First Drive: Volkswagen Vento 1.2 TSI Highline, the proper comeback kid


The Volkswagen brand has been under heavy fire over the past two years, plagued locally by poor after sales support and the dieselgate scandal which sparked the beginning of an international probe into emissions tests.

But amidst all the noise is this product so thoroughly refined, one that’s evidently honed to absolve the vilified Volkswagen Group Malaysia (VGM) of its recent unbecoming – or at least the start of this changing tide. To do that, the company introduced the updated Golf 1.4 TSI and the facelifted Polo Sedan, now effectively known as the Vento.2016 Volkswagen Vento 1.2 TSI Highline Media Drive - AutoBuzz.my

QUICK FACTS

NameVento 1.6 TrendlineVento 1.6 ComfortlineVento 1.2 TSI Highline
Engine1,598cc; 4-cylinder MPI1,197cc; 4-cylinder turbo
Transmission6-speed automatic with Tiptronic7-speed DSG
Max Power104 hp @ 5,250 rpm104 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Max Torque153 Nm @ 3,800 rpm175 Nm @ 1,550 – 4,100 rpm
Price (OTR without insurance)RM80,646RM87,646RM94,461

As an introduction, the Polo Sedan is sold as the Vento in India, where it is built. Just like the preceding model, the Vento is locally assembled at VGM’s production facility in Pekan, Pahang. It’s offered in three trims – 1.6 Trendline, 1.6 Comfortline and 1.2 TSI Highline. The multi point injection 1.6-litre engine is a carryover unit that we’re all familiar with, and its output (104 hp and 153 Nm) remains unchanged from before. This powertrain choice comes with the same six-speed automatic gearbox as well.

New to the model, mechanically, is the 1.2-litre turbocharged (TSI) four-cylinder engine. Don’t let its conservative on-paper performance fool you though, because it’s legitimately the most successful engine in the history of the international “Engine of the Year Award” after Volkswagen bagged eight consecutive trophies. This direct injection engine packs just as much horsepower as its naturally aspirated counterpart, but churns more torque – all 175 Nm of it from just 1,550 rpm.2016 Volkswagen Vento 1.2 TSI Highline Media Drive - AutoBuzz.my

Tasked with managing the peppy little firepower up front is a seven-speed, quick shifting dual clutch gearbox (dry clutch DSG). As you read on, you’ll find out that it’s no longer the Freddy Krueger transmission of yore. In fact, it’s much improved, refined and reliable than before.

Before we go into the details of the drive, we’d like to bring your attention to the Vento 1.2 TSI Highline’s overall packaging. On the outside, the Highline is the only variant to get the 16-inch “Syenit” alloy wheels (7J x 16), shod with fat 215/45 series Continental ContiPremiumContact 2 tyres. Elsewhere, the Highline looks identical to the Trendline and Comfortline, including the front bumper, headlights, tail lamps and the repositioned chrome bar that spans the tailgate’s width.

The cabin benefits from a few upgrades as well, and it didn’t take us long to get comfortable with the new leather wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel. If you think it looks familiar, that’s because it’s taken straight off a Mk7 Golf. Also new here is the Radio 320G head unit that supports USB, iPod, SD card, auxiliary and Bluetooth connectivity. All Ventos come with four speakers as standard. To give credit where it’s due, they sound just as good as a conventional six-speaker setup, perhaps even better.2016 Volkswagen Vento 1.2 TSI Highline Media Drive - AutoBuzz.my

The new matte silver trim surrounding the centre dash and air conditioning vents ups the look and feel, but its highly reflective surface can be a tad too glaring when driving in mid-day. Another gripe of mine when driving the Vento over long periods is the lack of lumbar support. Both front seats are manually adjustable; the rear bench can be folded down to make way for more cargo space, and all seats are upholstered in the new ‘Cable’ fabric.

With all that out of the way, how does the turbocharged Vento drive? As the only turbocharged B-Segment sedan (remember, the keyword here is sedan) in the market right now, it punches well above its weight. Power delivery is decidedly urgent, yet suitably linear for all driving conditions. We’ve sampled the Vento on a good mix of city and highway, but the former setting is where the old DSGs writhed erratically. Much work has been done to iron out the drivetrain’s flaws, and to say I wasn’t impressed with the result is downright blasphemous.2016 Volkswagen Vento 1.2 TSI Highline Media Drive - AutoBuzz.my

Highway cruising is also remarkably stable for a B-Segment car, and the Vento is easily the most reassuring car in its class to drive at speeds above 100 km/h. Comparatively, the 1.6-litre variants which sit on smaller 15-inch wheels with narrower tyres manage to deliver a similar experience (as far as I remember, that is), but the extra width on the turbocharged Vento gives you the added confidence to carry more speed into corners.

It’s not quite as zippy and agile as the Ford Fiesta or the Mazda2 around the bends, but steering feedback is quick enough (albeit slightly muted) to enjoy a decent drive through the winding roads of Balik Pulau. Granted, agility isn’t the Vento’s strongest suit, but it’s definitely the most planted car of the lot, matching that of a C-Segment sedan.2016 Volkswagen Vento 1.2 TSI Highline Media Drive - AutoBuzz.my

One thing you can consistently count on a continental car to deliver is cabin refinement. Despite being produced in India (the parts are imported here from India, then assembled in Pekan), the Vento comes with premium insulating materials such as felt lining on all four doors. This greatly reduces wind noise, which only started creeping into the cabin way above the legal speed limit. The wheel wells don’t generate a lot of humming noise as well, hinting at proper use of vibration-absorbing material.

In short, there’s plenty to like about the new Vento, and hardly anything irksome that would be off-putting. Would I recommend the Vento to my friends and family? Without a shadow of a doubt. Forget everything you’ve heard about Volkswagen Malaysia. To some of you, the Vento may just be another passing thing, but really, it’s them starting on a clean slate.


IMAGE GALLERY


Matthew H. Tong

Matthew H. Tong

A straightforward, fun-loving guy who appreciates the superficiality of a car's appeal, but his admiration for anything on four wheels gives him no reason to neglect the makings of a car. He still believes that fun comes with three pedals and a stick.
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