In September 1949 a sealed envelope came addressed to a British REME Officer named Ivan Hirst which rewrote the history of industrial production in Germany. Earlier that year Officer Hirst found an ingenious way of using a bombed out factory to address the shortage of light vehicles for the transportation requirements of the British Army stationed in Germany. This dilapidated production facility later went on to become a symbol for the entire Germany. It became immediately clear after the long and immensely perilous war, the German people were ready to move on from a flawed ideology that scarred their country as well as their day to day lives to build a better future for their country and their children. The morale and resilience of the post-war Germany reflected among the people who worked for this facility. They built cars in a building with no roof. The cars they built were better than the ones produced by the workers working in an intact roofed factory in Bristol or Detroit.
The modest products churned out by a war ravaged country became a sudden rage all around the world. The cute little machines were tough, reliable and cheap. But the people behind those elegant products did not have everything on their plates. Even after six months going into producing cars at a rate of 1000 per month which was impressive even by today’s standards, the car factory had to rely on a barter system where they sold newly finished cars for steel. For a nation with an economy that was predominantly run on American cigarettes, this factory became an inspiration for people who believed in a better future.
In September of 2010, the REME Museum Of Technology in Arborfield, Berkshire, England is hosting a show titled ‘the Beetle and the Major’ to honor the astuteness of their fellow REME compatriot and the engineer who engineered the post-war recovery of Germany industrial production: Ivan Hirst. The company is now the largest producer of cars in Europe. It is eyeing Toyota’s position as the World’s largest manufacturer of Cars. Volkswagen is now a globally revered name in car production. A symbol of German no nonsense and perfection, for many it is also a symbol of what people of a country can do even in the worst of the worst predicaments. Hard work and sweating hours under a roofless factory to produce cars, hoping that it would one day change the face of the country indeed helped this once German industrial underdog to rise and become a present day manufacturing behemoth.
When Volkswagen came to India, it was a time for automotive enthusiasts who admired no-nonsense engineering perfection at affordable prices, to rejoice and clap their hands with a childish trepidation. But unfortunately for a long time until the recent Volkswagen Polo release there was nothing for the Indian masses to have a share of what the rest of the world was enjoying. Now, following the footsteps of the VW Polo is the amazingly brilliant VW Vento or the VW Polo Sedan. To avoid confusion among the general public VW has decided to use a separate brand identity to market the car rather than use the Polo Sedan moniker in the Indian market. This is a car that truly speak volumes about a company interested in manufacturing pure perfections. It is a beautiful looking automobile. Very well proportioned, clean design and I am pretty sure the Vento is going to age beautifully unlike its Indian, Korean, Japanese and American rivals.
Ask anyone from any corner of the world there is an unanimous verdict: The car is a stunner. The Vento’s design is fluid. The front three quarters angle is the best way to judge the car by photos. The C-pillars with the rear quarter glass helps Vento to have a proportionate and balanced three box look. The front grille immediately reveals a tight family lineage. It is the way most automakers are designing their cars these days, but the VW’s 2011 family line up including the ugliest of them all the Touareg is now looking pretty with a facelift that happened somewhere in the beginning of this year. The only design gripe here is the rear. It is a bit less interesting than the front end, but sure does bode well with the rest of the car.
The Indian Vento comes in two engine flavors a 1.6 DOHC 16 valve petrol power plant mated to an automatic 6 speed triptronic or a 5 speed manual shifter and a 1.6 DOHC 16 valve Common Rail diesel mated to just a 5 speed manual shifter. Both of them have the same power rating of 104bhp, but the diesel Vento produces much greater torque of 25.4kgm against the petrol ones 16kgm. The engine choices are very good and the car feels lively in both variants. The diesel power plant is a wee bit agricultural sounding but then the torque makes it a joy to ride experience. The automatic gear box lives up to the urban myth of a slush box. It is not a Doppelkupplung but there are 6 cogs to do all the work makes it less annoying. The triptronic gear box does take out the performance from the Vento’s petrol sipper although is a worthy price for the convenience you are going to get. Yes, you heard it right. The VW Vento has a 6 speed automatic gear box and it is not a typo. The petrol in its Manual transmission propels the car to a claimed 185kmph top speed. The triptronic shaves off 2kmph from the top speed. The diesel has a top speed of 186kmph which is impressive considering the fact that the car is 70kg heavier than the petrol variant.
