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Volkswagen Ameo: A value-for-money compact sedan

June 10, 2016 12:24 IST

The Ameo brings the best of both worlds in a single package for the Indian family at an incredible price, says Cyrus Behram Dhabhar.

Staying true to its tagline ‘das auto’ which means ‘the car,’ Volkswagen enjoys a certain ‘people mover’ image globally.

But, when it comes to our part of the world, one doesn’t really find Volkswagen synonymous with its global image.

Until now, that had a lot to do with its offerings but things might change soon.

Being ruled by the affordable tag, hatchbacks in our market do relish their share of the pie.

While enjoying a distinct ‘advantage’ of government policy, the cleverly placed compact sedans are only increasing their share with every passing day.

These sedans do offer that ‘big’ car feel for the Indian mind-set and thus makes for a smart choice.

But what if one has to go for a compact sedan and enjoy a premium feel as well?

Not to worry, Volkswagen has now answered that query by presenting us the all-new Ameo.

Now, what is this compact sedan all about? We went behind the wheel to find out.

On the looks of it, yes, most of you will say it’s a replica of the Polo from the front but Volkswagen has kept the Ameo a little distinct from its hatch sibling. 

The front bumper has been pushed in by 35mm which made way for more space to be used on the rear, given the fact it had to be less than four metres.

Making the Ameo appear slightly wider, the front bumper gets scooped-out edges at the corners which offer some distinction at the front. That is about it.

The rest of the details including the double barrel headlamps, front fenders, grille as well as the bonnet are all borrowed from the Polo.

In addition to that, we would have loved some modern day features such as projector headlamps and a daytime running LED strip as well.

Coming to its major attraction i.e. the boot, Volkswagen hasn’t really gone for a cut-copy-paste approach for the Ameo. 

There has been some serious work done to the C-pillar which flows quite well into the bootlid.

On the looks of it one might find the tail little bland but when observed closely you get to notice well placed panels and cuts.

Given the fact it’s a sub-4 metre car, it becomes very difficult to come up with something pretty, given the length restriction.

But, we have to admit that the Ameo is by far one of the most balanced sub-4-metre sedans available in the market today. Now, the only thing that did leave us a little disappointed are the tail lamps. Volkswagen would have done a much better job here by giving it a more attractive and distinct design.

Step inside and you will get that Polo feel looking at the dashboard, but then again, it’s not a bad thing at all.

It gets hold of a brushed silver finish centre console with rectangular air vents along with the infotainment system.

The touchscreen infotainment system has an excellent user interface and supports Bluetooth as well as USB but misses out on Apple CarPlay.

This is where Ameo gets its premium badge with features such as climate control, first-in-class cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, flat-bottomed steering wheel as well as anti-pinch windows for all doors.

The list doesn’t end here; to increase the practicality quotient Volkswagen also offers a central armrest with storage and rear AC vents as well.

Seating at the front is similar to the Polo with driver side height adjustment offering a good support.

However, the back rest has undergone changes and has now been scooped out to increase legroom for the rear occupants.

Thanks to this, the Ameo offers more space than the Polo at the rear but when pitted against the front-runners Honda Amaze and Ford Figo Aspire, it does fall short in space and under-thigh support as well.

That said, despite having a 15mm lower roof at the rear when compared with its siblings Polo and Vento, you still manage to get a lot of headroom even for taller passengers.

Volkswagen could have offered a central armrest for the rear bench as well but the rear AC vents sort of make up for that added comfort.

Boot on the Ameo can easily swallow luggage thanks to its spacious design while if you are still not satisfied, the seats can fold down easily to open up more space.

Coming to what’s under the hood. Volkswagen has only made available the 1.2-litre petrol engine so far and that’s what we got our hands on.

No marks for guessing here, it’s the same motor that is seen on the Polo.

It churns out a decent 75PS of peak power along with 110Nm of torque, which to be honest are not heart-thumping figures.

In fact, we did encounter some niggles while driving.

For a petrol car, the engine is on the louder side even when idling.

Also, power at the low-end isn’t as linear as we would have expected and the car does need that extra dosage of throttle especially when you are scaling upinclined surfaces.

Although, the engine does tend to come into its happy space between 3000rpm – 6000 rpm,once it’s on the higher side it does get loud and disturbing.

You get a typical Volkswagen setup for the gearbox which offers a great feel and feedback.

Clutch again is quite smooth and light, in fact it’s lighter than some of the older Volkswagen cars.

But, if you compare it with the likes of Hyundai and Maruti, it isn’t as light as the Korean and Japanese products are.

Something that can really bring the Ameo to life can be the 1.2-litre 4-cylinder TSI engine that we have seen on the Polo. 

When it comes to the chassis, there are no two ways about it: Volkswagen has done a tremendous job on the Ameo for its overall balance.

Opting for better handling, the ride quality is on the stiffer side but that is one compromise that Volkswagen buyers are happy to embrace.

The ride is not that uncomfortable either and even though rear seat occupants might go for a toss on bad sections of the road, the driver can seamlessly rely on the solid chassis of this drive.

We would have loved the 16-inch wheels on the Ameo which the show car had, but the production version will get the similar 15-inch ongoing wheels as on the Polo. 

When it comes to safety, you can always rely on the Germans. Same is the case here with the Ameo.

Volkswagen has managed to firm up this compact sedan with a host of safety features as per the price bracket.

ABS and two airbags at the front are a standard feature across all variants.

Using modern day assembly techniques like laser welding, Volkswagen has strengthened the overall structure which will result in a safer car on the road.

Now, when it comes to the positioning of the Ameo, we can sum it up like this.

The Polo is meant to please a young buyer who loves driving while the Vento, on the other hand, combines premium feel with luxury for an older buyer.

The Ameo brings the best of both worlds in a single package as a value for money purchase for the Indian family at an incredible price point.

The Ameo can be Volkswagen’s ‘people mover’ which will appeal to the masses.

The only let down, as of now, for the Ameo can be the subdued petrol engine. But we will still recommend this car.

Although, Volkswagen will be launching a diesel engine as well later this year and that’s what we are really looking forward to.  

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Cyrus Behram Dhabhar