Upon arrival, I honestly thought that the Santana GTS MPI SE Blaupunkt was an all-new version of Volkswagen’s discontinued line of domestic Polos. But upon further inspection, the Santana was far from it. I later found out that the Santana was a model manufactured in China along with other models such as the Tiguan, and the Lamando which my grandmother liked so much that she purchased her own unit. But just because it was manufactured somewhere out of Europe, does not mean the car does not live up to expectations and numbers set by the brand. The Santana is quite popular in China as well as other parts of Asia, selling over 500,000 units in China alone but that is in reference to all models of the Santana including variances, having 5 generations of models that date back to as early as 1982. The Hatchback reminded me of the GTI, my personal favorite of the Volkswagen brand, but after taking a look at the specs of the two cars, they were incomparable. But nevertheless, I was still excited to review the Santana!
I am not much taller than the average Filipino, but I am definitely much wider and heavier all around tipping the scales past 220 pounds. Stepping into the cockpit of the Santana was quite a challenge, but staying in the seat was much more comfortable than my experience of climbing in. But to the extent of me shifting my legs to find a comfortable position every now and then, I found the width of the seat as well as leg space quite tight.
On the inside, the Santana maintained Volkswagen’s signature minimalist design with a nice touch of a red plastic line that flowed across a majority of the dashboard as well as combination stitched fabric/leather seats. The contrast of the dark interior with the red accenting was a nice touch, however the paneling it was applied on at first glance seemed to be carbon fiber, but upon closer inspection the finish is definitely a replica of the vaunted material. I prefer that Volkswagen apply the genuine material or use either piano black or the aluminum-esque trim found in the C! Fastfleet Caddy Maxi. However, the exterior of the Santana is just as sleek and subtle as the design of the interior but when it comes to the all-around design, the Santana is a car that millennials would refer to as ‘low-key’. The polar white Santana GTS is by no means flashy, but it definitely gets the job done with reserved class.
Like everybody else, I have my own routine when getting into a car. Start the car, run the air conditioning, and pair my phone so I could listen to some tunes while on the road. I couldn’t help but notice that the Santana did not have a start-stop ignition button but a regular turn-key ignition. The Blaupunkt radio unit was fairly satisfactory, I expected better and fuller aural range though. I also hoped that the new head unit would have had a standard rear camera and navigation.
Once on the road, I immediately felt the eager 1.5-liter multipoint injection 4-cylinder engine wanting to head out just as much as I did. To my surprise, the Santana was significantly quicker than I expected with its 6-speed automatic transmission, which also felt torquier than I anticipated, with only 111 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm. There was also some extra hesitation when transitioning from rest. There was also one key specification about the car that I found out about the hard way. Volkswagen’s BlueMotion technology feature essentially shuts off the engine of the car when at a full stop to save on fuel and reduce emissions. When the car kills off the engine, it locks up the steering wheel as well as reduces the air conditioning system to a mere blower. This is understandable since the voltage being delivered to the air conditioning unit’s condenser only runs when the engine is not idle. I say I found this out the hard way because when I came to a stop at an intersection, the engine went naturally idle, after a good 30 seconds of waiting at the light, I started to feel beads of sweat running down my forehead. It did not help that it was 37c degrees out. I appreciate the technology but it can be tough to use regularly in our local environment.
On the road, the front wheel drive with independent suspension up front and a Composite Torsion Beam Semi-Independent Suspension at the rear, handled corners very well. I may have had some complaints, but I did enjoy driving the Santana GTS. Although it has 5 seats, fitting 3 big people in the back would be challenging, and potentially uncomfortable for the 3 passengers.
There is really only one difference between the two variants of the Santana GTS that Volkswagen offers, and it is the 7-inch Blaupunkt capacitive touchscreen head unit which does have Bluetooth capability, Mirror link, an input for an Auxiliary cord which is almost obsolete in this day and age, USB input for music and videos if you don’t connect to an external device via Bluetooth, and SD Card for Navigation purposes as much as the other files that can be loaded onto an SD card. Both variants come outfitted with a height adjustable 3-spoke multifunctional steering wheel, cruise control, and air conditioning with a pollen filter. Both also come with moonroofs. Other important features include ISOFIX anchorage points for the rear bench for the little ones, multiple airbags, stability and traction controls, ABS, handsome 15-inch alloys, and factory rear park distance control. Unfortunately, no standard rear camera. However, it does come with the option to add a rear camera with an extra fee, thankfully the Santana GTS is very easy to park but I still believe the feature should be standard.
I can see why the Santana is appealing to a large population of people, but unfortunately, I do not see myself in that demographic. The Santana GTS offers quite a lot for a car priced at under a million pesos for the base unit, and P31,000 pesos more could get you the Blaupunkt package. Being able to fit and handle tight Philippine roads teaming with undisciplined drivers makes the Santana a real strong tool in making the most of every day. In my opinion, definitely another good choice for an everyday city car.
|Cylinder Head||dohc 16V|
|Fuel Injector||Port Injection|
|Max Power (bhp @ rpm)||109 bhp @ 5800 rpm|
|Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm)||114 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm|
|Top Speed||186 km/h (116 mph)|
|0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph||11.7 sec.|
Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions
|Fuel Milage (km/l)||4.9 L/100km Overall|
|Price as Tested (PHP)||PhP 1,029,000.00|
|What's Great||Simple and easy to drive, a versatile crossover and viable choice for its class, good value.|
|What's Not So||The rear camera is optional, needs more oomph, not a car for bigger people.|
|C! Editors Rating||8/10|