The Volkswagen Group has big plans for India. It doesn’t start and end with the Polo, if that’s what you thought. They will launch an all-new Jetta next year, which will be bigger and more feature loaded than before. Then there will be a new Touareg SUV as well, ready to make life difficult for not just its Audi and Porsche brethren but even those from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It’s even talking about a sub-Polo small car that might be badged as a Skoda as well. They have even appointed a Bugatti dealer in India, for crying out loud, and there’s talk of expanding Audi’s manufacturing and retail capacity as well. And before all of that happens, they will launch the Vento, arguably their second most important car for India.
Based on the Polo platform, the Vento (which means wind in Italian) is taller, longer and wider than its hatch sibling. At 4.4 metres long, it is longer than the Hyundai Verna but a touch shorter than the Honda City, the Maruti Suzuki SX4 and Fiat Linea (See box Contra Vento). Unlike other saloons based on hatches, the Vento doesn’t look like the boot has been attached to it as an afterthought; rather, it has been designed as if it were an all-new car. It looks balanced and keeps Walter Da Silva’s lines in perfect nick. Sporting a wheelbase that is 96 mm longer than the Polo, the focus has been on interior space. Volkswagen claims that for India the focus has been on headroom and legroom and that it has been designed keeping chauffeur driven duties in mind. While the dashboard has been borrowed from the Polo, expect it to be better built and less plasticky-feeling. Apart from better materials, it will have more features too. Two trims will be available from the word go — the Trendline and the Highline. The Highline is loaded to the gills with features like 15-inch alloy wheels, twin airbags, ABS, remote locking, higher quality fabric for the seats, electrically adjustable rear view mirrors, an MP3 music system and fog lamps among others. The Trendline is devoid of all these features, making do with 14-inch steel pressed wheels instead but both trims have AC vents at the rear, making it the only car apart from the Linea in its segment to sport it.
Keeping the Indian market in mind, Volkswagen has offered two engine options — a petrol and diesel. With a near identical capacity of 1.6-litres, the two engines produce 104 bhp of peak power. The difference lies in the peak torque figure — 15.5 kgm of twist force is produced by the petrol, 25.3 kgm of it by the diesel motor. The two engines have been tuned not just for performance, as is evident, but also for fuel efficiency and Volkswagen claims that they will be among the most efficient in their class. Transmission options will include a 5-speed manual on both engines and a six-speed DSG automatic for the petrol. Mechanically, the car won’t be very different from the Polo, so expect the same kind of steering response, suspension settings and overall chassis setup like the hatch.
This brings us to the most important question — how much will it all cost? Well, VW won’t offer the car until October, when it is expected to go on sale. We expect the petrol Trendline to start at about Rs 7.5 lakh, ex-showroom Mumbai, with the Highline automatic petrol topping out at Rs 9.5 lakh. The diesel Trendline could start above Rs 8 lakh with the Highline version settling in at just under Rs 10 lakh. This makes it a decent value proposition, although the competition won’t be taking this one lying down. A more powerful version of the Linea petrol is in the offing, complete with an automatic option, while Hyundai have just updated the Verna (calling it the Transform) with freshened up interiors and exteriors. What Volkswagen will need to do is make sure it can bring down delivery times and thereby keep customers happy. After all, they have a lot more on the table than just the Polo (and now Vento).