Last year, Volkswagen did in India what it’s never done anywhere else in the world – built a sub-4 meter compact sedan. Why? Because compact sedans bring huge numbers. Volkswagen’s gamble paid off, and the Ameo is now the German automaker’s best selling car. While we drove the petrol Ameo sometime back (Link), we’ve now given the diesel version a good shakedown.
How does it drive?
When it was launched a few months ago, the Ameo became the first VW group vehicle in India to feature the updated 1.5 liter diesel engine with the larger turbo, and a few other updates. The motor now puts out 109 Bhp of peak power and 250 Nm of peak torque. Two transmission options are offered – a 5-speed manual or a 7-speed dual clutch transmission (DSG). Since the latter is what makes it extra special, that is the variant we decided to test. With facts out of the way, time for the drive.
Start her up and you will immediately recognize that this has a diesel engine under the hood. There is a good amount of clatter on start up, which reduces as speeds increase. The car is the most powerful in the segment, and a gentle dab on the throttle reassures you of that fact. The engine revs till just above the 5500 rpm mark. The car gains speed effortlessly, and the silky smooth DSG automatic gearbox is quite willing to drop a couple of gears if frantic acceleration is what you seek.
Keep the throttle pinned, and the engine continues to pull well over 5,000 rpm. 160 kph comes up rather quickly, and the best part is how planted this car feels at such speeds. While there’s an abundance of top-end grunt, there are bags of torque available from as low as 1,500 rpm. City driving should have been an absolute breeze but the DSG gearbox spoils the party by up shifting too early (at 6-7 kph) to second gear, making the car feel strained at low speeds. But this is onlyuntil you coach it to behave the way you want it to.
What? You can even teach the gearbox to shift the way you want?
Yes, the the DSG is an adaptive gearbox, it learns your driving style and adapts to it. All you need to do is, put the car into manual mode for a while. This will train the gearbox to hold the first gear until you shift it to second. After a few kms, the car will adapt to the speeds at which you want it to shift to second. Magic!
As for the rest of the drive, the gearbox is so smooth that shifts cannot even be felt, as is expected on a DSG. Yes, there are a few jerks during braking sometimes, but the overall experience is really good. It is surely the best gearbox in the segment today.
Now, for the ride!
The ride is spot on, with the car absorbing most of the rough stuff our roads have to offer. Yes, on larger potholes, you will hear a thud or two, but overall ride quality is good. Since the car is setup keeping comfort in mind, handling does take a little beating with there being some amount of roll being felt. But, as a practical car, this one fits the bill well.
Now, for the looks:
There is nothing that separates the petrol and diesel Ameo when it comes to how the car looks. The only differentiating factor is the TDi logo that you can see on the boot. So up front, you continue to get the familiar VW family styling. The grill and the headlamps are similar to the ones offered on both the Vento and the Polo, however the bumper is a new unit.
While opinion is divided about how the boxy design looks at the back, it does grow on you after a while. This one ain’t going to get design awards for its looks, but it isn’t all that bad either. The boot has sharp, angular lines that are inspired from the Rapid, which give it some flair. In the blue shade, it does manage to grab the attention of people around.
Now, for the insides!
There is no change on the inside compared to the petrol Ameo, save for the DSG gear lever that has replaced the manual box and the gear lever indicator on the instrument cluster. Having said that, the dash is well laid out and isn’t very cluttered with buttons. Yes, people who’ve been in a Volkswagen will feel right at home.
The new touch screen system with Mirrorlink is easy to use and also houses the reverse camera. What you will appreciate is the fact that this has auto dimming mirrors, a major boon in India. Also on offer are rain sensing wipers, something that we had a chance to put to test (courtesy the sudden rain in Delhi), and they worked well.
The Ameo comes with an armrest making it very comfortable place to sit in while driving. This coupled with the fact that it has cruise control makes it a good highway cruiser. Space at the back isn’t the highest, if you compare it to the competition, however we feel that this one is more inclined to suit the driver rather than the rear seat passenger.
Trendline: Rs 6.56 lakhs, Comfortline: Rs 7.61 lakhs, Highline: Rs 8.44 lakhs.
DSG: Comfortline: Rs 8.78 lakhs, Highline: Rs 9.62 lakhs
There is a lot of competition in the compact sedan segment currently with the Swift Dzire being the king. While there are a lot of options to choose from, if you are looking for a diesel automatic, your options narrow down to the Dzire, the Zest and this. While the other two use AMTs, this is the only dual clutch system on offer. Yes, they are more affordable, but this diesel auto is in a class of its own when it comes to the overall driving experience.
Should you buy one?
When we drove the petrol, the only thing we found missing was the grunt. This one compensates by having loads of grunt, and also happens to be the most powerful in the segment. The Ameo DSG performs very well and if you are looking for a quick, fun and economical automatic compact sedan in diesel format with an autobox, there is nothing that comes close to this.