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Old 11th May 2020, 15:31   #1
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Default Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi

Car buying for middle class families in India has a playbook. It has to start with a used Fiat/ Premier followed by a Maruti. Our family was not an anomaly. Hailing from a very humble background, the cars we knew were limited to the cab driven Ambassador, hired when we had some budget to spare and when we felt like experiencing a little more luxury than travelling by bus. God has been really kind to us and thanks to the wonderful cars that we own in our family today. Among the other cars we have, Vento really holds a special place.

This is my third attempt at penning down our Vento's ownership experience and I am sure this time I will be successful in completing it. Vento (nicknamed Vellayan, suggesting its color) has become an integral part of our family and I owe this much to the beautiful machine.

Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-thread-opening-post.jpg

My report will go in this order

1. Cars before Vento in our family
2. The alternatives considered
3. The buying experience
4. Likes and Dislikes
5. Exterior & Interior
6. Ride and Handling
7. The elephant in the room - Driving the 1.6 TDi
8. Service and Maintenance
9. The modifications done
10. Future plans - Keep or sell?

Cars before Vento in our family

The first car has to solve multiple purposes. It has to be parked outside the house announcing that we are not doing bad for ourselves, teach all of us how to drive and while at it should also not scare us with expenses.

Our first car, a '95 used Premier 118NE, did the first two things very well however, scarred us forever with maintenance expenses and unexpected rather expected breakdowns on most of our trips. Still we loved it as it was our first car and all of us (at times 7 people) traveled together in a confined space having the times of our lives. We had the 118NE from 2002 to 2006 and in 2006 on our way to school, the car broke down while it was pouring, leaving my brother and I, stranded in the middle of a water logged road. My father, somehow pushed the car all by himself to the side of the road and brought us back home safely. Not only did we miss school on that day but, also did we both fall sick for a week long time. Needless to say, this was the tipping off point to sell off the 118NE and get something significantly reliable and also lighter on pocket. Since it was a pre - digital era, I do not have good photographs of our 118NE.

Where do you look when you want a reliable, light on pocket, fuel efficient and spacious car? Yes, you guessed it right. We went straight up to a Maruti Showroom, CARS India Ambattur, Chennai and brought home our first new car, a pearl silver Wagon R LXi in 2006. My mother hated loans on depreciating assets (salaried class not business) and went for an outright purchase. We bought the Wagon R for Rs. 3,75,000 and our 118NE was traded in for Rs. 15,000 (bought for Rs. 60,000). Our family was strictly budget run. We had an annual budget of Rs. 5000 for the car's maintenance and Rs. 1000 for petrol for every month. Road trips however, were accounted for separately. Still, the car was taken out only when more than 2 people were travelling together. We had the Wagon R for 8 years, but the car had only 37000 on the odo when we sold it. The car was super fun to drive in the city. The peppy 1.1l engine, slick shifting gear box, super light clutch, great overall visibility made nipping in and out of traffic super fun. A supposedly fuel efficient car, returned only 10 kmpl whenever I drove. Such was the enthusiasm with which I drove Wagon R.

The perspective changed completely when we took it out on the highway. Body roll, bouncy rear end at speeds, lifeless steering, lack of safety features and excessive road and wind noise made Wagon R a bad car for the highway. That said, the car never left us stranded, not even for a flat tyre, not even once. Such was the reliability. We used to service the car once in a year owing to our very limited running and other than a brake booster failure which set us back by Rs. 4500, we never spent a penny more than the regular maintenance for Wagon R's upkeep.

Here are some of the pictures of our Wagon R

A box with an attitude
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-box-attitude.jpg

Wearing the favourite LTD sticker
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-most-favorite-ltd-sticker.jpg

Accommodating seats
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-accommodative-seats.jpg

Just 37K kms on the odo when sold
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-just-35k-kms.jpg

In the 8 years, my brother and I grew bigger and taller. The once very spacious Wagon R started to become a bit too cramped for our family. I was studying in Gurgaon during this time and was visiting Chennai for my summer internship. The car upgrade plan was still on the drawing board stage and I was giving a shape to it along with my brother.

Last edited by NTO : 20th May 2020 at 11:50.
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Old 15th May 2020, 12:49   #2
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Default re: Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi

The Alternatives considered

At the back of our minds, we always wanted the new car to be a good companion for road trips. We definitely did not drive our Wagon R to even 10% of its life. So, we made it a point that, the new car will be used by us as much as possible. We wanted to grow old with this car and create innumerable memories with it.

This was the wishvlist:
1. The car should be spacious enough, better than our Wagon R.
2. Should be a diesel - Long range on a single tank, better fuel efficiency and the price difference between petrol and diesel was ~Rs. 15 in early 2014.
3. Should have ABS, EBD, 2 airbags and a good crash test rating.
4. Should be solidly built and should age well. We will have the car for as long as we could have it.
5. Maintenance should not be very expensive. Our finances allowed for spending a little bit more freely compared to the Wagon R days still, we did not want to throw away our money on maintenance.
6. We were looking practicality over features and gizmos.
7. A strict no to compact sedans and crossovers. It should either be a hatch or a sedan. Nothing in between or beyond.
8. Should be stable at speeds, the rear end should not be bouncy and also should have some fun factor while driving.
9. Should be easy to park in our limited apartment parking space.
10. We fixed a maximum budget of 10 lacs (in addition to Wagon R resale).

Swift ZDi and Fiat Punto 90HP

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In the initial few days of the buying process, we considered the Swift ZDi and Punto 90HP briefly. According to the reviews the performance of the 90HP punto only matched the 75hp swift and swift was a peppier car to drive. We considered only the highest variants to ensure all safety features and also our budget allowed us to. However, all the reviews including our Team BHP review pointed the limited space at rear in both the cars. So after just digital consideration, watching and reading innumerable reviews, the swift and Punto were rejected.

