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Backseat driving

autos Updated: May 07, 2010 22:40 IST
Highlight Story

Volkswagon (VW), who follow a tradition of naming their cars after prominent wind currents, have christened the new Polo saloon the Vento —wind in Italian and Portuguese — for the Indian market. However, Vento is not a new name, and, in fact, in the early 1990s, it was the third-generation Jetta that was renamed ‘Vento’ for the European market. But the name was dropped since as it wasn’t as popular as the Jetta moniker.

The Vento is essentially the three-box, or saloon, version of the recently-launched Polo and shares a common platform with the hatchback. Both the saloon and the hatch are similar up to the B-pillar, except for the grille and the lights that differentiate it from its hatchback sibling. The Vento’s rear section or third box is well integrated with the body and the wheelbase has been extended by an estimated 50 mm, which helps increase cabin space.

Aware that the Polo’s rear seat would be inadequate for saloon car customers, VW engineers have even stretched the car for better legroom.

Headroom, too, will be better, as the roof doesn’t taper down as sharply as in the hatch. In fact, special attention has been given to the rear seat as a large percentage of these cars are likely to be chauffeur-driven.

Under the hood

Using the Honda City as the Vento’s benchmark, VW engineers hint at best-in-class comfort. The Indian car gets special seat cushions, the boot space is expected to be in the region of 500 litres and a split seat option will also be available.

Equipment is expected to be better than that in the Polo and the top-of-the-line version could get some features from the Jetta. The Vento will initially get two engines — a petrol and a diesel. Both of these displace 1.6 litres and produce 105 bhp. However, the diesel has a thumping 25.5 kgm of torque to the petrol’s 15.8 kgm, and the ride will differ like chalk and cheese.

Like in the Jetta, the petrol motor in the Vento is a naturally aspirated unit but more advanced. While the Jetta’s 1.6 motor had two valves per cylinder driven off a single cam, the Vento has a four-valve head and double overhead camshafts. This is the same engine that powers the Polo and Golf in Europe, only, it is tuned for local fuel.

Also, for India, the 1.6 motor will come with a cast-iron block (the European engine is aluminium), which will make this engine family (EA111) easier to localise. VW may bring the same engine to the Indian Polo after the Vento is launched.

The 1.6 common-rail diesel is brand new and comes from the same engine family (EA189) as the 1.2 turbo-diesel that powers the Polo and the bigger 2-litre diesel under the hood of the Jetta. This engine comes with 90 bhp and 105 bhp power outputs and thankfully VW has decided to give us the more powerful engine. If the lightweight Polo is anything to go by, then the Vento won’t be more than a 100 kg heavier than the hatch, which gives it a good power-to-weight ratio.

On-road presence

While the petrol Vento may not match the Honda City for pace, the diesel Vento should be a close match for the 110 bhp Verna diesel. Both these engines, the diesel in particular, have been tuned more for fuel economy and driveability.

Sadly, there are no plans to introduce a TSI engine. The direct-injection and turbo-charging hardware in a TSI motor is proving too costly for a saloon in the sub-Rs 10 lakh category. Also, both the petrol and diesel will come with five-speed manual transmissions initially but a DSG gearbox in the top-end diesel maybe introduced at a later stage.

VW plans to price the Vento between Rs 7-9 lakh and is gearing up for a July 2010 launch. This all-new saloon with a brand new set of engines promises to blend performance, luxury and economy like no other mid-size car. Can the Vento blow its rivals away? Wait for a few months to find out.

Autocar India