Volkswagen has got the mass-market formula right with the Ameo compact sedan. The car has an expansive feature list, is built like a tank, and more importantly, is priced competitively too. The only fly in the ointment was the unimpressive 75hp 1.2-litre petrol motor. But now, the lack of performance seems to be a thing of the past, as VW has introduced a diesel Ameo to the line-up. But that’s not all. In an attempt to sweeten the deal further, the carmaker has thrown in a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox as well. So how does it drive?
The 1.5-litre diesel engine now gets a bigger turbocharger, and power is up by 5hp, taking the total to 110hp. This engine is still slow to respond, especially under 1,800rpm, past which, all its pulling power hits you. This though, is not as apparent with the automatic. Clearly, this twin-clutch gearbox is light years ahead of the automatics that others in the class offer.
Drive sedately and the gearbox shifts through all its seven gears smoothly and swiftly. Put it in ‘S’, or ‘sport’ mode, and responses from the gearbox are even quicker, and it holds gears till higher revs too. However, like most other dual-clutch gearboxes, it’s a bit slow to respond if you ask for a quick downshift. This slight pause and the weak low-speed response of the engine can be a bit annoying when driving in traffic. However, once it gets into its stride, it packs in a strong punch, as the engine races to the redline.
What’s apparent is that the suspension set-up is a bit soft. On bad roads, the Ameo pitches and bobs; its ride never really feels settled. There are crashing noises even through smaller potholes, and the car doesn’t feel settled even as you pick up speed.
The steering, however, offers decent feedback, and it’s decently weighted too. Around a set of corners though, the Ameo struggles to put down all the power cleanly. It isn’t unsafe, but handling is not sorted, and it doesn’t hold its line through a corner, say like a Ford Aspire.
Where the Ameo really impresses though, is with its build quality. The heavy door shuts with a luxury-car-like thunk, and interior quality is praiseworthy. The dashboard, although an old template, looks quite impressive. The front seats are supportive, and the telescopic steering with a height-adjustable driver’s seat makes it easy to find a good driving position. Though small, the 5.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a segment first, works nicely too.
As with the Polo, on which the Ameo is based, the back seat is a let-down. There’s just about adequate space, but tall passengers will find it cramped.
The Ameo DSG costs Rs 9.32 lakh, which makes it around Rs 75,000 costlier than the Swift Dzire AGS and the Tata Zest AMT. The back seat isn’t good, nor is the ride and handling. However, what you get with the Ameo is a feature-loaded, modern automatic car, that’s as easy and nice to drive as many larger VWs. And for self-driven buyers who want a convenient, well-built urban runabout with a compact boot, the Ameo makes a good case for itself.