MAS 2018 “Short Review Special” Part 1: Volkswagen (8 Cars)

Within the first hour of the motorshow I finished walking through all three halls for a quick survey. Basically, Hall D was the least relevant, Hall C had a lot of extra space, and Hall A was where the action was really happening. Although Borgward was there to introduce their brand, it didn’t feel like much of an occasion.

So, I started testing out cars on the first day. I tried a BMW X1, a series of Toyotas, and then 8 Volkswagen cars. Thank you again to MAI and PR Kraft for the media invitation. Samantha from Volkswagen (Wearnes Automotive) was kind enough to entertain my request to try all the cars so Volkswagen will be the pilot of this “Short Review Special” for Malaysia Autoshow 2018.

Let’s go through each Volkswagen that I tried.

1. Volkswagen Polo (1.6 MPI 6-Speed Conventional Auto)

I started out with the Polo since this is VW’s entry level car. The Polo is a very basic car with conventional technology such as a conventional 6-speed automatic gearbox with a torque converter. All the other Volkswagen models available are already using dual clutch systems. The interior of the Polo does not try to impress as the Polo is an affordable entry-level car in UK and Europe. There’s only one spec for the Polo which is the 1.6 (NA) automatic (6-speed).


What was it like to drive?

Nothing impressive. Feels standard. Interior is basic. A plus point I see in the Polo is having a 6th gear for high speed cruising.


Why would a person buy one?

If you live a financially comfortable life, a Polo in Malaysia could be the car for your college-age children. Don’t buy them a Beetle or a Mini. Keep them humble with a Polo. If I was rich and had a college-age kid, I’d get him an Axia (E) manual to put him in his place.

It’s not a cheap car if we compare it to a Perodua. But in UK and Europe, it is. It even comes with a diesel engine and a 5-speed manual over there. So, the price tag is a little hefty for the kind of car that you get. However, the Polo does have a good safety rating which could be a selling point for potential buyers.

2. Volkswagen Vento (1.2TSI 7-Speed DSG)

Next up I tried the Vento, which previously, was called the Polo sedan. I skipped the 1.6 Vento and went straight for the 1.2 turbocharged version. This has a 7-Speed Dry Clutch Transmission which is a dual clutch system. Volkswagen had an issue with it’s dual clutch some time ago but as of now, things seem to be going fine. Has the turbocharger caused any issues? None so far.

What was it like to drive?

In city driving, there’s not much difference with the 1.6. The limited test drive circuit meant you couldn’t really push the car to its limit. The turbo kicks in at around 1500rpm which is convenient for the type of driving this car was meant for. Interior is still standard like the Polo.

Why would a person buy one?

This is a taste issue. Maybe some of you prefer having a German compact sedan. It is more expensive than a Honda City. It’s at around RM94,000 (excluding insurance) which is the same price as a high trim level Toyota Vios. The Vios feels a bit cheap inside if you compare it to the Vento. I’d say the Honda City feels like a better rival to the Vento when it comes to feel. Resale on VWs aren’t that great, but if you view cars like shoes/clothes and don’t mind spending your money, the Vento is a possible option. If you really have money to spend for a VW, I don’t recommend settling for a Vento.

3. Volkswagen Beetle (1.2TSI 8-Speed DSG)

Then I had the chance to get into a Beetle which actually runs the same 1.2 turbocharged engine as the Vento. However, the Beetle is heavier by around 250kg and has two doors less. This Beetle is a fashion car. There is the Beetle GSR with a 2.0 Litre turbocharged engine but I don’t think VW Malaysia sells it.

What was it like to drive?

It wasn’t exhilarating. The car does have paddle shifters but the response for the gear shift is a little slow. The transmission is better left alone. Just let it do its job. It’s actually quite wide and that’s probably to give the Beetle a more domineering stance compared to the “New Beetle” from many years ago. Interior design is funky. The inside colour matches the outside colour. The car I test drove was red so I found the interior to be distracting. My choice of colour would be black.

A plus point for me here is the floor-mounted accelerator pedal which is more comfortable than the hanging pedal type.

Why would a person buy one?

Perhaps to make a fashion statement. Or maybe for nostalgic reasons. It’s not a practical car. Maybe you’re an instafamous kid with a rich dad or you’re an up & coming celebrity/fashion designer. If you’re buying the Beetle and want it to be masculine/domineering, get it in black with the classic hub caps or give it classic racer look with a duck-tail spoiler. But for real street cred with the VW Beetle enthusiasts, get a classic Beetle and restore it.

If we’re being practical, the car is around RM150,000 (excluding insurance). You could get a Honda CR-V for this money and get way more car for your money.

4. Volkswagen Tiguan (1.4 TSI 6-Speed DSG Wet Clutch)

Alright the Beetle was an overpriced fashion statement. The Tiguan is more on the practical side. Dimensions wise, the Tiguan is smaller than a CR-V yet bigger than a HR-V. But the Tiguan is priced higher than the CR-V. So, it doesn’t really compare. The Tiguan is more youthful than a CR-V and just about as youthful as a HR-V but with a little more practicality. It’s in the region of RM170,000 (excluding insurance). It’s not cheap.

What was it like to drive?

It is a tall standard Volkswagen Golf. They both run the same 1.4 TSI Engine. The Tiguan feels way more premium on the inside than the Polo and Vento. The Tiguan also has a wet clutch which is more reliable. This is why I said if you’re shopping for a VW in Malaysia (which is already considered a premium brand), you might as well go for a premium model in the VW line-up. They’re more satisfying.


