2020 Volkswagen Vento 1.0 TSI first drive review

The 1.0-litre TSI has caused quite a stir among performance aficionados. What’s the fuss about and does it also shine in the latest edition of the Vento?

Volkswagen Vento TSI - Car Blogs Online
Volkswagen Vento 1.0 TSI (Image: BBC TopGear India)

Volkswagen’s hugely popular ad campaign from 1959 which featured the legendary ‘think small’ copy, pretty much changed the way everyone looked at the Beetle at the time. In fact, some of the more popular cars from VWs in the past have been smaller cars like the Golf and Polo. But, I feel that it may have rubbed off on Volkswagen India’s approach to engines in the country as well. And although the small capacity, 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged engine had already arrived on the scene, VW seems to have hit it out of the park with the latest 1.0-litre TSI. But can this tiny revelation hold its own in the updated Vento? Time to find out.

Volkswagen Vento TSI  - Topgear Magazine India
(Image: BBC TopGear India)

First, the exterior design. The Vento does look a bit dated compared to some of its competition, but VW has upped the ante with the redesigned front and rear bumper, LED headlamps with LED DRLs and 16-inch alloy wheels. The Vento we were provided was the ‘TSI Edition’ which had extra details added to the exterior, like the side decals and more. Apart from this, the Vento remains the same as before, which is certainly a good thing. Although it has started to age, it still holds its own in the way it looks overall. That old school appeal then plays in the favour of the Vento.

Volkswagen Vento TSI  Engine- Topgear Magazine India
(Image: BBC TopGear India)

On the inside, the story remains pretty much the same as before. The touchscreen infotainment system comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity but feels rather small and outdated in its size. The operation itself is quite smooth though. Other than that, there’s rear AC vents, cruise control, a voice command button on the steering wheel, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers, reverse parking sensors/camera. VW has done a decent job at loading up the Vento with features but compared to some of its rivals, it still lacks in some aspects. Nevertheless, the solid and robust feeling dashboard and cabin are present, which is where it sets itself apart from some of its competitors.

Volkswagen Vento TSI  Interior - Topgear Magazine India
(Image: BBC TopGear India)

Undoubtedly though, the most significant part of the Vento now is that 1.0-litre TSI motor which produces 108bhp and 175Nm of torque. This three-pot engine replaces the four-cylinder 1.2-litre TSI engine which produced a slightly lower power figure (5bhp) than today’s TSI. There’s now an option between a six-speed torque converter and a six-speed manual, instead of the earlier seven-speed DSG and five-speed manual transmission. With that out of the way, back to the performance. Under 2000rpm, the going is adequate for city speeds and to sustain triple-digit speeds at a steady pace. Once you go past that mark though, the TSI pocket-rocket of an engine comes to life and gives a powerful surge right up to 6000rpm!

Volkswagen Vento TSI  AC- Car Update Online
(Image: BBC TopGear India)

I have to say, Volkswagen has done a tremendous job at calibrating this engine. It’s truly intoxicating to go past that 2000rpm mark and feel the power of the turbocharger do its work, and do it very well. The six-speed manual gearbox only complements the performance on tap with a snug fit and slick shifts. It is worth mentioning here though that the front armrest does feel like a bit of an afterthought. It just gets in the way of the fun way too often.

Volkswagen Vento TSI - Car Update Online
(Image: BBC TopGear India)

Also, it is worth mentioning that the Vento isn’t really a lightweight sedan. This only enhanced my admiration for this little engine that could. As far as the ride and handling are concerned, VW has stuck to the old formula. There is a bit of body roll in sharp corners but the trade-off there is a comfortable ride over broken roads. The steering feedback though is excellent, just like before. For a heavy set vehicle, the Vento can tango.

Volkswagen Vento TSI - Car Blogs Online
(Image: BBC TopGear India)

So, does it all work? Well, sort of. Given that the Vento is priced higher than the Skoda Rapid, which is almost identical can be a sore point for some. However, the Vento does feel like a more complete car in some respects. But the USP for the Vento has to be patented tank-like VW build quality and powerful small capacity motor which pushes back into contention in its segment. If you’re out looking for a driver’s car with a solid petrol engine and don’t mind compromising on space on the inside, the Vento should be right on top of your list.


Engine: 999cc, three-cylinder, Turbocharged Stratified Injection (TSI)
Power: 108bhp@5000-5500rpm
Torque: 175Nm@1750 – 4000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Weight: 1670 kilograms (Gross)

Price – 8.86 lakh (ex-showroom) onwards

For – Brilliant chassis, engaging drive, solid build quality, superb engine
Against – Lack of space, older design

Photography – Jassi Singh