2022 Volkswagen Virtus 1.5-litre GT review, first drive - good news for enthusiasts?
With the Polo and Vento now consigned to the history books, the Volkswagen Virtus has it on itself to repeat the success of those two models. And live up to the image these cars have helped create of Volkswagen being a maker of approachable enthusiast-oriented cars.
In a larger sense, the Virtus is also a culmination of the Skoda-Volkswagen group's India 2.0 turn-around plan. The last act to what has been a fairly successful revamp of the firm in India, and completes the group's interesting strategy of trying to revitalize the stagnant sedan market in India.
2022 Volkswagen Virtus GT driving impressions, ARAI mileage
Like the Taigun, the biggest differentiator for this top-spec Volkswagen Virtus GT is the larger 1.5-litre turbo-petrol and the seven-speed DCT it pairs with. But, unlike its SUV and Skoda brethren, the Virtus doesn't get a manual option in GT form, although this could be added to the line-up later.
We've now experienced all four iterations of the MQB-A0-IN architecture in the past year, so on the move, the Virtus throws up few surprises in the way it drives. This motor with its 150PS and 250 Nm is still a potent performer. Even with the gearbox's propensity to choose the highest possible gear in the D mode, the engine's accessible torque band ensures that progress in traffic is generally seamless. Shifts are largely smooth and well-timed, with much of the slow-speed stutters from earlier iterations of the VW's dual-clutch transmissions brought under check.
There are some vibrations at idle, a common trait with this family of cars, but this fades away as you start moving. And with the performance on offer, a short part-throttle spurt is all it takes to pass slower traffic. The steering feels light and effortless here and the ride quality is comfortable for the most part, although, in a typically European sense, the large potholes and bumps thud through into the cabin.
The Virtus GT is best experienced at higher highway speeds though. The ride settles quite nicely and the sedan remains well steady over undulations deep into triple-digit speeds, while bumps aren't as apparent either. The Virtus's ability to ramp up speed is exciting with the motor's wide and linear performance in the mid-range, overtakes and the like rarely need thought. Volkswagen's claim of a 0 to 100 time of 9s and a 190 kmph top-speed seem perfectly believable.
We couldn't fully test out the Virtus's handling characteristics on the wide arrow-straight Grand Trunk Road we drove it on, but if the rigidity of the MQB architecture and the well-judged suspension is anything to go by, the Virtus will feel secure around a set of bends. Again, like its cousins, we would like the steering to weigh up a bit more as speeds rise even though it remains reasonably precise.
At speed, we also wish Volkswagen had tuned this gearbox a little less conservatively. The gearbox is already in top gear by 80 kmph which means that it usually needs to drop three to four gears for a quick pass. This is at odds with the engine's energetic performance, although switching to the S gearbox mode does improve the situation. But we think most enthusiastic owners will choose to drive via the paddle shifters, which fully unshackles the motor with its sharp gear changes. It'll even allow downshifts well past 3,500 rpm, unlike some rival DCTs.
Of course, this focus on fuel-saving isn't surprising, especially in the current scenario. The Virtus GT with its 18.67 kmpl ARAI figure betters the 1.0-litre auto. At highway cruising speeds, the impressive cylinder deactivation tech works the best, showing up some unbelievable efficiency numbers as long as you keep steady throttle. Combined with the start-stop system, the extra gear and the relatively lean 1,275 kg kerb-weight, the Virtus GT betters the 1.0 TSI auto with its 18.67 kmpl ARAI mileage figure. Find out how the Volkswagen Virtus 1.0 TSI is to drive here.
2022 Volkswagen Virtus GT interiors, features
The Virtus GT's placement as the more enthusiast-focussed variant is well represented in the cabin. To begin with, the blocky angular dash layout with the squared-off AC vents is quite a change from the current industry trend of horizontal layers and floating screens.
The use of gloss black and the glossy red inserts is tasteful and lends the cabin quite a striking look, without feeling too forced. This red theme continues with the ambient lighting and graphics in the digital instrumentation, which though well laid out, could do with fewer sub-menus for all the trip data. The steering wheel is in the new VW design and feels satisfying to hold with its tactile buttons and perforations. You sit quite high up for a sedan as the driver, but the high scuttle does counter that to mimic a more traditional sedan-like seating position.
We still haven't reconciled fully with the capacitive touch controls for the climate controls the latest Volkswagens use, but the large 10.1-inch touchscreen is well-laid out and as a bonus, offers wireless phone mirroring and wireless charging. A branded audio system is missing but you get eight speakers as standard. We especially liked the layout of the centre stack around the gearbox. The gloss black contrasts with the silver starter button nicely and the ventilated seat controls, available here unlike in the top Taigun GT, are a boon as always.
Soft surfaces are limited to the most common touchpoints, but as always with Volkswagens, build quality and finish are about the best you could expect at this price point.
Furthering the red and black theme of the Volkswagen Virtus GT is the seat upholstery with contrasting stitching. Intelligently, Volkswagen has tempered this with beige panels in the door panels and headlining, so the dark upholstery looks great but doesn't take away from the sense of space, helped further by the single-pane sunroof.
The Virtus will also be good for those of you who like to spend more time in the back seat. The long 2,561 mm wheelbase allows for great legroom, and the bench is supportive and has just the right backrest angle. The space is best for two adults, or three at a squeeze despite the segment-best width, but the middle passenger gets adjustable headrests and a pretensioned seatbelt. Practicality is well taken care of to go with this, with the segment-leading 521-litre boot and useful door pockets.
2022 Volkswagen Virtus GT styling, dimensions
For those of you choosing a sedan over an SUV, looks should hold more ground. And Volkswagen has played to this crowd well with the Virtus, especially in this GT form. The Virtus looks unmistakably like a Volkswagen with the wide rectangular LED headlamps, standard across the range, and the simple chrome-lined grille. There's some amount of aggressive here, with the beefed-up gloss-black bumpers with the large air dam and LED foglamps, which also help the Virtus edge out the Slavia as the longest sedan in this segment at 4,561mm.
In profile, Volkswagen has also managed to give the Virtus a distinct silhouette, despite the obvious relation to the Slavia. This has come with simple but tasteful bodylines and well-shaped surfaces. Some of the high ground clearance(179mm unladen: 145mm laden)) could have been traded out for a better rake and stance but the GT-specific elements cover this. With the black alloys and red callipers, the GT fender badging, contrasting black mirrors and roof, and boot spoiler, you won't mistake the GT for a lesser Virtus.
This aggressive theme continues to the rear with the blacked-out taillamps and their crisp soft LED light signatures.
2022 Volkswagen Virtus GT safety
There are no ADAS functions on offer but, equally importantly, the Volkswagen Virtus gives you a strong list of standard safety equipment. There are six airbags as standard in this GT trim while there is tyre pressure deflation warning, hill-hold, stability control and multi-collision brakes. The single rear camera could do with far better resolution though.
2022 Volkswagen Virtus GT verdict, expected price
The Volkswagen Virtus GT is convincing as an affordable performance sedan that is also easy to live with. We would have liked a more responsive tune for the gearbox and sharper steering, especially in this trim, but these concessions seem to have been made to widen the appeal of the car. But considering the striking looks and tasteful interior ambience, along with the potent engine with the fuel-saving tech it packs, the Virtus GT is easily the most driver-oriented car in its segment. A good second act to the Vento and Polo, especially if Volkswagen manages to tuck this version in under Rs 20 lakh.