As soon as we rejected the Swift and the Punto, my father asked us look outside of the hatchback segment and evaluate the options in the sedans. He said that, this would be the last car I am buying and I wanted it to be in the most favorite shape of mine, a proper 3 box sedan. So, all the other hatchbacks out there in the market were except for one, which will be detailed out a little later. My father also had a soft spot for this one but, still was rejected just for one reason, lack of space. We did not consider the SX4 because it was too old back then and it was soon going to be replaced by the Ciaz soon.

Ford Fiesta
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This brings us to another day when we had a breakfast ride with BHPians aravind.anand in his bluebolt, Kini in his Cruze, Ajay2233in his 1st Gen City VTEC, Varun Karthikeyan and not a BHPian Chandru in Chandru's Xing. I was riding shotgun with Kini in his cruze. The occasion was Ajay2233's wedding and he was inviting us over a breakfast ride to the Mamallas in Mahabalipuram, near Chennai.

We opened up this topic of our car upgrade and BHPian aravind.anand advised me against the Fiesta stating that this model is to be discontinued soon. Back then, it was an insider information as he was working with Ford. As much as my dad and I loved the brand Ford and the much enjoyment I had test driving the Fiesta when Kini was considering it, we had to let go of the Fiesta from our consideration list.

Honda City I-DTEC

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The 4th generation Honda city was launched during the festive season in 2013. My childhood friend Narayanan purchased the car. His top final contenders were the Vento TDi and the City IDTEC. He chose city over Vento just for the additional space that city offers.

My Mother also loved how spacious it was from the video reviews we watched and said let us Buy the City irrespective of considering any car else. However, when we actually went for a test drive, the flimsy build quality of the car, the plasticky interiors and the Price for the top end variant ~14.3 lacs on road put us off.

Things I liked about the city were the tractable engine and ease of driving it as soon as you get into the car. The car immediately gives you a sense of familiarity and you can start driving the car from the first minute as though you were driving it for a very long time. The crisp gear shifts, short travel and light clutch for a diesel and the best sounding audio system among competition were value adds. All these make the City a strong contender for anyone shopping in the C segment. Also, the value of the brand "City"was very hard to ignore back then.

Thanks to the 4th Generation City and countless cost cutting measures from Honda, the brand value is being diluted slowly in India.

After we rejected the city, in the later part of 2014, I rented a City from Zoom car with just 1400 km on the odo. Four of us drove it for a weekend trip to Rishikesh. The rear seat, as spacious as it is, still is very uncomfortable for long distance commuting. The rear end gets bouncy at speeds, the fixed rear head rests are a safety hazard and the engine sounds no less than a tractor at high speeds. Thanks to cost cutting, a lot of road noise filters into the cabin.This experience helped me re - validate my decision of rejecting the city.

Fiat Linea facelift
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-fiat-linea.jpg

I had been following the Linea even before it was launched in India. I simply loved its design. Also, my father is a Fiat fan. So, I put in a test drive request for the Linea on the Fiat's website. This request was answered by Fiat and they called me almost a week after Vento's delivery. "Lazy" would be an understatement to describe Fiat's attitude in India. Though I ended up purchasing a Punto later, I simply hated how Fiat missed a potential customer with their lazy attitude.

Hyundai Verna CRDi
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This car looked and played the part. The reviews of the Verna, its power and torque on paper just blew me away. It had features which makes even the 2011 Verna relevant in today's market.

Reviews done, test drive time. Went to a nearby Hyundai Showroom. Requested a test drive and got a car in the next 5 minutes. Test drive experience second only to Volkswagen.

Started driving, slotted into third gear and floored the A - pedal on an open road. No reaction. Kept the pedal floored for a second or two and once the RPM hit the 2000 mark, all hell broke loose and I was pushed back so fiercely into the well cushioned driver's seat. Oh my god! This was my expression and the sales rep was pretty sure that I was sold. He also had a cynical grin on his face . The engine was so refined at idle and also when revved, the VW's diesel can only dream of achieving this.

Front end - Good. Got into the rear seat of the car. Man! I was almost seated on the floor, knees up. The window line raising up and made me feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable. I thanked them for the test drive and left the showroom. It was a heavy hearted decision but, made sense to let the Verna off our list.

Skoda Rapid
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Looked better than the Vento, drove better than the Vento, handled better than the Vento, almost 70K cheaper than the Vento... Sure, that's like a dream... Why do people even buy the Vento? This was my thought process until I read about the scary dealership experience of Gurudev Motors, the sole Skoda dealership in Chennai. Though I had a familiar face, the same sales rep, who worked with Cars India when we bought a Wagon R for my uncle's family in 2010, I decided not to buy the Rapid.

The Legendary GT 1.6 TDi
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This is one car that definitely punches above its weight. A fun filled small package. The Vento TDi and the GT TDi had the same engine, identical power and torque output figures. But they behaved so differently when driven. The GT felt as if it had no boundaries in delivering the 250 Nm of torque. It was like the Vento on a shot of Steroid. It was a mad machine and I instantly fell in love with this. Till the driver's seat from the front, both the cars are essentially identical barring the driver's arm rest in the Vento. The difference is only behind the driver's seat. The difference in price between Vento and the GT TDi was our Wagon R's trade in value (~1.7 lacs). My heart wanted the GT but, mind said Vento. So I had to bring in a neutral judge to fix the battle between the mind and the heart.

I finished the test drive in the morning with BHPian Kini and went back home. I brought back my parents and younger brother for a test drive in the evening. My brother loved the GT too and he literally sat in front of the car for half hour admiring its beauty. Remember the soft corner of my dad, yes, it was for the GT. He loved it too. But the finance minister, my mother put her foot down and said that we are not buying another car which lacks space. Let us buy the Vento. Case closed and mind won in the court! It was decided that we are buying the Vento and went back home for the night.

