Exclusive: Volkswagen Ameo compact sedan preview
Volkswagen unveiled the Ameo compact sedan very recently at the Auto Expo and announced that the car will go on sale very soon. It's the German carmaker's first product that's been built especially for India. It's also the first sub-4m sedan to wear the Volkswagen badge. But what else do we know about it? We got a chance to preview the car before the media drive and national launch and here's what we think about it.
An all-new car or a booted Polo?
While we did expect Volkswagen to launch an all-new car, it didn't make sense to go out and make one. Instead the Ameo basically uses the same PQ25 platform that underpins the Polo and Vento and as a result shares a majority of components with its siblings. The car in fact, slots in between the Polo and Vento. So unlike other carmakers that usually spin off a hatchback and a sedan/compact sedan from a single platform, Volkswagen has also managed to add a compact sedan to the family. The Vento is primarily targeted at competing against the C-segment cars like the City and Verna. Volkswagen however was absent in the more popular compact sedan segment, which meant they had to develop a car for it.
The Ameo isn't a chopped Vento but a Polo with a boot. The wheelbase is identical to the hatchback and so are cabin space and the rear seat back rest angle. In terms of design, the front half looks identical to the Polo but the rest of the car gets a new design. The boot does look slapped on while the rear end is flat to keep it under 4 metres. It is the least appealing when compared to the Polo and Vento. It gets a smart tailamp while the area around the rear number plate seems to look more Skoda than Volkswagen thanks to the two diagonal definition lines (a signature of the Czech brand). It isn't a proportionate design like most compact sedans but one does get used to it in time.
The interior is also identical to the Polo the dual-tone dashboard gets silver inserts in the top-end trim. Like the updated siblings, the Ameo will also get the new-generation infotainment system that features a touchscreen colour display with a reverse camera function. There's also MirrorLink technology, a feature that lets one mirror a few apps and functions of an Android or iOS phone by simply connecting via the USB port.
As mentioned earlier, the wheelbase is similar to the Polo which means that the rear seat space is disappointing, especially when compared to its rivals. The front seats get scooped out backs though and kneeroom is just about enough when adjusted to my height (5ft9inch). The high transmission tunnel isn't middle-passenger friendly. There's also no rear armrest. What you do get though is a foldable cupholder in the middle. The Ameo however, scores high on bootspace since the increased overall length has added a lot more space to the already impressive Polo boot.
The Ameo gets the same 1.2-litre petrol MPI and 1.5-litre TDI motor options. While the MPI is expected to be offered in the same state of tune as the Polo (75PS/110Nm), the TDI may be updated to offer more power and efficiency. The current model produces 90PS and 230Nm, the update is expected to increase power by 2PS and torque by 10Nm (240Nm will make it the highest in the segment). This also means that performance will be on par or slightly better than its rivals the Honda Amaze, Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire, Ford Figo Aspire, Hyundai Xcent and the Tata Zest. Expect the Polo and the Vento to receive this updated EA189 motor very soon.
The 1.2-litre MPI isn't the most refined, powerful or efficient motor compared to its rivals. The three-cylinder unit has been around for quite some time now and Volkswagen will have to replace it soon. It is however, a decent motor for those looking at driving more in town.
The 1.5 TDI however, is a great motor. Based on our experience with it in the Polo and Vento, the Ameo has the potential to better most of its diesel rivals in terms of performance as well as efficiency. We expect the Ameo 1.5 TDI to sprint from standstill to 100kmph in about 13 seconds. A diesel variant featuring a DSG may also be launched.
What's it like to drive?
While we were only driven in the Ameo, we can still confirm that the car will be one of the best in segment in terms of dynamics. The Polo is one of those few cars that can put a smile on any enthusiast's face. The Ameo won't be any different and this alone gives the car extra brownie points when compared to its rivals. The chassis is known for excellent mechanical grip and the electric steering and tyres go well with the car's character. The Ameo is also expected to handle exactly like the Polo. The good news is that the car weighs almost the same as its hatchback sibling.
While the Polo, Vento and GT TSI/TDI feature grippy 185-section Apollo Alnacs, the Ameo runs on a more premium set of Bridestone Turanzas. These tyres are more touring focused and are claimed to offer reduced rolling resistance and better fuel economy. What's surprising is the tyre size the Ameo you see here is running on 215-section tyres! We can't confirm however, if this is the actual tyre size that'll be offered when the Ameo goes on sale.
Launch date and price?
While the Ameo has a lot of potential, it's taken Volkswagen quite some time to enter this competitive segment. The car still impresses us, especially when it comes to the diesel's performance, features and dynamics. The Ameo goes on sale by April 2016, and is expected to be priced a little more than the Polo (Rs 5.5 lakh to 8.4 lakh, ex-Delhi, est). At this price, the car will command a premium over its rivals. Anything more and it'll get closer to Vento territory.
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