It wasn’t a big shock when I heard Volkswagen Philippines was importing China-made cars to the Philippines.
Given the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement which slashes tariffs on imports between China and ASEAN countries by some 90%, it’s actually a no-brainer plus, it makes it very easy to price these vehicles competitively.
The big question was quality.
Germans have quite the reputation for being meticulous down to the smallest detail and as we all know, that’s quite the opposite of made-in-China stuff.
Starting with Volkswagen’s best-selling sedan in China, the Lavida 230 TSI Comfortline, I take a look-see for myself to find out if any of these imports will live up to the renowned German engineering.
Looking like a smaller Passat with the same subtle lines from the top of the hood down to the no-nonsense plain black grille (with chrome accents) and that neat and clean – or maybe just because it’s all white – overall appearance, it still able to pull off that Euro feel and vibe despite being made in our neck of the woods.
It could do with more modern headlamps as it still uses halogen bulbs but it’s fitted with fog lamps with corner light feature and a nifty sunroof to up its style factor a few notches.
The interior gives off a mixed sort of a feel with modern equipment and old-school styling.
Plastics on the dashboard are hard and the layout, with the almost vertical façade, feel like a throwback to my Dad’s 80s Beetle but it does redeem itself Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port.
The infotainment system is managed via a small screen and three levels of buttons on each side. At the bottom are your choices of media and/or device and two knobs on either side for volume and selection. Audio can be adjusted and calls answered via steering wheel buttons.
It sports dual-climate control but it feels like it has a mind of its own sometimes as it works in conjunction with the Volkswagen Start/Stop system.
Sometimes it lowers fan speed automatically as the engine shuts down when idle and then turns it up once you lift your foot off the brake and the engine fires up again. It’s actually a trip!
Cabin is as compact as segment competitors but without any of the hi-tech stuff to fill up the center console and the dashboard, it feels just a bit roomier than others.
The leather seats are nice and firm but the backrest adjusts a little differently as it uses a rotary knob instead of the lever we’re all used to. They actually feel like they were designed for taller people so Filipinos will fit in just fine.
A push-to-start button fires up the highly-acclaimed 1.4L gasoline engine with turbocharging and direct injection, also known as TSI.
This one-time International Engine of the Year and Best Green Engine awardee combines BlueMotion technology that remaps the engine for reduced emissions and includes the Start/Stop system.
Its output of 128 bhp and 166 lb-ft of torque drives the front wheels through a seven-speed DSG (Direkt-Schalt-Getriebe) or direct-shift gearbox, which basically means it’s a dual clutch transmission.
The small engine makes surprisingly handles its weight rather easily. It feels like a 2.0L instead of a 1.4, and it’s very light-footed and snappy from a standstill.
There will be a bit of a delay because of the Start/Stop but there is nary a lag when it comes to throttle response.
Shift it from plain Drive to Sport and the vehicle feels more attuned to driver input. It’s quicker to the punch and feels more energetic, more fun to drive.
Fuel consumption falls down to some 7 kilometers per liter in our horrendous traffic but cruising down EDSA at 5 AM nets it a solid 14 kilometers per liter.
It’s tough to gauge handling from pure city driving but it stays composed around corners and provides great steering wheel feedback.
One thing it has to work on is NVH levels. Road harshness comes through the 16-inch wheels easily and my steel mug chatters in the holder more than the usual.
Priced at Php 1.171 million, it doesn’t exactly undercut the competition. This is when you start looking at the pros and cons.
Handling is ok and gets more fun in Sport mode but what I love is the engine and the gearbox. Give me a weekend and an open road and that’s already a party right there.
While the cabin’s design needs an update, like the one on the Lavida Plus in China, the exterior is typical of a Volkswagen – elegant – and shows no hint of its Chinese origins.
Ride comfort isn’t as solid as I’d expect from a German brand but remember, this isn’t a Passat and you’re still getting all that great engineering for a little over a million pesos.
I know a million still sounds like a lot but with TRAIN and the rising prices of everything, most vehicles cost almost a million anyway.
Go a little loco and live a little with the Lavida 230 TSI Comfortline. It’s not Volkswagens best-selling sedan in China for nothing.
|Fuel Injector||Direct injection, turbocharged|
|Max Power (bhp @ rpm)||128 bhp @ 5,000 rpm|
|Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm)||166 lb-ft @ 1400-3500 rpm|
|Top Speed||200 km/h (124.2 mph)|
|0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph||9.3 seconds (0-62 mph)|
Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions
|Fuel Milage (km/l)||10 kilometers per liter (combined)|
|Price as Tested (PHP)||₱1,171,000|
|What's Great||Get the German branding, engineering and handling, including the award-winning engine at a reasonable price|
|What's Not So||NVH levels and interior appointments need to be improved|
|C! Editors Rating||8.5/10|