Last edited by NTO : 16th May 2020 at 12:02.
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Old 15th May 2020, 16:57   #3
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Default re: Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi

The Buying Experience

BHPian Kini took delivery of his Shadow blue Vento - Link to his first impressions. It was exactly a year since he took the delivery and I was in line in the showroom to buy our car. He apparently had an amazing experience with Abra Motors, Volkswagen Chennai and strongly recommended me to go there. He accompanied me for the first test drive as well. Thanks man for all the help!

As soon as I stepped into the VW showroom, it was so different. If other showrooms are Hotel Saravana Bhavan (South Indians will know the analogy and also people of Delhi who have visited the Saravana Bhavan in CP), the VW showroom was like a 2/ 3 star hotel. Not exaggerating but, other showrooms are typically crowded, it takes time for someone to attend to you and the interiors are not essentially great. It was the direct opposite in a VW showroom. It was interiored in a white theme, cozy couches are there in the discussion area, you get a beverage of your choice to drink, you get a nice bottled water and you get immediate attention as soon as you step into the showroom.

The initial impressions were great and I literally knew everything about the car. So, I proceeded directly to the test drive. By now, I learnt how to ride the torque wave of a turbo diesel graduating from a 1.1l NA petrol. We test drove the GT TDi and the Vento TDi. As mentioned earlier, my heart fell for the GT. Finished the test drive shook hands with the our sales advisor, Mr. Subramani and went back home. While in the showroom, I requested the SA not to talk about the other variants and discuss only the Highline with my parents. He agreed upon to it with a smile.

Took my parents in the evening, test drove both the cars and got our Wagon R evaluated. The exchange value offered was fantastic. They offered Rs. 1.7 Lacs plus an exchange bonus of Rs. 20,000. In all, the trade in value was Rs. 1,90,000 for a 8 year old car purchased at Rs. 3.75 lacs. When it comes to resale value, nothing beats Maruti. This price was better than the other quotes I received. The highest quote I received outside was Rs. 1.6 lacs. It was agreed to give the Wagon R to the showroom on the day we took delivery of the Vento. Went back home happily.

While evaluating our Wagon R, our SA mentioned that the A/C works very well in our car. This was a cue which I missed identifying but, realized later. The Air Conditioner in Vento is ineffective in Chennai to say the least. This was probably the reason why he mentioned this.

Next day, Mr. Subramani sent one of his associates to my place to finish the booking formalities and collect the booking cheque. We booked the car on 9th April, my mom's birthday. Same day, Kini's Vento was delivered a year back. We still did not finalize the color. We badly wanted the Shadow blue color. However, in MY 2014 cars, the color was stopped. Our next options were pepper grey and candy white. The pepper grey was kept on display in the showroom and even under the showroom lights, it looked kind of old. So, we opted for the white color. We were allocated a car and the VIN was sent to me via SMS. The car was a Feb 2014 manufactured car. I went to their yard and completed the PDI. In the mean time, my father arranged for finances to be paid. We were promised delivery on 19th April 2014. Both our SA and I forgot about the Tamil Nadu Assembly election results were to be announced. This pushed the delivery by a week and we finally took the delivery on 25th April 2014.

Ex Showroom Price : Rs. 9,99,000 +
Registration : Rs. 1,07,000 +
Zero dep insurance : Rs. 39,000 +
+2 Yrs Extended Warranty: Rs. 27,000 +
Wagon R Trade in : Rs. 1,70,000 -
Exchange Bonus : Rs. 20,000 -
Booking Amount : Rs. 1,00,000 -
Balance to be paid : Rs. 8,82,000

We made the balance payment on 14th April, as it was the Tamil New Years day. An auspicious day.

The one week extension in delivery made me really sad and waiting longer than expected for the car is a really painful thing. Though it is a mistake of no one and was completely out of our hands, it still brings about lots of unexplained emotions.

Here is an art out of the boredom and unexplained emotions
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-art-out-boredom.jpg

My father who was supposed to come back early on the D day, came a little late and we hurried to the showroom and reached at around 7PM. The showroom folks were waiting for us and we quickly completed the delivery formalities. Subramani explained all the features in detail. We received a delivery note for the Wagon R. We gave a box of sweets to our SA and other folks in the showroom, tipped the cleaning guy generously and headed back home.

A few pictures from the D day. Also the last few moments with our Wagon R

Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-last-few-moments-our-wagon-r.jpg

Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-last-few-moments-2.jpg

The next morning, we took the car for a customary pooja at a nearby temple and headed out on the highway to know how she behaved and to learn the intricate driving techniques of the Vento.

Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-taking-out-highway.jpg

A special mention to how civilized the traffic was back in the days. My father took the delivery of the Vento and drove it out of the showroom till our home. He, in all his life, has driven only petrol powered cars and the sharp release mechanism of the diesel clutch, the additional torque on releasing the clutch, made him stall the car a couple of times. Though the roads were busy, no one even honked behind us when the car was stalled. In fact many pulled up to our side and congratulated us on our new car purchase. I wish this behavior comes back!

Last edited by NTO : 16th May 2020 at 12:11.
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Old 16th May 2020, 12:21   #4
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Default re: Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi

Likes and Dislikes

Once you have a car for a long time, it grows on you. The negatives really do not matter and you tend to live with the flaws. However, only when you have the car long enough, you are worthy enough of commenting on both the positives and negatives.

