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Winds of change

Keeping tradition alive, Volkswagen, which names its cars after prominent winds, has christened the new Polo saloon Vento, for the Indian market. Vento means wind in both Italian and Portuguese. However, it’s not a new name and in fact, it was the third generation Jetta that was re-badged as Vento for the European market in the early 1990s. However, the name was dropped, as it wasn’t as popular as the Jetta moniker.

STYLE FILE

The Vento is essentially the three-box or saloon version of the recently launched Polo and it shares a common platform with the hatchback. Both the saloon and the hatch are similar up to the B-pillar, except that the Vento comes with a different grille and lights to differentiate it from its hatchback sibling. The Vento’s rear section or third box is well integrated with the body and the wheelbase has been extended by an estimated 50mm, which helps to increase cabin space.

INSIDE STORY

Aware that the Polo’s rear seat would be inadequate for saloon car customers, Volkswagen engineers stretched the car for better legroom. Headroom too will be better as the roof doesn’t taper down as sharply as in the hatch. In fact, special attention has been given to the rear seat, as a large percentage of these cars are likely to be chauffeur-driven. Using the Honda City as the Vento’s benchmark, VW engineers are hinting at best-in-class comfort.

The Indian version of the car gets special seat cushions to withstand prolonged use without compromising comfort. Boot space is expected to be in the region of 500 litres and a split seat option will also be available. Equipment levels are expected to be higher than in the Polo and the top-of-the-line version could get some features derived from the Jetta.

UNDER THE HOOD

The Vento will initially get two engine options – a petrol and a diesel. Both these engines displace 1.6 litres and produce 105bhp. However, the diesel will give out a thumping 25.5kgm of torque, compared to the petrol motor’s 15.8kgm and their driving characteristics will also be as varied as chalk and cheese.

Like in the Jetta, the petrol motor in the Vento is a naturally aspirated unit but it’s more advanced. While the Jetta’s 1.6 motor has two valves per cylinder driven off a single cam, the Vento has a four-valve head and double overhead camshafts. This is the same engine that powers the Polo and the Golf in Europe.

The only difference is that it is tuned to adapt to local fuel. Also, for India, the 1.6 motor will come with a cast-iron block (the European engine is aluminium), which will make this engine family (EA111) easier to localise in the future. VW is likely to introduce the same engine in the Indian Polo after the Vento is launched.

The 1.6 common-rail diesel is brand new and comes from the same engine family (EA189) as the 1.2 turbo-diesel that powers the Polo and the bigger 2-litre diesel in the Jetta. This engine can produce 90bhp and 105bhp of power and thankfully VW has decided to give us the more powerful engine.

If the relatively lightweight Polo is anything to go by, then the Vento won’t be more than a 100kg heavier than the hatch, which should give it a good power-to-weight ratio. And while the petrol Vento may not match the Honda City in pace, the diesel Vento should be a close match for the 110bhp Hyundai Verna diesel. Both these engines, and the diesel in particular, have been fine-tuned towards ensuring fuel economy and driveability.

FINAL VERDICT

Sadly, there are no plans to introduce a TSI engine. The direct-injection and turbo-charging hardware in a TSI motor is proving too costly for a saloon in the under-Rs 10 lakh-category. Also, both the petrol and diesel will come with five-speed manual transmissions initially but there is a possibility of a DSG gearbox being introduced in the top-end diesel at a later stage.

VW plans to price the Vento between Rs 7 lakh and Rs 9 lakh and is gearing up for a July 2010 launch. This all-new saloon with a brand new set of engines promises to blend performance, luxury and economy like no other mid-sized car. Can the Vento blow its rivals away? Well, let’s wait and find out.

SPec check

Volkswagen Vento
(All estimates)

Price: Rs 7 lakh - Rs 9 lakh
L/W/H: 4530/1682/1453mm
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol and 1.6-litre turbo-diesel/ front, transverse, front-wheel drive
Power: 105bhp
Torque: 15.8kgm/ 25.5kgm
Gearbox: 5-speed manual
Brakes (F/R): Ventilated discs/ drums

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