms driving it on a daily basis.
Brakes and Safety:
All variants of the VW Ameo come with dual front airbags and ABS as standard. Braking prowess is just as good as the Polo, though more grippier rubber (the test car was running on MRF ZVTV) is certainly something we wouldn’t mind.
The VW Ameo petrol is rated at 17.83 km/l according to the ARAI test. Our route (20 km of city and 60 km of highway) saw the Ameo average around 11 km/l.
The VW Ameo is priced between INR 5.04-7.05 lakhs, ex-Showroom, New Delhi. The comparo here pits the Ameo with its rivals, the Maruti Swift Dzire, the Hyundai Xcent, the Honda Amaze, the Tata Zest and the Ford Figo Aspire.
As a segment offering, the VW Ameo makes a great case for itself. There is absolutely no compromise when it comes to features or build quality. Yes, its not the most striking design, then again its rivals aren’t beauty pageant winners either. Aside from the looks, there’s the rear seat and boot, which are only average.
And while the three-cylinder 1.2-liter MPI engine will not get your pulse racing, the Ameo diesel, with a more powerful 1.5-liter TDI diesel engine is expected to launch around Diwali. The diesel variant will come with a 5-speed manual or a 7-speed DSG, and with a higher power output than the current 105 PS it makes on the Vento and Polo GT TDI.
Finally, there’s the price. Here’s a Volkswagen which is actually only INR 1,000-7,000 more expensive than a Maruti! And keep in mind that even the base Ameo offers dual airbags and ABS, something its competitors do not offer.
With these strong points, a compact sedan buyer cannot afford to overlook the Ameo. So while the Ameo is not one of those Volkswagens that runs at 300 km/h, it does give the best-selling compact sedan a run for its money.