VW Vento 1.2 TSI DSG Review: A Cut Above

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VW Vento 1.2 TSI DSG exterior (23)

VW Vento 1.2 TSI DSG, just like the Polo 1.2 TSI, introduces the buyer in a mainstream car segment to the joys of cutting edge engine and transmission tech. Both these cars will have a deep impact on the Indian car market in the long run, as they have democratized a tech which was earlier available only on premium machinery. Here’s our VW Vento 1.2 TSI DSG review, trying to simplify the TSI and DSG tech for you and answering the questions that most buyers may have regarding this new product

Images: Hanoz Patel

A 1.2 -liter engine for a full blown C-segment sedan? You must be kidding me!

VW Vento 1.2 TSI DSG engine

We are glad to break to you the heartening news that the world has moved on from the time when cubic capacity was the deciding factor for the power output of an engine. The Vento 1.2 TSI engine is a turbocharged unit, with power output which is at par with a modern 1.5 liter naturally aspirated engine, and boasts a torque output which outclasses some of the bigger power plants. That little engine under the Vento 1.2 TSI’s bonnet is powerful enough for the car. If you’re concerned about performance only because 1.2 liter sounds small to you, we’d suggest you read up a little about modern engines – include the Ford Ecoboost and Fiat Twin Air engines in your study, along with the TSI units.

I’m in no mood to do a PhD on engines. Tell me, what the deal with that little engine really is!

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The new TSI, or Turbo Stratified Injection engine range from VW group focuses on downsizing engines, without compromising on power and improving fuel efficiency along with reduced emissions. The interesting thing is, even with smaller engines, the drive feel of these engines is better than their bigger Naturally Aspirated counterparts, thanks to more torque and better mid-range punch.

So how does TSI technology achieve the feat? Well, the tech fuses direct injection technology with turbocharging. Fuel is injected at high pressures inside the combustion chamber using the latest in injection technology for the most efficient combustion, and then is literally given a ‘boost’ with help of a turbocharger. While this specific 1.2 liter motor does not have supercharging, some TSI units do have a supercharger thrown into the mix too, to offer even superior low-rev performance, without compromising on efficiency or low emissions.

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So, a 1.2 liter TSi engine can be considered as an equivalent of a modern 1.5 liter NA petrol engine. A performance oriented 1.4 TSI, can match, or even outclass a 2.4-liter petrol, and so on. So in essence, the TSI technology delivers more with less, by leveraging the latest in engine technology.

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So what are the engine specs like? How do they match up with the competition in India?

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On paper, the power and torque figures from the 4 cylinder 1197cc, direct injected, turbo-charged unit show max power rated at 103 bhp at 5000 RPM, and an impressive peak torque of 175 Nm between a 1500 -4100 rpm rev band, which is wide and begins at a surprisingly low point.

In comparison, the newly launched Honda City, Vento’s immediate competition with a 1.5 liter i-VTEC engine delivers 114 bhp at a high 6600 rpm, and peak torque of 146 Nm at 4800 RPM. Note that the peak torque of the Honda is delivered at an rpm point which is much higher than that of the Vento TSI’s. The overall torque output of the TSI is also superior, with about 30 Nm of more twist – this should say something about the mid-range punch and drivability of the Vento. The Honda City has more power, it is quick to the 100 kmph mark, but the Vento with its higher torque, and wider torque band should deliver better in-gear acceleration.

Cool. I’ll give it to the engine. But what’s the big buzz about the new transmission? It’s not the first automatic sedan in that segment for sure, or is it?

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Well, it’s not the first automatic in its segment; the Verna and the previous Vento too among others were offered with an auto transmission option. It’s not the first dual clutch automatic sedan in its segment either – the Ford Fiesta was. However, it’s equipped with DSG auto, the gold standard in terms of quickness, aptness and smoothness of gearshifts when it comes to mainstream automobiles. The seven speed automatic transmission is way more advanced than what any of the automobiles in the segment have seen, and offers a driving experience of a different level for this class of cars.

So how does it feel on the move? How is this transmission different to other auto transmission systems?

Well the DSG has thus far been a piece of equipment which was specified only to cars from the Skoda Laura’s segment and above. Volkswagen decided to democratize the technology in India with the introduction of the transmission on the Polo GT TSI first, followed by the Vento.

DSG doesn’t have the proverbial ‘rubber band effect’, or shift delay that one feels while driving a CVT auto, or a conventional torque converter automatic especially while requiring a kickdown. In DSG’s scheme of things, there are twin clutches, handling odd and even gears. So while one clutch in engaged in 3rd gear, another has 2nd and 4th covered, in case you wish to down, or up shift. With a well designed hardware working in perfect tandem with advanced software, the system makes for lightening fast gearshifts, both in auto and manual modes.

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The DSG is capable of choosing the best gear ratio (seven in this case) at any given point in time, based on the driver’s preferences and driving style. It is capable of considering factors such as throttle input, engine speed and driving patterns to pick the perfect gear, and it does that in a matter of milliseconds – faster than you could do it manually. This makes driving a rewarding experience for the enthusiast – and hassle free for someone seeking comfort.

The Vento’s transmission has several modes to choose from. You can let the car decide the right gear for you normally by choosing the standard Drive mode. For light footed drivers, the focus of the transmission would be early shifts, lesser revs and better efficiency. If you are lead footed, the transmission will transfer the shift points relatively higher up the range.