The Highline variant is the one that ticks all the boxes and it comes with a lot of useful features including the ABS, Airbags, Climatronic Air-conditioning, Height Adjustable Seats, Front Co-Passenger Seat Adjustable from the rear for liberating more leg room, 15” alloy wheels, A Radio and an MP3 player, Brilliant Central Locking system that allows you to roll up and down the windows, remotely open and close the boot lid. The keys are foldable for slipping into your skinny jeans. It also has a 12V outlet in the front console as standard fitment which for me makes this variant a pretty good value for money. The Tredline is also loaded with features including the well balanced electronic power steering that brings out the character of the rigid VW chassis. It is the most precise steering this side of a BMW 3 series.
The Vento is spacious. The boot is huge and is adequate for a long weekend trip or a run to the airport. The interiors have nice little details like a bottle holder integrated to the doors, cup holders and arm rests that act as stowaway for coins, iPod and Phones. The rear leg room could have been better but VW has a nice addition called the Spacemax control. It is a lever that enables the rear passenger to adjust the front co-passenger seat. The feature is available only in the highline variant though. The interiors are functional and are made of quality materials. The plastics feel really good and the seats offer good support. The leather wrapped steering wheel is nice to grip. The consoles are very functional in design. Nothing eye catching here nor are there any eye sores. Beige seats,rear quarter glass along with the generous glass area gives the Vento interiors a lively and airy feel.
The 15” alloys looks good on the Vento. The surprising shift of VW is its badge placement policy. Since VW is a relatively lesser known brand the company has decided to place the Volkswagen lettering at the rear of the car which is helpful for the brand illiterate Indians!
The car has a very well balanced suspension that manages to do the magic trick of being comfortable yet sporty enough. The well responsive steering wheel plus adequate grip from those four corner rubbers gives Vento a good amount of cornering confidence. Unlike the Fiat Linea what we are seeing here is a well balanced package including an adequately performing engine, a great drive and handling making Vento a hard to beat offering.
The Vento Price List (All prices are Ex Showroom New Delhi):
1.6L Petrol Trendline (Manual) Rs.6,99,000
1.6L Petrol Highline (Manual) Rs.8,23,500
1.6L Petrol Highline (Automatic) Rs.9,21,500
1.6 L TDI Trendline (Manual) Rs.7,99,000
1.6L TDI Highline (Manual) Rs.9,23,500.
The biggest shocker for the Indians is the price of the Vento. It is the real deal. VW knows it has a weak spot in terms of dealer networks and brand awareness in India. So the second best way to assault the Indian market is by offering a quality product at an irresistible price point. The biggest company to worry about the Vento will be Honda. Honda City is now starting to look like an overpriced steel arrow.
The pricing is just bang on for the segment, and you are not paying a premium for the things that a car should actually have. Vento is one of the very few well balanced offerings in the Indian market and I believe this makes Volkswagen a company to watch out for in the future. It is fairly certain that Volkswagen is in India for playing the long term game. Their significant investment in manufacturing facilities here in India combined with rapidly increasing dealer networks make it a virtually risk free investment for anyone thinking of owning the Vento for a longer duration. The car is built like a tank to be able to withstand years and years of abuse adds up as a plus point toward peace of mind for the prospective Volkswagen customers.
If you are in the market hunting for a good looking, well priced, no-nonsense, reliable German engineered car that is spacious, good handling, fuel efficient: you are lucky that this one company has come up with a car like that and it is none other than Volkswagen with its new Vento. Buy it, Vento is a: have one’s cake and eat it too scenario.
Hyundai i30: Yet to be released offering from Hyundai. The design is a far cry from the Hyundai’s that Indians are used to seeing. It has a bolder design and ticks a lot of boxes. Hopefully they can compete with VW in terms of Value for money.
Honda City: Slightly expensive.This car has the funkiest interiors in its segment and has a livelier engine under the hood. All these coupled with rather futuristic(ish) looks make it still a good car to buy. If Honda slashes the price of City then it will be comparable value for money with Vento. Paddle shift is a useless gimmick for a sluggish gear box, though many think it is cool.
Maruti SX4: Stay away from it. Shoddy built, bad engine, floating feel for the driver makes it a very bad car to own and drive. Buy a Vento instead if you are even remotely considering buying it. Good service support and a surprising price tag is a plus point though.
Fiat Linea: Italian beauty that is a no go. The under performing engine is just sheer negligence on Fiat’s part since Linea has a very good chassis and a well balanced steering. Stay away from it unless you are smitten by that looks. As the old saying goes beauty has a price to pay and it is quite a premium that you will be paying if you are committing to this Italian stunner.