Exterior – Simple lines, almost like a mini Jetta
Unlike other hatchback-derived sedan models with a tacked-on boot (looking at you Proton Persona), Volkswagen has done a swell job transforming the Polo into a sedan, as the rear end does not look like an afterthought.
Furthermore, when coupled with the revised front end, at a glance, you could easily mistake the Vento for the now-discontinued Jetta.
And that is not a bad thing either, as the Vento is easily one of the more laid back-looking sedans out there, although it can be a bit conservative to some.
Bear in mind that the review unit we have here is fitted with the JOIN edition package, which adds a black rear lip spoiler, trunk garnish, body side moldings, and JOIN emblems on the B-pillars.
The Pekan plant that is responsible for assembling the Vento did a swell job, as panel gaps did not deviate by more than 0.5 mm from either side.
Paint thickess is also consistent throughout the exterior, ranging between 110s micrometers to 120s micrometers.
Interior – Hard plastics everywhere, but that’s alright
If you expect the Vento to get soft touch materials or even faux stitching inside, you’d be rather disappointed as the Vento gets none of those.
The Vento's dashboard feels comparatively cheap when compared to the Toyota Vios or even the Honda City.
Instead, the Vento gets a cabin made out of hard, but durable plastics. Not that it’s a bad thing, as hard plastics can withstand the test of time with relative ease.
For the tech buffs, good news as the Vento gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support via the R340G infotainment system.
Sound quality from its 4-speaker set-up is definitely noteworthy, putting itself on par with the Toyota Vios.
Never mind the Honda City's 8-speaker set up, the Vento is proof that having more speakers does not equal to better audio quality.
While it may get rear air-conditioning vents (which the Vios doesn’t), the Vento makes do without a rear arm rest or USB charging ports.
Furthermore, the Vento (even in its Highline trim) also loses out on keyless entry and engine push start button – you’ll need to unlock and start your car like it's 2000.
Crucially, unlike a lot of its peers, the Vento only gets 4 airbags across the range (dual front and sides, no curtain airbags).
Driving Performance – Less power on paper, but torque is strong
Powering the Vento Highline is Volkswagen’s tried-and-tested 1.2-litre TSI unit that churns out 105 PS and 175 Nm, hooked up to a dry-type 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Being a turbocharged unit, its full 175 Nm of torque is available from a low 1,550 rpm, making acceleration and overtaking a breeze.
While some of you might shudder at the mere mention of the dual-clutch automatic (DCT), very few owners of more recent VW models have reported any problems with their transmission.
Under stop-and-go driving conditions, the DCT exhibits mild jerking, especially when starting on an incline – a normal behavior for such transmissions. Still nowhere near as smooth as the Honda City Hybrid's DCT, or even the regular Honda City and Toyota Vios' CVT-type automatic.
Despite its turbocharged engine, the Vento is actually slower than the City Hybrid (10.6 seconds), taking 10.9 seconds to complete the 0-100 km/h sprint. Braking from 100 km/h to zero took about 41 meters.
It is, however, quicker than the Toyota Vios (12.6 seconds).
Ride Comfort – Feels like a much bigger car
Ride comfort and handling is where the Vento truly shines – no other segment rival can match its well-tuned ride and handling.
Never mind the fun-to-drive Mazda 2 or the balanced Toyota Vios, the Vento’s ride and handling is a league of its own.
The Vento irons out road irregularities like a much larger German sedan would, and it does it in stride – hit a bump or pothole and you get a solid "thud", separating itself from the Honda City and Toyota Vios.
But don’t let its comfort prowess fool you, the Vento is also able to tackle corners with ease, thanks in part to the nicely-weighted steering wheel, wide tires, and the earlier-mentioned suspension.
The ride comfort is further supplemented by the quiet cabin. Tire noise is well insulated from the cabin, while engine noise isn’t apparent unless you’re driving the Vento hard.
At the national highway speed limit, the Vento’s cabin registered just 68 dB, quieter than the already very quiet Vios, although we have to add that surface and traffic conditions were different. Pushing beyond the national highway speed limit will result in more wind noise.
Fuel Efficiency – Turbocharged performance, yet efficient
Although the Vento loses out in terms of raw performance to some Japanese rivals, it does make up for that in fuel efficiency – on highways, the Vento’s trip computer read out an average of about 6.0-litre/100 km, while crawling in slow-moving traffic brought that figure up to about 8.5-litre/100 km.
As such, if you can resist the urge to floor the throttle, you can squeeze out at least 600 km of highway driving from its 55-litre fuel tank.
Overall, the fuel consumption is about average, falling behind the Toyota Vios and Honda City Hybrid.
Conclusion – Still very much relevant in 2020
While the Volkswagen Vento may be one of the oldest offerings on sale right now, we reckon that it still has what it takes to compete with segment rivals that are much newer.
Putting the Vento against the Toyota Vios, the latter does offer more "toys" for the price - 7 airbags, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, rear USB charging ports, rear arm rest, and all-round disc brakes. Selected variants of the Vios even include a front digital video recorder, acoustic windshield, and a 6-speaker sound system.
As for the vastly popular Honda City, this model is currently at the tail end of its model life cycle. But that does not mean that it is a bad purchase in 2020, as the City is still a very capable sedan. Opting for the City Hybrid gets you a sophisticated powertrain and impressive fuel economy, though equipment count is far from generous.
But when compared to its biggest rivals, the Vento offers a more engaging driving experience (thanks to its TSI+DSG combination), a more refined cabin, and equally as good fuel economy. Top that up with the big sedan-like ride comfort and it is no surprise why the Vento is my pick of the segment.