Fresh after a Sunday Bath
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Likes

1. Simple design with straight lines. The car does not look old even today. Also, use of chrome is very subtle and to my liking.
2. Had all the necessary features to classify itself as a premium offering and omitted all the gizmos which some of the competition offered.
3. A lot of hidden features never failed to bring surprise. For example, hold the lock/ unlock button on the remote to roll up/ down all the windows and so on.
3. Sufficient space for 4 adults and a kid. Seats are fairly supportive and comfortable.
4. Boot is large. Can accommodate more than we could imagine.
5. Rake and reach adjustable steering has a nice range to adjust. This plus the height adjustable driver's seat helps in finding a very comfortable driving position.
6. Plush ride quality and neutral handling.
7. Monster of an engine under the hood. Pulls like a freight train without any hesitation. Also revs like a petrol engine. The 1.6 TDi is definitely a legend.
8. The car pulls from any gear at any speed. Turbo lag is largely non existent. You need not plan your overtakes. Just put your foot down and disappear.
9. The car is very forgiving and it is really takes effort to stall. It looks like a hidden anti stall feature not mentioned in the manual. This also helps starting on an inclination. I do not remember using the handbrake while stopping on a slope in Vento.
10. The first gear without throttle input also acts as a hill descent control, very useful while climbing down steep ramps.
11. Sure slotting gear shifts, short throw and well defined gates.
12. It is hard to find bad quality bits. It does not rattle one bit even after 6 years of usage. The solid thud on shutting the doors imparts some sense of safety
13. Fairly reliable. Regular maintenance is also not very expensive at ~Rs. 1 per km. 15000 km/ 1 year service interval helps a lot.
14. A perfect blend of performance and fuel efficiency. Have achieved ~950 km on a single tank of diesel.
15. Light steering + Fairly quick steering rack aids ease of driving.
16. No blind spots and you get to know the dimensions of the car fairly quickly.

Dislikes

1. Braking hardware is the weakest link in the mechanical package.
2. When driving alone, a slightly fast paced speed braker tackle gives out a loud thud from the rear suspension.
3. Stock headlamps were completely useless to say the least.
4. Squeaks from the window pane needs constant waxing. This is a problem since day 1.
5. The dieselgate scandal broke the trust on the brand. However, I dodged the fix which otherwise killed the 1.6 TDi's charm.
6. Parts are expensive. It was wise for me to take the maximum available warranty at the time of purchase.
7. Steering does not inspire confidence at speeds. The feeling got accentuated after driving Punto and Civic extensively.
8. Body shop is expensive. Again I was saved by the zero dep insurance in the initial days.
9. The plush ride quality feels wallowy now, after experiencing Punto and Civic.
10. The clutch is definitely heavy. While you could live with all the other negatives, this one shows its ugly face every time you get stuck in a tight jam.
11. Also driving the car smoothly is a learning curve. First timers in Vento TDi MT will release the clutch with a loud thud.
12. Handbrake positioning is an ergonomic disaster. You cannot use it with the arm rest down. Also, the handbrake should be pulled up with a firm hand. Once the car rolled down a slope slowly. Thank god, no one was hurt.
13. While everything feels built to last, certain bits like the central A/C vent control and mirror control feels flimsy.
14. Under thigh support is an issue for 6 footers and taller people. Also the headroom at rear for tall people is just adequate.
15. The rear windscreen positioning burns the neck area of the rear seat occupants on a bright sunny day. A rear sun blind would've been a welcome feature.
16. The A/C is ineffective. At least you can hear the rear seat occupants complain on a hot and sunny day. A/C was not an issue in our Wagon R.

Last edited by NTO : 16th May 2020 at 13:12.
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Old 16th May 2020, 16:33   #5
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Default re: Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi

Exterior and Interior

From one of the road trips
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-exterior-3-quarter.jpg

The exterior of the car is unmistakably European. Clean lines and understated design. The use of Chrome is limited to the two slats in the grill, a simple U in the lower part of the bumper, the rings surrounding the fog lamps and a small strip on the boot lid.

It takes a trained eye to distinguish between the Polo and the Vento of this iteration, from the front. The headlamps are strikingly similar, single barrel units with integrated indicators. The first giveaway is the lower part of the bumper or air dam as you may call it. The Vento has horizontal slats while the Polo has a honeycomb pattern on it. The second difference is the shape of the fog lamps. The Vento's fog lamps are round while the Polo's are rectangular in shape.

Moving on to the sides, a line originates from the top part of the headlamp and runs all the way till the boot. This line accentuates and appears as a shoulder on the doors and the rear quarter panel. Another line runs in the lower part of the door and merges with the rear wheel arch. Clean and simple as I like. The wheel arches protrude slightly outside giving the car a slight muscular stance, not over pronounced but not subtle either. The wheels are well in line with the car's design. Simple and classy design. The next face lift which came with the 1.5 TDi, had a complex designed wheels. In my opinion, these wheels were an eyesore in an otherwise clean and simple design. Reference image of a friend's car.

Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-black-white.jpg

Mirrors were a two tone unit with body colored top and black plastic bottom. The entire glass area is surrounded by black including the rims around windows and the B pillar. Classy in my opinion. The indicators are placed on the fenders and not on the mirrors. Also the mirrors are not power folding. Both these were introduced in the 2015 face lift. The mirrors are India friendly and turn the other way. The mirrors of my car survived a side swipe by a bus. So, pretty solidly built. The cap with the body color flies out on impact but, you can pick it back and fix it. No issues there.

Roof
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-roof.jpg

While all the other cars I see out there have rubber beading on the roof to cover the welding, VAG cars have laser welded roof with a clean appearance. This also improves rigidity, overall strength and ultimately safety.

Rear
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-rear.jpg

From MY 2014 cars, VW stopped pasting the full "VOLKSWAGEN" nomenclature. The boot is clean with the name of the car on the left and the engine details on the right. The car comes with 4 parking sensors in the rear. These 4 make parking a breeze, even with limited rearward visibility (thanks to large headrests, small IRVM and high boot) and without a reversing camera. Later VW did cost cutting here by reducing it to three.

Rear wheel arch. Look at the amount of gap!
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-rear-wheel-arch.jpg

All the wheel arches are well protected with plastic cladding. These help reduce the road and tyre noise significantly and also makes cleaning easy during monsoons. The under body also comes with protection till under the engine bay. Very much required for the Indian road conditions. The hood also gets a fair bit of insulation with a neatly laid out engine bay. In spite of the insulation, you can still hear the engine clatter at idle and at all RPMs. However, the engine note at higher RPMs is very sporty. The only eyesore is the rear wheel arch. Under no load, the gap between the wheel and the arch in the rear is very large. It can be lowered with a suspension.


