The sub-four meter sedan segment was born when Tata Motors launched the Indigo CS which eventually started outnumbering the standard Indigo. A decade later, we have a sub-four meter sedan from literally every manufacturer. Volkswagen already had the Polo and Vento shared on the same platform. They were selling well in the Indian market. Still, the company wanted to give the sub-four meter a try, and that is the Ameo. Volkswagen pressed the nose of the Vento a bit, added a few creases over the fog lamps and chopped the rear to cut to size the car to the sub-four meter tag. And that’s how the Ameo was born.
The answer is, obviously, the engine. The Ameo now gets a smaller 1.0 L petrol engine instead of the earlier 1.2 L petrol unit on offer. The new engine is a 3-cylinder motor that develops 76PS at 6200rpm and a peak torque of 95Nm at 3000-4300rpm mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. The petrol engine is available with only the 5-speed manual gearbox while the diesel gets an option of a 7-speed DSG gearbox. This new heart is 2PS stronger while being 15Nm weaker than the outgoing 1.2 L motor. It’s a refined motor and with all the windows up, you can barely hear the engine ticking under the hood, though there are noticeable vibrations at the pedals. Give it a little gas and the three pot nature is immediately evident from the acoustics.
Design is a very subjective term but apart from the boxy rump that Ameo gets, it is a handsome looking car. The 1.0 L Ameo is not an all-new car but the clean and minimalistic design philosophy is what has kept the decade-old design of the Polo, Vento and now the Ameo fresh and appealing. Nothing apart from small knick-knacks has changed over the years and Volkswagen really deserves a pat on their back for the same. The only visual changes compared to the Polo is a slightly shorter bumper and the addition of a crease above the fog lamps at the front while the rear gets a marginally lower roofline than the Polo to aid smooth flow of design.
If performance is your priority while you consider this particular engine, you have to look elsewhere. Those 76 horses towed to a 1050kg car with a power to weight ratio of 72PS/ ton itself signifies that the petrol Ameo isn’t a driver’s car. The torque spread of the engine is even and the car pulls effortlessly from 0-80kmph. The power delivery is also linear and coupled with a light clutch and equally smooth gearbox, driving this Ameo is a breeze in city traffic.
Engine is very responsive and the gear ratios are so designed that you can pull the car from average cycling pace in the highest gear without a rattle. How did Volkswagen manage that? Engineering! Coupled with a claimed fuel efficiency of 19.44kmpl, I would even overstep and say that the petrol version is a car that you should go for if city commuting is your daily business.
That said, take this Ameo to a highway and it will begin to cringe. The petrol engine simply feels underpowered and the lack of juice is immediately noticeable once you start pushing the car beyond 80kmph. The car that felt peppy, eager and responsive till 80kmph inside the city suddenly turns bland and dreary. Maintaining triple-digit speed is not a big deal but getting there in a respectable time is. And the Ameo does not do that.
The car does not like to be pushed hard and even if you try to hustle by playing with gears, it will run out of breath. The only way to maintain a high steady pace is by keeping the right foot floored, all the time. Overtaking is also a task at times and planning the moves well in advance is the only way to make steady progressive overtakes.
Braking is the Ameo’s strong point. At any speed, once you floor the brake pedal, the car slows steadily without any drama and the feel is confidence inspiring.
Ride and handling
The trio benefits from a superb chassis and as far as handling department goes, the Ameo is a competent car. The steering is responsive and precise at all speeds and the feedback is excellent. The ride is planted thanks to the 16-inch wheels. The car you see in the pictures is a Highline Plus trim and the 16-inch wheels are offered with this particular variant only. Suspension set-up is tuned to be on slightly firm ground which again aids handling and helps the car feel composed at higher speeds without being harsh on the ride quality.
The ride is good and most of the road conditions and bumps are absorbed without much drama being transmitted to the occupants. There is a subtle feel of robustness that you get while you are driving over bad sections of road, which is a good thing. The Ameo is a sure-footed car which feels composed on corners, and this attribute does make it confidence inspiring and a fun-to-drive car.
Interiors and features
There is nothing new here. The cabin is almost a decade old as the rest of the design but it surprisingly does not look old. Volkswagen has surely added small bits like a flat bottom steering wheel, touch screen infotainment system and a few details here and there though to keep up with time. The Ameo gets essentially the same cabin as offered on the Polo and hence sitting three abreast at the rear is always a squeeze.
The car is loaded to the brim and gets lots of segment firsts like one touch and anti-pinch power windows on all four doors, opening and closing of all the windows with remote key, cruise control, front centre arm rest and automatic rain sensing wipers. Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, App Connect and USB, Aux and SD car connectivity are offered as standard.
Volkswagen recently launched the Connect Editions of the Polo, Ameo and Vento. The name Connect refers to the plug and play dongle that is pre-installed in the car, which can be connected to the On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) port and paired to the smartphone via Bluetooth. The smartphone app will help track drive related things such as trip tracking, fuel cost monitoring, driver behaviour, location sharing, SOS call and in scheduling the next service appointment. The Connect system is pre-installed in all these cars and will cost no extra amount over standard model prices.
The 1.0 L Highline Plus trim (topmost variant) that we tested comes with a price tag of Rs 7.65 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). The recently-launched second generation of Honda Amaze 1.2 L petrol manual transmission will be yours for Rs 7.68 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) while the Maruti Suzuki DzireZXi Plus is available for Rs 8.00 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). The Ameo is the most affordable car in the trio by a meagre margin here though the other two cars are also offered with an automatic gearbox unit as an option which the Ameo petrol sorely misses out on.
Who should buy this car? Someone who loves driving, loves to have fun with the car, especially young people. Who Shouldn’t? Family members with an expectation to make a long journey with five full size adults sitting inside and someone who is a regular highway commuter.
There are four strong reasons you should buy a Volkswagen for: build quality, engineering finesses, creature comfort equipment list and focus on safety. Volkswagen has loaded the Ameo to the gills and this small car makes a superb value for money proposition for the price it is offered at. The fact that the Ameo is entirely built for Indian customer derived from our inclination towards the so called ‘sub-four’ meter sedan category cocoons a solid deal around itself.