Volkswagen comes up with one of the best petrol mid-sizers — the Vento TSI, a car that’s easy to drive in the city and on the highway. Kedar Jaidev reports

The disparity between petrol and diesel prices is fast disappearing, with diesel prices set to be deregulated by sometime next year. Most evident effect of this trend is the comeback of petrol cars. And carmakers are set to cash in on this opportunity. German carmaker Volkswagen recently launched the Polo GT TSI with a 103bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged, direct-injection petrol unit mated to a seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox. And now, the Vento TSI replaces the Vento 1.6 automatic (which used an old-school cast-iron block petrol motor mated to a conventional torque converter), and gets the same cutting-edge engine and gearbox combo from the Polo GT TSI.

Externally, there’s not much that’s changed. The Vento TSI comes with a subtle addition of chrome on the boot and fog light surrounds, new alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, leatherette seat covers and ESP and Hill Hold assist. Much like the Polo GT TSI, VW has plonked more equipment into this car to justify its positioning as the top-spec variant. But what has transformed the Vento is the new powertrain, and this is all too obvious within the first 10 metres of driving it. Squeeze your right foot and there’s a good amount of thrust from the get-go. The wide powerband and flat torque curve result in effortless performance and the Vento accelerates smoothly, though not quite as quickly, off the blocks as the Polo. Compared to other mid-sizers however, the Vento TSI has a lot more oomph, especially in the mid-range, and overtaking is particularly easy.

The seven-speed DSG gearbox (DQ200) is a familiar VW unit, having done duty in the Skoda Superb and more recently in the new Octavia. Like in the Polo GT TSI, you get D, S and manual modes, but no paddle shifters. In regular D, the gearbox is programmed to up shift at the earliest in the interests of fuel efficiency and relaxed driving. The S mode was quite a revelation; not only did the gearbox hang on in each gear till the redline; it would also sportily downshift on its own to give a bit of engine braking. If you want even more control, switch to manual, wherein the gearbox responds immediately to a prod of the chrome-finished gear lever.

Again, downshifting even from high revs is possible, and we love the way the engine revs shoot up to the redline when you swap to a lower gear.

The Vento’s driving dynamics are unchanged — it still handles exactly how it used to. Ride, like in the earlier Vento, is good. It absorbs bumps and potholes well, but there’s a bit of suspension noise over sharp edges. And even though it doesn’t smother bumps with the prowess of an SUV, on bad roads it feels up to the task and is quite comfortable. The dashboard is set a bit high, so if you’re on the shorter side you’ll need to use the seat height adjust (standard on the Highline version) to crank yourself up for a better view.

The Vento isn’t an astute handler. The car doesn’t beg you to throw it into a corner and the steering, though light, is also a bit numb. However, you can still drive this car quick with confidence and it is rock-solid at high speeds.

At Rs 9.99 lakh, the TSI is the most expensive petrol variant of the Vento. But what you get is a car that’s easy to drive in the city and on the highway, it’s quick, and comes with a smaller engine that makes almost the same power as the older, larger units while returning far better fuel efficiency. Simply put, this Vento is one of the best petrol mid-sizers you can buy today.