Moving on to the interiors
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The understated, clean and simple design is carried to the inside as well. Nothing is awe inspiring but, everything is thoughtfully laid out. A clean simple steering wheel with VW logo in the centre, and a chrome ring around it. It is wrapped in leather and is very good to hold even today. I would have liked the steering to be slightly thicker but, no complaints here. The grip is phenomenal and the steering feels soft and great to hold. The steering wheel has control for Bluetooth telephony, volume up and down, track change and mute/ pause (same button). Simple layout and all controls are on the left. The right side is empty. The facelift later moved the controls from the wiper stalk to the right side of the steering. The horn pad is the only soft touch plastic in the car.

Wiper Stalk
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-wiper-stalk.jpg

Indicator Stalk
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-indicator-stalk.jpg

The wiper stalks are on the right and indicator stalks are on the left, a direct lift from the left hand drive layout. Both these stalks exude quality and are built to last. You can control the speed of the wiper in three stages and in the first intermittent stage, you have 4 levels of adjustment for the wiper action frequency. There are three other buttons on the wiper stalk. Two are to toggle through the MID and one is to reset values in the MID. The indicator stalk is clean and simple with controls for high beam, low beam and flash. It also has lane change indicators.

Speedo Console
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-speedo-console.jpg

The speedo meter console has two rings. The left one is the rev counter and the right is the speedo meter. There is a small MID in the centre. The dials are clean and simple and easy to read. The dials are back lit in white and the needles are in red. The back light for the speedo meter and the needles are controlled with the headlamp switch. They are not always on like say, a Honda. All the tell tale lights switch on at ignition and go off unless there is some problem. The MID has distance to empty, average FE, average speed, engine running time, instantaneous speed and FE and trip computer. It also has a gear position indicator and and has an arrow pointed up or down signalling you to up-shift or down-shift. When you are in the right gear, there is a dot next to the gear number. Once you get the hang of driving the car, you seldom see the up or down arrow. The MID also displays days and kms left for the next service due.

Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-headlamp.jpg

The headlamp on and off controls are on the dashboard on the right side of the steering wheel. Pull it our once to activate the front fog lamps and once more to activate the rear fog lamp as well. Headlamp leveling switch with three levels are placed next to the main headlamp switch. Both these switches are of excellent quality and could easily belong in a luxury car.

Steering adjust
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-steering-adjust.jpg

Seat height adjust
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-seat-height.jpg

The steering can be adjusted for both reach and rake and the driver's seat offers height adjust. Both these together helps find a comfortable driving position in no time.

Height adjustable seat belts - Front
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-height-adjustable-seat-belt.jpg

This also apparently helps aid a good driving position but, this is one feature that I have never used. While in the topic of the seat belts, they are of supreme quality, the same levels I have witnessed in cars costing 5X and their action while pulling and releasing back feels so silky smooth.

The hood release is on the driver's side. A short but a sturdy lever.
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-hood-release.jpg

Fuse box and the pedals
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-pedal-fuse-box.jpg

The pedals are neatly spaced and the rubber on top offers sufficient grip at all times, with/ without footwear. Also, notice the fuse box.

Driver door controls
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-driver-door-controls.jpg

Boor release switch
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-boot-release.jpg

The driver's side door has controls to mirrors, windows, door lock and unlock. All the windows in the car are one touch up and one touch down, with anti pinch (very rare in even the next segment) and the driver's door has controls to lock the remaining windows of the car. The boot release button is placed on the lower part of the door. It is essentially a re-badged window switch. Fuel lid can be opened by pressing on the lid when the car is unlocked. The door lock and unlock switch
is placed on the driver door handle. The car gets speed sensing door locks. Opening the driver's door using the handle directly unlocks the car. Also, the individual doors can be unlocked by pulling the door handle lever twice. The lever is finished in dull chrome and feels sturdy and built to last.

Bird's eye view of the central console
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-bird-eye-central.jpg

To the left of the drivers seat is a short stubby gear lever with sure slotting action. The lever is finished in leather and feels to be of good quality and great to hold. There is a driver's arm rest with a storage under it. The storage is padded with rubber to prevent rattles. The top surface of the arm rest is cushioned and feels good to rest your left hand while shifting gears. The armrest can be set to any position as per your comfort while moving it up, like an infinite adjustment. No, the armrest isn't wide enough and either the driver/ the co driver can rest their hand and not both.

That said, the handbrake is impossible to use with the arm rest in down position. It is an ergonomic failure and VW has not corrected it in their 100th special "TSi edition" also!

There is a 12V charging socket in the front of the gear lever and a large storage area ahead of it. There are two cup holders in the storage area as well. There is a movable adjustment which can be used when you are keeping tall cups in the cup holders, for support. Another thoughtful feature.

Glove box
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-glove-box.jpg

The passenger seat does not get a height adjust. However, it is a very good place to be in. The glove box in front is XL size. It has a dedicated place to park the owner's/ service manual, coin holder and also a sunglass holder. The sunglass holder is better left unused as it is not padded and can scratch your expensive shades. THe glovebox cover feels heavy and opens and shuts with a nice premium damped action. Another nice touch. You cannot lock the glovebox though.

Climate Control
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-climate-control.jpg

The car is equipped with automatic climate control. Just press on the auto button and the climate control is on. You can also turn it on by rotating the fan control. There is no dedicated on/ off button. Switching it off is a tricky job. You need to take the fan speed to zero, pause for a second and then again rotate to the left to turn it off. Not sure which brilliant mind at VW thought of this! The car has 7 speed settings for the fan. It is quiet at 1,2, audible at 3,4, loud at 5,6 and very loud and intrusive at 7.

The car gets 4 vents on the dashboard and one in the rear. All the 4 vents in the front have air volume control and can be shut off completely. The flow from rear A/C vents can be set in two direction. All that said, the performance of the climate control is a notch below adequate. The rear passengers are bound to complain on a hot sunny day. The feeling is accentuated by the rear wind screen. The sun directly hits the neck area of the rear passengers and causes a burning sensation. To, reduce the woes to some extent, I have purchased magnetic sun shades for the rear windows which gives some amount of comfort.