Why would a person buy one?

Again, it is expensive considering the dimensions. You could get an X-Trail, a CR-V, a Haval H2, a Tucson, or even a Kia Sportage for less money.

If we’re talking youthful appeal (By that I mean small crossover), this compares to a HR-V and a C-HR. It is way more expensive than the Honda and Toyota, but the Tiguan has a more practical roof line AND it doesn’t have weird rear-door-handles. Still, if you’re not willing to spend the money, the C-HR and HR-V seem like good alternatives.

5. Volkswagen Passat (2.0 TSI 6-Speed DSG)

I first saw the Passat with this face on a large billboard ad in Dublin Airport. My first thought was that the car looked rather American with the angular headlights. I really liked the estate version that was shown on the ad. However, estates don’t sell well in Malaysia. Some of us perceive them as hearse-like cars.

What was it like to drive?

I loved it. The 2.0 TSI had a good deep rumble, almost imitating an American V8, IMHO. I liked the response and I liked how it can switch into a docile relaxing car when you’re not flooring it. Interior is also very, very executive which isn’t really suitable for a man of my age. I imagine this would suit a serious man in his 40s.

The Passat also has Active Info Display (AID) which can make the drive more engaging. I find large gear displays to be very helpful when you’re in ‘Manual’ mode.

Why would a person buy one?

The Passat is at approximately RM200,000 (excluding insurance) which is actually cheaper than a BMW 5 series and a Mercedes E class. Well, I’ve never driven an E Class or a 5 series so I won’t comment on that for the time being. All these German saloons have a very serious face so if you’re thinking of any of them I assume you’re a financially stable dad in your 40s or 50s. I’d say if you go for the Passat, you’ll have more money left for a skiing trip or a few more golf clubs.

For those of you unfamiliar with the scenario in Malaysia, the Mercedes E Class and BMW 5 series cost just as much as 3-bedroom 2-toilet apartment (More than RM300,000). Can you still buy an apartment for the price of a Passat? You can still get a low-cost apartment with no lift.

6. Volkswagen Passat (1.8 TSI 7-Speed DSG)

If you’re buying the Passat, get the 2.0 TSI. That’s all I have to say.

7. Volkswagen Golf Sportline (1.4TSI 7-Speed DSG)

Entry level Golf. RM156,000 (excluding insurance). Not the Golf that would make you go wow, but the Golf you could afford.


What was it like to drive?

Low Tiguan. Same engine, different transmission. Of course, it feels more premium than the Polo and Vento. To really gauge the Volkswagen Golf, I’d have to compare it with other models in the same segment (which I haven’t had the luck of driving yet).


Why Would a Person Buy One?

This is a mid-sized hatch. Alternatives include the Ford Focus, the BMW 1 series, and the Mazda 3. The Golf does have an iconic status since the name dates way back to 1974. Buying a Golf does make one seem a bit upper middle class in Malaysia. You could also make a fake Golf GTI from the basic Golf. A super-duper cheap alternative for this segment would be the Proton Suprima (don’t get the CVT).

8. Volkswagen Golf GTI (2.0TSI 6-Speed DSG)

After all that, I was finally allowed to drive the Golf GTI. The crown prince of Euro hatchbacks. The one I drove was dark blue. With a darker colour the red grille stands out better. The price is ridiculous for a car this size. It’s even more expensive than the Passat 2.0TSI.

The Golf GTI for Volkswagen is like the Civic Type R for Honda. They have strong nostalgic & iconic value and have become overpriced over time. The Golf GTI sells at approximately RM240,000 (excluding insurance) which is not something someone young could actually afford (or perhaps I haven’t been mingling with the affluent bunch).

With that price tag, you should have very high expectations.

What was it like to drive?

Cornering is sharp, the rumble is more high-pitched than the Passat 2.0TSI, and like the Passat 2.0, the AID does make the drive more engaging. I did get to floor it in short straight and it’s actually decently quick. The test track wasn’t long enough or big enough to really test the GTI but from that really brief experience I was impressed.

Why would a person buy one?

Not for practical reasons obviously. If you’re shopping for a Golf GTI you’re already willing to spend a lot of money for a hot hatch. You want a hot hatch. You want fun. You want an exhilarating drive. You don’t care that it costs as much as a house. There’s nothing sensible here.

Let’s see alternatives I can think of right now. Crazy-spec-hot-hatches is what I call them.

Civic Type R:  Approx. RM320,000 (Price listed on Honda website)

Renault Megane RS: Approx. RM235,000 (Price not listed on Renault Website)

Ford Focus RS: Not distributed by Sime Darby Auto Connection. You’ll have to try the grey market.

Mercedes AMG A45: Approx. RM350,000 (Price Listed on Mercedes Website)


So, that’s it from Volkswagen at MAS2018. Thank you again to Wearnes Automotive for entertaining my request to test drive all the car. By the way, Volkswagen also introduced the Golf R-Line which is really just a kitted-up Golf and a far cry from the actual Golf R. It was launched in a colour called ‘Turmeric Yelow’ which if translated to the Malay language, wouldn’t sound so sell-able.

For Part 2 on Toyota click here.

For Part 3 on Honda click here.

For Part 4 on BMW click here.


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