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The Ameo is late to the party, but comes bearing gifts

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 20, 2018

Another compact sedan The Ameo has an array of interesting equipment that might entice customers S MURALIDHAR

Compact sedan Ameo

Compact sedan Ameo's cabin

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Test_drive

VW needs to engage with Indian buyers and regain respect and market space. The Ameo is just what the doctor ordered

Though it may make little sense to outsiders, the Indian market's obsession with sub-four-metre compact sedans continues unabated. The reasons for the sustained demand could be many – fairly regular use of the boot, wanting the social status of the sedan on a budget. Or it could be the pleasure of owning a sedan which manages to bypass the higher tax bracket by merely being a few millimetres smaller.

Regardless, the compact sedan is here to stay as long as the Government continues to incentivise the size category. And almost every manufacturer already has a compact sedan in its portfolio. Tata Motors started the trend with the Indigo CS, and Maruti has been milking the opportunity thrown up by the stipulation with its Suzuki Swift DZire, and the others have their own too – Hyundai Xcent, Honda Amaze, Ford Figo Aspire, and Tata’s second offering in the category, the Zest.

The next manufacturer to join this clique is Volkswagen. We first got to see the Amero at the Auto Expo in February this year. Finally, the VW compact sedan has made it to showrooms around the country this week. This is the German brand’s first truly ‘Made for India’ model and it is a reflection of two ideas – the continued draw of the compact sedan category and VW’s strong intent to pursue the mass market for cars in India. Besieged by the diesel emissions scandal in the US and elsewhere, every new product and market strategy that will help the company claw back respect is important.

We already know a bit about the Ameo, but here are all the details after an extensive test drive of the new offering in Pune earlier this week.

Design

When VW presents a new line of cars along with the designer who created it, you can be sure that it has seen extensive work. Tilo Klumpp, Senior Designer at Volkswagen AG went to great lengths to explain to us the Ameo’s design and the changes that have been made compared to the VW Polo, on which it is based.

VW decided to take the Polo and work on it to give the Ameo a different design and an added boot because the longer wheelbase of the Vento would have made it very difficult or inelegant to design a compact sedan on it. So, while the Polo’s underlying design character comes through in the Ameo’s looks, it must be pointed out that Klumpp has done a commendable job at still managing a fairly unique character to the Ameo’s front; the rear of course being very new.

The VW designer admits that it is a big challenge to create a four-metre sedan that also has a good silhouette. In fact, he claims, VW was originally debating a fastback version, instead of the classic sedan profile. But, apparently marketing intervened and insisted that Indians only like the compact sedan profile. The entire process of creating the Ameo has taken about two and half years.

Like its length would indicate, the position for the Ameo is between the Polo and the Vento. The major rework on the Polo’s body first involved chopping off 35mm from the front fender and adding it to the rear overhang. Getting as much length as possible at the rear was important to try and make the design less gawky. The bonnet grille, hood, all the doors and the headlamps are elements that have been carried forward from the Polo. But, other design elements have been redesigned in keeping with the car’s positioning.

The air intake in the front fender is larger and lower-set than in the Polo. There is a winglet line in chrome that curves and highlights the airdam. At the sides, the typical VW style shoulder line and prominent wheel arches boost the Ameo’s design and make it look more solid. Compared to the Polo, the roofline has been lowered by 15mm at the rear to fine tune the sedan design. So, VW designers have managed to retain the Polo’s quarter glass on the C-pillar even as the roofline merges seamlessly into the rear glass.

At the rear, the tail-lamps have been positioned at the very corners to increase the perception of width, though there is no real increase in dimensions. The boot lid which has an integrated spoiler is still quite tight and the access to the boot is also quite narrow. The design is not inelegant, though it can’t be claimed to be as proportionate as a classic sedan. Boot capacity is a very useable 330 litres.

Performance

The Ameo is being offered only with one (petrol) engine for now. The powertrain is a carry forward of the same 1,198cc, three-cylinder MPI engine from the Polo, paired with the 5-speed gearbox. The engine also stays in the same state of tune, putting out 55kW of peak power and 110Nm of peak torque. This engine is not a particularly peppy engine and also being a three-cylinder it does sound a bit coarse at high revs. But that is not to say that the performance is very different from other cars and their engines in the same size class.

Slow speeds and cruising on top gear will both make the engine seem perfectly acceptable in terms of refinement and power delivery. But, hard acceleration will lead to a jump in cabin noise levels and the feeling that there should have been ten more horses to flog to comfortably finish that overtake manoeuvre. The Ameo is only about one per cent heavier than the Polo, so there is no difference in on-road engine performance.

But the Ameo, like the Polo is a great handler. It is rock steady on the straights and there it inspires a lot of confidence when you take on corners. 15-inch alloys and 185/60 tyres are a bit of a compromise, but they are an inevitable choice for Indian conditions. The steering also feels adequately precise and weighs up at high speeds. The suspension takes a middle path between being firm and pliant. The ride quality is assured, without being too rigid on bad roads.

Bottomline

The Ameo’s cabin is very familiar and there are a lot of shared parts. But, the key point we took away from the cabin in our test drive model was the amount of equipment that it gets. The Ameo is offered with the VW standard mix of Trendline, Comfortline and Highline trim variants. We were driving the top-end highline. This variant gets a touchscreen multimedia system, reverse parking camera and sensors, rain-sensing wipers, auto dimming rear view mirror, cruise control, auto aircon and one-touch power windows all around. ABS and dual airbags are standard across variants. Some top-end variants also offer features like ESP, hill hold control and fog lamps with static cornering lights. The 1.5 TDI diesel with manual gearbox and the 7-speed DSG transmission are expected to join the party later this year. Overall, starting at ₹5.24 lakh, the Ameo is great value, possibly even better than the Polo. And that might just be what VW had planned on – keeping the Ameo’s positioning attractive – to take on the competition which has had a considerable head start.

Published on June 09, 2016

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