Words and Photography by Atul Bandhu
Well I have never ever begun on that note but never ever has any car impressed me more. What makes it exquisite is the fact that Volkswagen has developed this sub 4 meter sedan specifically for the India.
I drove the petrol version of the AMEO few months age and it left quite a mark on me, it was a pure piece of German brilliance crafted for India on the downside the 1.2L petrol unit wasn’t doing justice to its chassis nor was the conventional manual transmission (when you know that a particular car can be equipped with a DSG then everything else is just inferior) still I wasn’t disappointed as I knew a DSG diesel would be coming later. Afterall India has made its mark on the international market, having German giants making an India centric vehicle. Yes VW did go all out to research and develop a car for your people, that too a sub 4 meter sedan. A segment that took shape in India, all thanks to 2nd gen Swift Dzire which shrunk under 4 meters to avail tax exemptions and went on to beat the Alto to become the highest selling car in India. That was back in 2012 fast forward to 2016 Auto Expo India, VW unveiled its new India specific AMEO to the world, followed by it launch. First we received the 1.2L 3cyl petrol AMEO followed by the 1.5L 4cyl turbo diesel which is also available with DSG transmission.
The AMEO is based on Polo and not a chopped out Vento. There was a great task at hand with the Polo measuring near 4 meters but do not fret when you a got a team of German engineers. They cleverly shaves off 35mm from the front bumper of the Polo to cleverly accommodate a bigger boot. Well I reinstate that anonymous saying “nobody does great jobs quite like Germans do” What does that mean to NAMO zombies anyway, they will just #MakeInIndia on social media.
With all the lines and creases in places the car would put people walking down the Wall Street to shame. The shape of AMEO is definitely the best among all sub 4m sedans and VW genes. One glance is enough to tell that it’s a German product, the car retains the blacked-out double barrel headlamps from Polo which look good and work even better. Mechanically it remains a Polo and even retains the same wheelbase.
Considering the fact that AMEO is a late entry into a Maruti dominated segment they have aggressively priced it from Rs. 5.24 lakh to 9.31 lakh ex-showroom Delhi. This is something that can give Dzire a run for its money which tops at Rs. 8.87 Lakh and is nowhere near this car. We’ll do a detailed comparison between the two soon. Until recently the major concern with VW ownership was the high maintenance cost and spare cost but with the cost of being quite reasonable now one can check that box when looking to buy a VW car.
Step inside to be greeted by a familiar Polo cabin and it retains the flat bottom VW steering wheel. That wheel takes your cabin experience 10 notches higher, if that’s not impressive enough the steering wheel is adjustable for both reach and rake. Everyone can find a perfect driving position in this car in no time, all thanks to its reach and rake adjustable steering and height adjustable driver seat. “The seating position is best in its class” nothing comes close to this. However the beige in cabin is a turn off for me but supposedly here in India that is considered premium. The car gets a touch screen infotainment system, touch is sluggish at times. The foldable armrest design has been my favourite since 1st gen Octavia days in India. Here I was happy to see that feature being incorporated but that moment didn’t last long. The armrest provides good support when it is down but the moment you push it back straight it becomes an intrusion so that utility is not be enjoyed while driving. This primarily happens due to its short-wheelbase for which the armrest has been fitted neatly into less space unlike my old Octavia experience.
VW has gone past every feature list we had for AMEO. The car is equipped with what and what not’s list of segment firsts. The boot that was the main criteria of this design is of 333 liters not class leading but is deep with less intrusion for ample storage. For storage there are ample bottle/cup holders and cubby holes in the cabin. The auto up and down for all four windows with an anti-pitch feature here should be taken up by more manufacturers. The inside rearview mirror is automatic day and night electro chromatic mirror. The mirror is very sleek but provides a much wider view to my surprise. The legroom at rear is cramped but feels better with the contouring of front seats. Rear AC vents come with a foldable cup/bottle holder to keep you drinks cool, that luxury at front can be enjoyed with the cooled glovebox at front that comes with an adjustable airflow setting on the inside. Accompanying them are features like steering mounted audio controls, electrically foldable and adjustable OVRM’s, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic rain sensing wipers, cruise control etc.
VW takes safety very seriously hence ABS and dual front Airbags come as standard equipment across all range however to my surprise the seat belt warning only comes up as a blinker and there are no sound notifications for it. The solid VW built also builds up your confidence to drive this car.
How is it to drive?
The ride dynamics and ergonomics are superb, well it’s a VW Polo underneath so keeping it in line is easy even when you push the lateral G. The car handles nicely and feels well planted on roads and composed on corners. Unlike the petrol this one here is spoilt by the familiar 1.5L Tdi mated to a DSG transmission returning a healthy 110ps of power and 250nm of torque. The drive terrain inspires a lot of confidence to push the car and if you really push it around too much the electronics kick in to make sure you are in line without any corrective measure required at your end. Its not just an out and out performer but a very solid, planted, well behaved, luxurious car which is astonishingly fuel efficient and super convenient.
Whats My Take?
So it is AMEO i.e. the best sub 4 meter sedan in the world today versus Maruti Suzuki’s goodwill selling Dzire India.
Mark my words, “VW AMEO DSG is the best sub 4 meter sedan in the world today” the AMEO arrived super-duper late to sub 4m segment party which at a time I felt was nearing saturation and was surviving on the courtesy of Ola, Uber and so on. Regular users were still buying them but that idea never appealed to me. I have studied the market and demand of the sub 4m sedans as closely as I could. The one that broke open this segment i.e. Swift Dzire is still the market leader despite taking major bumps from Amaze and Xcent.
So where does AMEO fit in? AMEO sit on top of all its competitors as far as the vehicle goes. Theoretically, ideally and practically no car in the market today can come close to AMEO. Its just the sales part that needs magical transformation, even if it doesn’t become number 1 in sales. It will be a very tough car to beat. The benchmarks set AMEO is giving cold sweat to many manufactures.
The car is very well equipped with class leading features with the Cruise Control being usable from as low as 25 kmph making cruising fun not only on highways but in cities too. The DSG variant is also equipped with ESP and Hill Hold Assist for practical functionality. On our test we did manage to get a pretty decent fuel economy of near 20kmpl with mixed light and heavy foot driving. So which box has been left unchecked? None
We had taken two cars along for the photoshoot. One the AMEO Tdi DSG and the Elantra Crdi MT, with my editor behind the wheel of the Elantra decided to show some grunt with this 20 lakh car. That didn’t please the AMEO much and it pretty much smoked the Elantra out by a hefty 13 minutes on a 23 km stretch. Well long story short when a car can smoke out a car that’s two segment above in the ladder and full grown executive sedan then you can’t go wrong in buying this car.
Would I buy an AMEO for myself?
I don’t particularly like sub 4 meter sedans but if VW plans a 1.6/1.8L TSi with DSG, I would be among the first ones to bring one home.