Why would I buy it?
- Easy to drive
- Dynamically sorted
- Spacious and comfortable
Why would I avoid it?
- Fit and finish needed to be better
- Engine can feel lacklustre when driven hard
- Driver information system needs a better interface
7.5 / 10
The Volkswagen Virtus is less of a Vento replacement, in our book, and more of a bridge between the Vento and the Jetta. And that’s down to two things - its design, and its big car feel. In terms of driving, it isn’t as dynamically sorted or involved as the Jetta, yes, but it is easy and likeable, nonetheless. Furthermore, it is spacious all round, it has a big and usable boot, and it’s comfortable to be driven around in as well. Not to mention, it is decently specced.
Engine and Performance
7 / 10
We have the one-litre, three-cylinder, turbo-petrol mated to an automatic. The torque-converter automatic is a six-speed unit and comes with paddle shifters. And overall, it strikes a good balance between being responsive and relaxing to drive. The engine only comes alive at around 2,500rpm. But that’s expected from a small capacity turbocharged engine. But even when it does come on song, it won’t pin you back in the seat or bring a smile to your face. What it does do, nonetheless, is draw appreciative nods. As soon as one realises that this small capacity motor still manages to give Virtus, a large car, some spirited feel, you do begin to appreciate it. The only time it feels lacklustre is when you give the engine the beans from a standstill. It just isn’t quick enough to feel exciting, or even noteworthy for that matter.
We drove the Virtus in both full auto mode as well as in the manual mode using the paddle shifters. The full auto mode is competent enough to handle city and highway runs. And you will rarely feel the need to interfere, unless, of course, you want to get more involved; like on a winding road or when threading through slow moving traffic on a 80kmph highway, for instance.
As far as engine refinement goes, the one-litre feels happiest between 2,500-4,000rpm. You can hear the engine, and it isn’t the most refined sounding unit. But, in this rpm band it doesn’t feel strained or out of its comfort zone. It also has enough grunt and turn of speed in this band to keep the driver happy. It’s only when you go past 4,000rpm and inch closer to the redline that the engine sounds unrefined and strained. And, it feels like it’s making more noise than progress on the road.
Ride and Handling
7 / 10
The Virtus’ chassis, suspension, brakes, steering, and how these are calibrated - not to mention how they come together - make it both a nice handler and a comfortable cruiser. It’s not as taut or communicative as the Jettas of yore, and it doesn’t have the plushest of ride quality either. But approach a corner or a broken road, and chances are you will come out feeling good about your purchase.
The feedback and progression from the brakes, the predictable and linear steering response, the reasonably quick turn-in without signs of dramatic understeer, the unhurried way in which the body settles on the suspension mid-corner, and the hint of playfulness the chassis offers, do manage to reel in the enthusiast driver in you. And before you know it, you end up driving the Virtus harder than necessary, and it keeps egging you on.
The ride too impresses with its absorbent and settled quality. The suspension has enough travel, the springs aren’t too stiff, and the damping is slow enough to keep the ride from feeling busy. It’s not go-over-anything-without-bother plush, but whatever potholes or bumps we hit, it managed to ride over them without feeling fragile or harsh.
Interior Space and Quality
7 / 10
Like we said at the start, one of the big positives for the Virtus is its big car visual appeal. And that big car feel also translates into roomy interiors. And a big boot. But that’s not surprising given it is one of the longest and widest cars in its class, and one with the longest wheelbase too.
As far as the cabin goes, the rear seats aren’t the easiest to get into given the low entry. But once inside, there’s enough head, knee and shoulder room to keep three adults happy at the back. The seat is comfortable too. It doesn’t have great thigh support, but if you tuck your legs under the front seats, it does make the seating more comfortable. The back support and angle of the rear seat is well judged, nonetheless.
Upfront again, the seats are comfortable, there’s decent support for the thigh and back, and there’s enough leg and elbow room. The driving position feels natural too. Plus, there’s reach and rake adjustment for the steering, and height adjustment for the driver’s seat to fine tune the seating position further.
Quality however isn’t anything to write home about in the Virtus given what we have experienced with Volkswagens in the past. Now, we understand that the MQB-A0-IN was supposed to be a cost effective platform. But, from what we have seen of the pricing of the Taigun, and Virtus’ sister car, the Slavia, the Virtus would still demand premium pricing. However, its interiors don’t reflect that.
The seat covers all round are not draped tautly enough; the fit and finish of plastic at places feels cheap; plus the fans for front seat ventilation are too loud, the handbrake operation feels flimsy, and be it the outside door handles or the toggle type buttons inside, these lack the finesse one has come to expect from a VW.
7.5 / 10
In terms of features, this top spec trim does tick a lot of boxes. There’s keyless entry and start. You get a single zone climate control system. Both front seats have cooling functions. And one gets TFT screens for the driver information system (DIS) as well as for the multimedia unit. The latter has well judged touch sensitivity, and class matching menu and functions. The DIS too has an elaborate menu, but it could do with a better user interface.
The Virtus also comes with a cooled glovebox, a regular sized sunroof, wireless charging for cellphones, rear parking sensors with camera, auto dimming mirrors, cruise control, and automatic wipers and headlamp. You also get three-point seat belts and adjustable headrests for all five occupants. And there’s a tyre pressure monitoring system along with a stability program, traction control, and six airbags. Clearly then, there’s no dearth of safety kit either.
7.5 / 10
The Volkswagen Virtus is a well rounded car. Agreed, it needs to up the quality, and fit and finish game in a few areas, but on other counts, there’s very little to complain about. It drives well, it rides well, and as we mentioned above, it’s well-specced too. Furthermore, the one-litre engine might not be exciting, but it doesn’t disappoint either. And, when it’s mated to the six-speed automatic - like we have here - it makes the car easy to drive and live with in the city. And of course, for those looking at more performance, there’s always the 150bhp, 1.5-litrex to consider. Plus, it’s spacious, and has that big car feel most Indian car buyers prefer. Finally then, it will all come down to the price. But, given the premium pricing we have witnessed for other cars based on this very India-specific platform, I for one, won’t be holding my breath.
Pictures by Kapil Angane