Rear window magnetic sunshade
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-rear-door.jpg

Rear Seat
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-rear-sat.jpg

The rear bench is flat but supportive at the right places. It is nice and comfortable for two adults. However, the large central tunnel on the floor, the hard back rest because of the arm rest, lack of central head rest and only a lap seat belt will leave the centre passenger both uncomfortable and unsafe. Leg room is good even when the seat is pushed all the way back. The back side of the front seat is also soft so, no issues there. Also the front passenger seat can be slided from the rear with the help of a lever. A nice touch again! Headroom and under thigh support are at a premium for tall passengers. The rear arm rests are positioned at the right height and wide enough. Very comfortable to rest your arms and also feels sturdy and built to last.

All the doors gets large door pockets and can hold 1 litre bottles easily. There is addition space for other stuff as well. There is only one gripe here. There are no soft padded surfaces to rest the hand on any of the doors. It's good quality but, hard plastic everywhere.

The boot
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-boot-1.jpg

The boot is large 480 litres. The rear seats are fixed still, the boot has never felt inadequate in our usage so far. The boot is carpeted completely in high quality material and the spare wheel (space saver) is hidden under with the tools neatly arranged in Styrofoam. The inside of the bootlid is also nicely cladded with plastic. Not left open/ no cost cuttings here like say, Honda City! The boot can be opened with the boor release button on the driver's door or by long pressing the button on the key. The boot can be opened and close stand alone even when the car is locked.

The lock
Two interesting things with the lock. When you unlock the car and do not open any of the doors, the car gets locked again in one minute. Good for safety. Also, after you get out of the car, you can lock the car by closing the driver's door alone. the car gets locked completely when the other doors are closed, automatically.

The infotainment
The car's stock infotainment is nothing to write home about. It is an average unit with CD/ Radio, USB, Bluetooth, AUX and SD card connectivity. The sound output is strictly average from the 4 speaker setup. The speaker are on the door and the sound stage is pretty low. The stock unit is called RCG 320 and I upgraded it to RCD 340 G+ for the need of apple carplay. In the interim, I plonked a Pioneer 5190 BT. However, this unit spoilt the looks of the centre console and also the sound output from the stock speakers became a bit jarring. I later moved this system to my Civic.

The bad bits of the interior

1. As mentioned earlier, all the door pads are hard and there is no soft pad to rest the hands on.
2. A/C is a notch below being adequate.
3. The centre A/C vents have been replaced twice so far. They cost 2K plus GST and keept breaking. Even now it is broken.
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-img_6568.jpg

4. The side A/C vents stop holding their vertical position after few days of usage. They keep moving up. Notice a small piece of paper kept to hold them in place
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-side-ac-vent.jpg

5. The mirror controls feels flimsy to use. I am almost always afraid that they might break any time.
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-flimsy-mirror-contril.jpg

6. As mentioned earlier, the rear windscreen directs the sunlight directly on to the neck area of the rear seat occupants. A rear windscreen shade would've been a welcome addition.

Last edited by NTO : 20th May 2020 at 07:29.
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Old 20th May 2020, 07:50   #6
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Default re: Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi

Ride and Handling

As mentioned in my likes and dislikes section, the car has a plush ride quality and neutral handling. You can slot it right in between the Verna and the Linea of that time, in both these departments.

At low speeds the car rides with a plush ride quality. Small pot holes are dismissed unnoticed and the large ones also does not create any discomfort. However, you can hear the suspension working.

Speed breakers of all size can be crossed without the underbody scraping anywhere even under full load. Under no load in the rear, when you try crossing the speed breakers at a slightly higher speed, you hear a loud thud from the rear suspension.

Caution is needed when climbing steep ramps. The front bumper is protruding and there is a risk of lower part of the front bumper scratching the surface. I take a cross angle while climbing up/ down such ramps. Also under load when climbing up a ramp, the lower part of the rear bumper is also at risk.

Even at speeds, the car runs largely flat. However due to the soft suspension set up, the car takes time to settle at the rear at high speed undulations. Also, expansion joints leave a loud thud noise. But, nothing unsettles the passengers.

The steering is very nice and light at low speed. This plus the quick steering rack makes driving through city traffic, U turns and parking a breeze. The steering weighs up at speeds but it is a typical EPS unit and will not inspire confidence. The car responds to quick direction changes and is never nervous. Long sweeping corners can be taken without any steering corrections. The car is also very easy to drive on the twisty ghat roads but, is not fun like say, a Punto.

Brakes are the weakest like of the car. In fact, we rear barely missed rear ending other cars on multiple ocassions initially because of the pathetic brakes. As time passed, we learnt to leave sufficient gap to bring the car to halt on time. In the last service, we upgraded the brakes to Brembo disc rotors and pads which helped solve this issue to some extent. The brakes are now livable with.

Last edited by NTO : 20th May 2020 at 09:51.
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Old 20th May 2020, 10:22   #7
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Default re: Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi

The elephant in the room - Driving the 1.6 TDi

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The strongest part of the package is the drive train. The engine plus gearbox makes this car wonderful value for money. The engine is a cracker. There is a definite diesel clatter at idle and things get a little better when the engine warms up. However, the engine is audible at all times both inside and outside. The NVH insulation of the car is really good and definitely helps to some extent but, even a layman can identify the engine is diesel powered.

That said, the peak torque comes in early and you can drive in the third gear all day long as if it is an automatic transmission. The car can pull away cleanly from even as low as 1000 rpm in the third gear. The engine does not lug at all. When you drop below the desired RPM in any gear, the engine tries to compensate for it. This works like an anti stall feature. For example, if you are climbing up a ramp in first gear, just leave the clutch, the car itself will complete the climb. Speed breakers can be crossed in second gear without any throttle inputs. It takes efforts to stall the car. Also, when climbing down steep ramps, slot into first gear and leave the clutch. The car will complete the climb down on its own without any brake requirement. It works as a descent control in disguise.