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If that’s not enough for your above normal testosterone levels, you can shift into Sport mode, where the transmission will hold on to the revs much higher to extract the last drop of juice from the engine. Shifts would be much more aggressive, and the ‘box would also do the occasional downshift for you.

Finally you also have the Manual mode, where you just have to move the selector lever fore and aft to up- or down-shift.

It’s a turbocharged engine you said. So is there a turbo lag too?

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We were impressed with the low rev tractability of the engine. The turbo lag on this engine is very less, or rather non-existent for all practical purposes. However, even if it was there, you wouldn’t have had to worry about that as the capable auto transmission would have taken care of it. It would have slotted the cogs into a lower gear if it felt that the motor was running out of breath for a certain engine speed. Good news is, there is no such problem here, and the 1.2 TSI is a fabulously well-tuned motor with good low-rev response, and is an absolute delight to drive in bumper to bumper city traffic.

How does it perform on the highway?

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Better than it does within the city. If you look at those torque figures, they should tell you that the 1.2 TSI loves spending its time between 2000 to 4500 rpm, where the meat of its flat torque curve is. What that effectively translates into, is, that once the car is past the 2000 rpm mark, it’s got incomparably more shove at hand as compared to your normal NA motor. This makes overtaking at relatively lower revs an absolute breeze, which means that at real world speed, you won’t even have to shift down with the 1.2 TSI’s abundant torque at hand. In gear acceleration is strong, though the top whack could have been higher.

VW Vento 1.2 TSI DSG Action

The engine is silent in low revs, though it gets quite sonorous post the 3000 rpm mark. It’s a nice sound – sport and unresisting, something an enthusiast would love. You can push the needle all the way up to its 6000 rpm redline and it won’t make any fuss – an absolute delight for the petrolhead. The 1.2 TSI’s motor can make this car reach a top speed which is upwards of 180km/h – which is more than enough for all practical purposes. The final few tens come with a bit of an effort though.

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Does it go like a German car should around the bends?

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To those who are used to the supreme poise of the bigger, more premium German cars, or even the big Skodas, the Vento would come as slightly lacking in terms of handling prowess. However, compare it to its immediate Korean or Japanese rivals, and it scores highly. The steering is light at low speeds for easy maneuvering and tightens up with speed, though it doesn’t ever become as heavy as some other bigger cars from the family. The Vento remains unflustered at high speeds in a straight line and inspires a lot of confidence.

Around corners, the Vento is predictable and good fun, but not quite the unshakeable roller coaster that the more premium compatriot cars are. The softer suspension translates into easily evident body roll, and it doesn’t take much to get the tyres squealing either. The Vento can be fun around hills in its own way – its predictable and poised, provided you acknowledge that it’s an everyday family sedan, with the basic underpinnings of a hatchback.

What about comfort and ride quality?

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We found the ride to get better as the car attained medium to high speeds. At slower speeds, the dampers feel a tad too eager to get back in their natural, expanded position, recoiling back sharply. On sharper edges, like those of joints on flyovers, the suspension gets noisy as the dampers push back rather urgently.

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We didn’t have any qualms about the ride quality or the ride quality, though the occasional noise from the sharper ridges didn’t sound too pleasing at times. The ride gets better with speed, and once you are past 50-60 km/h, the Vento takes even rough roads in its stride with aplomb.

Are there any visual or feature related differences on the Vento TSI as compared to the regular model?

By and large the Vento TSI looks almost exactly like the model it has now replaced. A few subtle hints are there for sure though, for those with an eye for detail to tell the more advanced Vento from the lesser variants. The alloys on the car are different, and look quite nice. There is additional chrome around the fog lamp inserts and on the boot lid.

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In terms of features, you get two very useful additions in the form of an Electronic Stability Program for better active safety and Hill Hold Assist, for easy take offs from a standstill on steeper slopes. The TSI is available in only one trim, with all the bells and whistles. The interior is pretty well equipped, with leatherette upholstery, parking sensors, twin airbags, climate control, a neat sounding audio with all the connectivity features and quite a few other goodies. In a nutshell, the Vento TSI is the best looking, and most richly equipped Vento variant out there

Kitna deti hai?

With a light foot the Vento TSI delivered a figure of 10.5 kmpl within the city. On the highway, the count went up to 13.5 kmpl with moderate driving. The ARAI figure for the car is 16.8 kmpl though.

Is it fairly priced?

VW Vento 1.2 TSI DSG exterior

At the time of the test, at Rs 9.99 lakh ex-showroom the Vento TSI’s OTR price comes to about Rs 11.5 lakh in Mumbai. For a fully decked C-segment sedan with an advanced automatic transmission, it doesn’t get any fairer than that. Its well equipped, spacious, good to drive, handsome looking, and above all, equipped with technology which is a cut above its competition. The Vento TSI makes a compelling case for itself at that price, especially for those who value authentic engineering more than gimmicky features. One must give the Vento a very good thought if he’s willing to buy a 10 + lakh sedan with a petrol engine option.

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VW Vento 1.2 TSI DSG technical specifications and features

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VW Vento 1.2 TSI DSG Image Gallery

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