Volkswagen Vento Highline Test Drive Review

Volkswagen Vento Highline Test Drive Review

What’s This?

The Volkswagen Vento is Volkswagen’s entry level sedan and if it looks vaguely familiar it’s because this used to be called the Volkswagen Polo Sedan, to differentiate it from the Volkswagen Polo Hatchback. See the need to give it a different name? I personally don’t have an issue with the renaming; the Volkswagen Jetta is essentially a Golf Sedan but few complaints are heard of this differentiation.

What About It?

The Vento is a renewed Polo Sedan with two different engines, three different trims and some cosmetic changes. The trims are (from cheapest to most expensive) – Trendline (RM 79,888), Comfortline (RM 86,888) and Highline (RM 93,888); prices quoted exclude insurance.

The Trendline and Comfortline use the proven 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine and 6-speed automatic transmission that were found in the Polo Sedan as well as in the current Polo Hatchback. The Highline on the other hand, is equipped with a 1.2-litre turbocharged engine and 7-speed DSG.

Looks-wise, the Vento gets redesigned front bumper, grille and fog lamps as well as rear lamps. Members of the media got a taste of the Vento Highline variant on an organized drive so all descriptions are based on the Highline.

What’s Inside?

The inside of the Vento gets new seat fabric pattern, silver trim on the center stack and a new audio system with Bluetooth, AUX and USB connectivity but otherwise remains pretty much a Volkswagen, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It means all the switches and dials are in easy-to-spot (and reach) places and feel well-made despite this being an entry-level car.

The strategic placement of feel-good materials helps to make it feel one class above. The steering wheel is flat-bottomed and is of the right girth for a comfortable grip. It’s also made of a soft-touch material that adds to driving comfort.

While the Polo is a compact hatchback, the Vento (which shares the Polo platform) has been adequately stretched to be a proper family sedan with enough rear legroom for adults. Because of this stretching, the Vento looks like a well-proportioned sedan instead of a hatchback with a rear tacked on.

The Climatronic climate control lets you adjust the cooling temperature and the rear air vents help cool the car down faster.

What’s Underneath?

As mentioned above, the Vento Highline comes with a 1.2-litre TSI turbocharged engine and 7-speed dry dual-clutch DSG transmission. The 105 PS produced by the engine isn’t the best in the B-segment but you have to consider that this comes from a tiny 1.2-litre lump as opposed to the more typical 1.5 or 1.6 litre engines in this segment.

What sets the Vento apart from its segment rivals is the availability of 175 Nm of torque from 1,550 – 4,100 rpm. This is the highest torque in its class and the near immediate acceleration allows it to live up to its name (Vento means ‘wind’ in Italian and Portuguese).
Further, according to Volkswagen Group Malaysia, the 7-speed dual-clutch Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) has been beefed up with new hardware and software to increase durability and reliability. The brief time I had the car didn’t allow for a long-term reliability test but having driven the Vento in a variety of traffic conditions, from congested city roads to clear highways, the gearbox shifted as the drive required.

What’s It Like?

We started off with driving the Vento in typical morning rush hour, with intermittent crawls and speed bursts. Here, the DSG exhibited slight jerkiness especially when the car is creeping along but it seems to be a characteristic of an automated manual transmission.

In clear traffic, throttle down and you get to enjoy the smoothness of the shifts and acceleration. It won’t snap your head back but you’ll be able to keep up with some of the bigger-engined sedans. On a clear stretch, we did a sustained high-speed run (at an undisclosed speed above the legal limit) and the Vento proved beyond its worth with a level of stability that’s rarely felt in this price range.

With a pliant ride, it felt like a more expensive C-segment sedan. You feel confident tackling corners on the highway and rural roads at a higher than normal speed. One contributing factor could be the bigger and fatter wheels on the Vento Highline – 215/45 R16 as opposed to the smaller 185/60 R15 on the Trendline and Comfortline. However, the lower profile 16″ tires on the Highline do make the ride a little firmer; it could have been worse if not for the well-tuned suspension soaking up most of the road imperfections.

Noise intrusion is at a minimum when you’re driving at sane speeds but gets noisier as you get into law-breaking territory, which is the car’s way to remind you to behave. Despite the driving fun the TSI-DSG pairing affords you, you should keep in mind that the Vento is designed not as a high performance car but a practical everyday ride. Abusing it on a frequent basis can only net you heartache in the long run.

Fuel consumption (combined cycle) for the Vento is rated at 5.5 l / 100 km, which I feel is near achievable as long as you’re well-behaved. As we had to get a better feel of the car in extreme cases, the car I had still managed a respectable 8.9 l / 100 km, which included spirited driving and long periods of idling with the air-conditioning switched on.

One of the tasks we had with the Vento was to test its handling in an emergency situation. A simulation of emergency lane changes on the highway was done with the Vento and three of its class rivals (let’s call them B1, B2 and B3). The simulation was performed by the invited media in an enclosed area and involved accelerating each of the cars up to 70 km/h and make three abrupt lane changes to ‘avoid obstacles on the highway'; this required fast turns of the steering wheel to the right then back to the left again over three ‘highway lanes’, followed by hard braking at the last marker cones.

Of the three class rivals, only one was equipped with stability control (let’s call that one B1) and needless to say B2 and B3 were the most fun to drive because they spun and destroyed marker cones at every go. Let me qualify that it was fun to spin the cars in a controlled environment but to have it happen in the real world would be terrifying. B1 with it’s stability control managed to hold itself quite well although it felt skittish. In this sense, the Vento proved itself as the most composed of the lot, and with less body roll. Even though the Vento comes with rear drum brakes, bringing the car to a complete halt wasn’t hard to do.

Any Interesting Features?

The Vento has a 5-star ASEAN NCAP rating and is equipped with four airbags, ESC and ABS. Additionally, it comes with Hill-Hold Control and Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS). The ICRS is standard across the range and does three things in the event of a crash – the fuel line gets shut off from the engine to minimize the risk of fire and explosion, the hazard lights come on, and the doors unlock themselves to minimize the risk of trapping the occupants in the car.
Additionally, the Vento has remote operated power windows to allow for a cool down before you enter the car.
Who Is It For?
Someone looking for a sub-RM100k family sedan that provides comfort, stability and a host of safety features. The Vento Highline can’t be considered cheap where B-segment sedans are concerned but it comes well equipped and is seemingly well-made.
How Much?
The Volkswagen Vento costs RM 93,888 and comes with a 5-year unlimited mileage warranty and 5-year mobility guarantee. As part of its Hari Raya promotion, Volkswagen Group Malaysia is offering to pay your installments for the Vento for the rest of 2016, as long as you register the car by 31 July 2016.Have a look at the gallery below.


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