The fun starts when you give the beans. The engine revs extremely freely in a petrol engine fashion and power is served all the way till 5000 rpm. You can further push the engine till ~5500 RPM. There is no hesitation but it is not rewarding doing that. The sound also turns extremely sporty once you cross ~3000 RPM. When you lift off after hitting the 5500 RPM red line, the car does not jolt/ induces any head bang. The throttle release action is very well damped. The first gear is short and it is best to shift to second as soon as possible. If you rev too much in the first gear, you get a loud thud when releasing the clutch after shifting to second. It is better to build speeds from the second gear when you are in a hurry. As a result, the car is a bit slow off the line but can catch up by the time you shift to the third gear. Verna can outrun Vento in the 0 - 100 dash but Vento can run circles around Verna in in-gear acceleration. Hill climbing is very easy and third gear is all that you will need.

On open highways you need not plan your overtakes. Just depress the A pedal in fifth gear and you will pass all the slow moving traffic. In 5th gear, the car will do 90 kmph at ~2000 RPM and 100 comes in at ~2300 RPM. I believe a 6th gear would have made highway cruising more relaxed. Even in the current form, the car is a mile muncher.

The gear shifts are super nice with short sure slotting throws. The reverse gear is placed ahead of the first gear. Press the level to engage it.

Also rewarding is Fuel efficiency. When driven sanely, the car returns FE figures of the order of ~22 kmpl on the highway. Even in the city it has not dropped below ~14 kmpl even once.

The only sore point in the drive train is the clutch. It is very heavy and springy in action. There is a steep learning curve to drive the car smooth. With a sharp bite point, newbies on a Vento cannot drive it smooth. It needs practice and getting used to. The ugly color of the clutch is shown in bumper to bumper traffic. If you are driving a Vento, you just need to work out your right leg in the gym on the leg day. Left leg is taken care of by the clutch. That said, the clutch has zero slip and does not show any sign of wear with 71K on the odo. From the last service, the clutch life is predicted for another 50K kms with the same kind of driving.

One place where I felt cheated was the dieselgate scandal. Here is the link to forum discussion on it - Link to read. I totally lost all the trust in the brand and I had to fight to keep the car in the stock form. A slight lethargy and the service centre would've performed the dieselgate fix. If not for the performance, Vento was neither a Verna in features, nor a city in space and the dieselgate fix would've killed the performance completely. I have driven multiple 1.6 TDis after the fix and I know how painful it is to drive a car after the fix.

Even without the fix the car clears the PUC test in flying colors.
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-puc.jpg

Last edited by NTO : 20th May 2020 at 16:18.
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Old 20th May 2020, 10:51   #8
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Default re: Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi

Service and Maintenance

A hit or a miss - General quote for VW service in india. The dealership where I bought the car, Abra Motors belonged to the group with also owned CARS India, Maruti, Transcar india Mercedes and Zulaikha motors Mahindra. This group was sworn for customer satisfaction. I just loved interacting with them and my Sales Advisor, Subramani helped me throughout until he moved to KUN Exclusive, BMW.

The car requires a checkup in 7500 kms and first service in 15000 kms. Subsequent services in 15K kms or one year interval. I insisted the service centre to change the engine oil in the first 7500 kms and they did it with both labour charge and cost of oil. Contrary to normal belief, the general maintenance is not expensive. Rs. 12000 - 15000 for every 15000 kms is not expensive by any standards. Regular maintenance roughly amounts to ~ Rs. 1 per km of running. I have been servicing the car in 12K kms interval and there has been no problem with reliability in the 6 years.

The only things expensive are part replacements and body shop. For example, one of the injector failed in the 4th year. Thanks to the extended warranty, I got it replaced along with three other injectors at free of cost. After some research, i found that, the cost of one injector is around Rs. 23,000.

In the initial days, the transition from Wagon R to Vento brought some dents and scratches in Vento. Thanks to Zero dep insurance, these fixes did not burn a hole in our pocket.

All the things were Hunky dory until Abra motors shut shops in the end of 2018. I went to Sundaram Motors for the 5th year service. If I rate Abra motors 8/10 for service, I would rate Sundaram 4/10. The car used to feel special after a service from Abra but, the car felt exactly the same way it felt before the service after coming back from Sundaram.

Thanks to Team BHP, I got to know about Jaiprakash and got the car serviced this year from him. He is one brilliant mechanic and the car feels wonderful now. Thanks to BHPian Turbohead for instilling the confidence in me to make the move from OEM service to an FNG.

For body shop, I fix all the minor scratches and dents once a year from a local garage owned by Jain Car Shoppee. The manager there, Mr Gopal is a great guy and gets the job done wonderfully. On my recommendation he also resprayed my friend's 328i. There are many more happy referrals.

Vento after a paint fix at the garage - My dad inspecting the work
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-maintenance.jpg

Last edited by NTO : 20th May 2020 at 16:21.
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Old 20th May 2020, 11:36   #9
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The modifications done

The car packed adequate performance without compromising on fuel efficiency. As a result, I did not focus on performance improvements. Some of the modifications were to improve visual appeal, some for practicality and some for both.

The car came with a set of Apollo Alnac tyres 185/60-15 and they lasted 30K kms. From 28K kms, we started to face frequent flat tyres and hence felt the need to change. After a lot of research, went in for Conti MC5s of the size 195/50-16 with a new set of wheels from Momo.

First set of wheels
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-first-set-wheels.jpg

The wheels on the car -1
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The wheels on the car - 2
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We went for a trip to Munnar immediately after the tyre upgrade. We had also upgraded the headlamp bulbs to Osram 100/80 with some relay setup. This setup malfunctioned throughout the trip and headlamp upgrade was planned for immediately after the trip.

