Volkswagen Vento TSI: Wolf in sheep's clothing

Every now and then there comes a car which appears to be a sheep but is a wolf at heart. The new Volkswagen Vento TSI is exactly that. Petrol cars are slowly coming back into the picture, but there is more to that than just denting the sales figures of diesel cars. For, now there is a steady demand for the gearless driving experience. The Vento TSI brings the best of both the worlds with its turbo-charged 1.2-litre petrol engine — which is also present in the company’s Polo TSI hatchback — as well as a state-of-the- art, seven-speed DSG automatic  gear transmission.

As far as the dimensions are concerned, there is no difference from the earlier Volkswagen Vento. But in terms of looks, the company has gone in for some touch-up jobs. Though there are visual additions like chrome on the boot and fog-light surrounds, a new set of alloy wheels, rear-parking sensors and leather upholstery, the TSI can easily be mistaken for a standard Vento. What does stand out are the Electronic Stability Program and Hill Hold assist features. The clean design gives the car a sophisticated look, but this is nothing to crow about in front of the new  versions of the Honda City and Hyundai Verna with their alluring designs. As it is a furious sedan, the TSI should have been given special attention in its looks by Volkswagen.

Rev up the engine and you quickly realise that this is a completely different machine from the previous 1.6-litre edition. The TSI doesn’t suffer from the annoying lag and power surge of the older car, the results of its conventional torque converter transmission. It may not blow your mind, but the new Vento reassures you that if you step on the gas it will happily take off. Having said that, it is by no means a slouch in rush hour traffic. The TSI is happiest when it hits the mid-range speed range and you feel that it only wants to touch the three figure mark and even go beyond.

On paper, the 1.2-litre engine may impress you as a lugubrious mule, but this free-revving engine breaks the myth of bigger engines being more fun to drive.  This magic is created by the DSG gearbox’s stellar performance. The transmission comes in three modes — D which is for regular driving, S (Sport) makes you shout “Hi-Yo Silver, Away” like the Lone Ranger, and the M lets you redline the needle. And contrary to popular wisdom, automatic transmission, in this case, is not a fuel guzzler. This is mainly because in the D mode, the gears upshift happens quickly without the engine revving. The TSI’s true nature is reflected by the S and manual modes, where it zooms happily at your command. What makes this transmission stand apart from others of its ilk are its silence and responsiveness. We would have loved to see Volkswagen fitting the TSI with steering-mounted shift pads, but that would have increased the price tag.  

The TSI inherits all good Vento qualities like a comfortable ride. The suspensions gobble up most of the potholes without leaving you with jarred nerves. When it comes to taking sharp turns or doing adventurous slaloms, the TSI holds its line. This rock-solid sedan stays planted on the road and remains stable at high speed, even if its light steering wheel creates some doubt in the mind.

The last word
With a solid build quality and top class fit and finish, this Vento remains the best-built sedan in its segment. No doubt the DSG transmission makes the TSI the most technically advanced vehicle in this price bracket. With its spacious interiors, it is a perfect balance of power, fuel economy and practicality. Though the dead steering wheel can be unnerving at times, in real time slow traffic this hardly matters. It is definitely a great all-rounder.

VOLKSWAGEN VENTO TSI
Engine: 1197cc
Power: 105 PS @ 5000 rpm
Torque: 175 Nm @ 4100 rpm
Mileage: 16.93 kmpl (ARAI)
Price Rs 10.26 lakh
(Ex-showroom, Delhi)