VW Ameo TDI: Compact, powerful and loaded

Good grip on the road The Ameo TDI is well settled and planted even at high speeds

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Clean-looking inside The cabin feels very driver-focused and functional

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Even as Volkswagen tries to put behind the emission row, Indian arm rolls out Ameo diesel

Built on the same platform as the premium hatchback counterpart, the sub-four-metre sedan segment is unique to the Indian market. Thanks to the regulations that effectively incentivise cars in this (small car) segment, now popularly called CS or compact sedans, there are number of these cars fighting for a share of the pie. Many manufacturers have reluctantly joined this race begrudging the engineering inputs that are needed to create a vehicle which has no position in their global portfolio. But, they did join the race because the market for these cars has been growing.

Volkswagen was a late entrant into this CS segment, what with the development of the Ameo, built on the Polo, taking a ridiculously long four years to go into production. When the Ameo finally made it to showrooms it was already short on ammunition because it was launched with only one powertrain option – a petrol engine and a manual transmission. The CS segment is dominated by diesel-engined competitors, and buyer preference is still predominantly diesel.

So, when VW officially announced the Ameo TDI diesel earlier this month, it was good news for the brand and the buyers. And thankfully, this one gets VW’s famous 7-speed DSG automatic gearbox too, in addition to the 5-speed manual option. Last week we got behind the wheel of the Ameo TDI in Mumbai to assess this new offering from VW.

Design

The story doing the rounds is that with its emissions scandal still unravelling VW India had decided to delay the launch of the Ameo TDI, even though this engine has no connection with the tainted two-litre oil burner and its emissions cheat device. We are all already familiar with this 1.5-litre engine, which is under the bonnet of a couple of VW and Skoda cars. This is a much loved engine already, and just got better in the Ameo; more about that later.

What is also familiar, of course, is the design of the Ameo. On the outside and for the most part inside the cabin too, the design and layout remains identical to the petrol version. Like is the case also with almost all the other compact sedans, the Ameo looks a bit gawky when viewed from the side. The stubby boot is disproportionate with the front of the car, and the impression that the third box has been slapped on to the rear of the hatchback is inescapable. But, the design doesn’t hurt the eye and in fact, viewed straight-on from the rear, the Ameo’s design actually seems to have a unique character which still ties in well with other VW cars.

All the familiar design elements of the Polo are there in the Ameo TDI diesel too, as also some of the distinguishing tweaks to the design of the airdam, front fender, the new tail-lamps and boot lid. Inside the cabin, the familiar flat-bottomed VW steering wheel and the dual-tone, dark grey-biege colour scheme greets you in the Ameo too. The dashboard is unchanged from the Ameo petrol and much of it also from the Polo. The cabin feels driver focused and very functional, but precise and well made. The space at the rear seat, especially kneeroom, is just about enough. I had two passengers one a six-footer and the other about a couple of inches shorter, and kneeroom was just enough when they were seated in tandem. The Ameo also comes with 330 litres of boot space.

Performance

The new Ameo TDI is offered with the same 1.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine as is the Polo and Vento. Only difference is in the larger turbocharger which has enabled the engine to deliver a tuned-up 81kW or about 110PS of peak power and a peak torque of 250Nm – that is quite impressive for a small car that weighs just over 1,150kgs. With the idling engine rpm level being about 800rpm and the redline starting at about 5,200rpm, the delivery of power and torque is perfectly tuned within the mid-range for power, and low-rpm range for torque. Peak torque kicks in as early as 1,500rpm and turbo-lag is quite minimal. The result is an eager performer for a car in the CS segment. The Ameo’s gear ratios have been spaced just right and from when you slip into first gear, there is enough room to work the gearbox through either a passive city driving cycle or an aggressive mix of cruising and over-taking on the highway.

While idling and when you are outside the Ameo, this four-cylinder still has the trademark diesel clatter, but step into the cabin and the good insulation package manages to cut out a lot of the noise. You can still hear the engine at cold start and at high revs. The manual gearbox is a clean shifting 5-speeder and can easily be your choice especially with so much low-end torque available to exploit. The 7-speed, dual clutch DSG automatic is another USP altogether in the Ameo. With so many buyers now preferring automatics, it is a good call to go with the DSG. But then this is not just another auto transmission, this is VW’s popular dual clutch gearbox. Shifts are quick and the gearbox is equally adept at offering shifts for economical, slow-paced driving as it is for aggressive, dynamic driving. You don’t get steering mounted paddles, though manual gear selection with the stick is possible. There is a sports mode too.

Bottom Line

The Ameo TDI’s ride quality is very similar to the petrol version and the Polo’s. The car remains planted and settled even at high speeds. This is the compact sedan you’ll feel confident in while doing over 160kmph. The Ameo does feel like it crashes into pot holes, we faced quite a few on Mumbai’s roads it being the post-monsoon season, but the car still stays the line.

VW has gone for a couple of basic safety features, so, ABS and dual airbags are standard across variants. The DSG variants get ESP and hill hold control too. Some of the top-end variants of the Ameo TDI also get a few segment first features, including cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and static cornering lights. There are three trim levels for the manual and two for the automatic transmission versions. The Ameo TDI is the most impressive diesel compact sedan out there now. And the price tag is quite aggressive too starting from ₹6.37 lakh.

Published on October 13, 2016
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