A Shot from Munnar
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After we came back to Chennai we upgraded the headlamps to these.
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-exterior-random.jpg

DRLs and fog lamp in action
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-drl-fog.jpg

Initially I had installed HIDs for both low beams and high beams. The connection was tricky for the guys because my model Vento came with Single barrel headlamp and they had to rewire to accommodate the twin barrel setup. Coming back to the HID, low beam had nice throw and the headlamp leveling also also worked. However, the HIDs required time to heat up and come up to full capacity. So, the pass function was not functional at all until the high beams were also heated up. So, later I moved to LEDs for the high beam and HIDs for the low beam. The LEDs are bright but the throw is not as good as the HIDs.

Blackened roof with Shark-fin Antennae - later removed
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Black tint on the headlamps
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-blackened.jpg

This was also later un-done because it defeated the purpose of the headlamp upgrade. There throw and intensity was hindered to a great extent.

Second set of wheels
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-second-set-wheels.jpg

There was a loud noise in one of the unsuspecting pot holes on our Munnar Trip. We got down and checked, there was no visible damage. Then we continued with the journey and reached chennai and almost drove the car for one year. On one of the tyre rotations, we noticed that there was a bend in one of the wheels and we could directly relate it to the incident in Munnar. We generally drive the car very cautiously on bad roads and never do anything that will impact the car. The bend brought down the pressure to 22PSI within a few kms of driving in that wheel alone. We initially thought of going back to the stock wheels but, the tyres were as good as new. Hence traded in the existing set of wheels to a new set from Momo. In the next tyre change I might go back to stock wheels with 205 section tyres.

RCD 340G+
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-rcd-340-g.jpg

Made this upgrade just for apple carplay. Initially plonked 5190 BT from Pioneer. But, this one spoilt the classy look of Vento's central console. Hence moved the Pioneer to Civic and installed RCD 340 G+ on Vento.

Last edited by NTO : 20th May 2020 at 14:40.
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Old 20th May 2020, 11:47   #10
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Default re: Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi

Future Plans - Keep or Sell?

Vento was a considerable upgrade in every aspect for us from the Wagon R. Also, the other cars we bought after Vento, were constantly bench marked against Vento and failed to exceed the satisfaction which Vento provides. If I plan to sell the Vento today and go for an upgrade, it would cost me at least 3X of the initial price of Vento. Also, the vento for what it offers in resale, will not fetch me anything more than ~5.5 lacs. Even this will be achieved when an enthusiast buys the car from us. But, if I keep the Vento, I should do the following to keep the car exciting and relevant.

1. A new set of leather upholstery with some customization to under thigh support.
2. A complete insulation as done by our friendly moderator Gannu.
3. Lower the rear suspension and install some stiff dampers may be from Bilstein.
4. Audio upgrade to improve the overall clarity of music.
5. A remap for additional power, not that I need it but, will be fun.

If I do the above things, Vento can be relevant for another 3 - 4 years and I can also live EMI free.

Parking the thought there with a parting shot.
Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi-signing-off.jpg

Thank you for reading. Hope you enjoyed the journey.

Last edited by NTO : 20th May 2020 at 18:41.
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Old 21st May 2020, 07:04   #11
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Default re: Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 21st May 2020, 10:13   #12
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Default Re: Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi

Lovely review sir! A decade since the Vento was first introduced, it soldiers on, with some minor facelifts, feature upgrades (and some cost-cutting). That 1.6l Diesel used to quite a stonker! Everytime I see one of those, one thing you can hear is it's tractor like sound.

At one point in time I used to dislike the Vento and it's Skoda twin due to that unrefined engine noise. Of course, I've come to now respect German engineering. It's amazing to see that behind that sedate styling lies a beast that's an excellent mile muncher!

I have one question, any idea on what your next purchase will be, considering that rivals are slowly catching up to the Germans. Hope you continue to have some wonderful miles with machine.
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Old 21st May 2020, 11:04   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BZ25 View Post
I have one question, any idea on what your next purchase will be, considering that rivals are slowly catching up to the Germans. Hope you continue to have some wonderful miles with machine.
The secret behind the reliability of Vento is limited electronics. I am sure certain brands are still reliable in spite of having a lot of electronics. A good upgrade to this will be a F10 530d or F30 320d LCI or a 3 series GT diesel. But this current Covid situation has questioned a lot of things and I guess I will hold on to the Vento for 3 - 4 years more.
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Old 21st May 2020, 11:05   #14
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Default Re: Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi

Well they say "Third time lucky". In this case, "Your third time - we are lucky!". What a lovely and detailed write up. Just enjoyed your writing style and structure of the 5 star thread! Thanks NTO.

I somehow always remember that picture of your Vento and WagonR since many years now. Don't even remember which thread I had seen it on. But its like etched in memory for some reason. I guess due to the different style in which that image is captured/post processed.

That is one lucky car. Pampered so well, loved even more & modded perfectly! If I were you mate, I'd not sell it. If I wanted a new car but had some spare parking space, I would keep this Vento with me. If space just for 1 car, I'd keep this Vento for at least another 2-3 years for sure. I don't think any "upgrades" out there will justify the huge amount of money to dump into, especially considering people will not give deserved price for your Vento when you exchange. The original Vento with that gem of a 1.6 TDI engine is a pure joy to drive. It lets you rule the highways without breaking a sweat. I have experienced it, so can vouch for it any time. And 6 years isn't much for a solid VW car at all. Its just entering teens! Prime is to come. Keep it!

Wishing you many more enjoyable and safe years and miles with the Vento TDI.

Last edited by Reinhard : 21st May 2020 at 11:07.
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Old 21st May 2020, 11:21   #15
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Default Re: Vento Elemento - 6 years with a VW Vento 1.6 TDi

Back when VW launched Polo/Vento, they used to charge similar, anywhere between 12-16K for every 15K KM's. In contrary Maruti/Hyundai would cost half the money. However in last 10 years other manufacturers have significantly bumped up the price. For instance a Toyota Innova will easily cost 20-22K for every 20K KM's, so I think a 15-16K bill on VW is perfectly okay.
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