Volkswagen Ameo: Gone But Not Forgotten:

Neither elegantly designed nor powerful or even feature-loaded, VW’s first car designed specifically for India was much too late to the compact-sedan party
The Ameo was VW's first made-for-India product
The Ameo was VW's first made-for-India productevo India

The Polo was already long in the tooth. The Vento hadn’t made much of an impact on the Honda City. And it was only exports that were keeping three shifts occupied at the sprawling Volkswagen factory. It was 2016 and VW needed a mass- market car that could compete on the one thing VW weren’t competitive on. Pricing. And thus was born the Ameo – which took a leisurely two-and-a-half years to come to market. That’s nearly how long the India 2.0 project took to get the Kushaq on the road which tells you why Skoda, and not VW, are now in charge of product development for the Indian market. That extended product gestation also meant that by the time the Ameo hit the road everybody had shifted attention from compact-sedans to compact- SUVs. Late to the party was a whopping understatement.

The big challenge that took two-and-a-half-years to solve was squeezing the Ameo under four metres in length, particularly since the Polo was already 3971mm long. The designers had 29mm to play with; 29mm to graft on a boot! In desperation they took a hammer to the front bumper, smashed it in by 35mm, and voila the “limousine” was born. Yes, the designer used the word “limousine” to describe this car to your correspondent. Mercifully I didn’t suffer lasting injury while falling out of my chair.

The Ameo was ambitiously described as a "limousine" by its designer
The Ameo was ambitiously described as a "limousine" by its designerevo India

At least the project achieved its cost targets. When launched the Ameo undercut every other compact sedan while retaining almost everything that we loved about the Polo. The ride and handling was, by far and away, the benchmark in the segment. The dynamics were so good the lack of power was even more frustrating. At launch the Ameo only got the gruff, 1.2-litre, three-cylinder motor, its 74 horses struggling to haul the tonne-plus car to 100kmph in 14-and-a- bit seconds. Amends (very good amends!) came a few months later in the form of the punchy 89bhp 1.5-litre diesel that could also be had with the DSG twin-clutch automatic. Get up to speed and it flattened the expressway with an authority no other car in its segment could muster and – as we would see later – this was also the safest car in its segment. But, as was clear as day, this was no work of art.

The transition away from cut-paste sedans had already begun but VW’s designers hadn’t received the memo. And the biggest problem, the problem that plagued the Polo all through its life, was that full-size adults could not fit into the back. It bombed so hard VW didn’t even bother giving it a facelift before pulling the plug four years later and focusing their energies back on the, erm, Polo.

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