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Understated class

With its smooth drive and refined finish, the VW Vento promises to make its competitors quite edgy

autos Updated: Sep 01, 2010 19:47 IST

In Italian, the Vento means wind, and a fair wind is just what VW is hoping its new Polo based saloon receives. Being a saloon, it has to be comfortable at the rear, have more space than its hatchback sibling (Polo) and a big boot. And it has to go up against the might of the Honda City.

Looks
Initial impressions are of a typical German engineered mid-size saloon - well-proportioned, smart and an understated design backed by robust drivetrains. Indian cars get a rough-road package which means better ground clearance.

The flipside is the 15-inch wheels on this top-end, which don’t fill out the wheel arches, making the Vento beg for bigger wheels. Crucially, the Vento comes with a wider rear track than its Polo sibling, making for a spacious rear seat.

Step inside, and you’ll find the same understated design. The dashboard is straightforward and the controls are easy to use. We love the attention to detail - the way the front passenger seat can be moved forward by a lever from the rear seat, which, too, are comfortable. There’s good thigh support and the bench is wide, making travelling with three in the back quite comfortable. The front seats are supportive and have good bolstering.

Engine
India gets two engines - a 1.6-litre 105 bhp petrol and a 1.6-litre 105 bhp diesel. Both engines come with a 5-speed manual or you can opt for a six-speed auto in the spark ignition engine. The engines perform well, but don’t feel sporty or particularly quick.

The Petrol motor makes its peak torque of 15.8 kgm at 3800 rpm, so you need to work that gearlever especially while overtaking. It will pootle around town and cruise at high speeds, but when you want urge, there’s not much to call upon. Rev it past 4000 rpm and it gets vocal.

Ride
The automatic transmission saps quite a bit of power. Because they wanted to keep costs down, the Vento gets a regular torque converter transmission rather than VW’s sophisticated twin-clutch DSG box. The auto is rather nice and gearshifts are smooth, the ratios seem well chosen and there’s no fuss. But when you’re in the mood for fun, the ‘box disappoints. It’s pretty slow with its shifts, even in tiptronic mode.

The common-rail diesel with its 25 kgm of torque at a low-ish 1500 rpm, is the one that feels the quickest and the most fun to drive. Yes, there is some lag, but it’s easy to stay away from the bog-zone. Once the turbo is fully up and spinning the car feels relaxed and can maintain cruising speeds on the highway. It’s also pretty refined.

The Vento is a predictable, safe handler and the steering is tuned to be easy to manoeuvre in traffic. The steering is reasonably accurate and there’s good grip. There’s a bit of body roll, but it’s not too bad. The Vento scores with its ride, which takes all but the worst bumps in its stride.

All variants come with rear air-con vents and a rear centre armrest. But it’s the Highline spec that is well equipped. The base Trendline is quite poor on equipment.

Verdict
On the face of it, the Vento seems like a good buy. You’ll love its solid build quality, its understated class and the diesel engine. Prices start from Rs 6.99 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the Trendline petrol and go on to Rs 9.23 lakh for the Highline diesel.

-Autocar India