May22 , 2022

2022 Volkswagen Virtus: Observations after a day of driving

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Fast and effortless at any legal speed, this powertrain compliments the ride and handling characteristics of the car beautifully. The combo makes the Virtus an effortless mile-muncher if fuel prices aren’t a concern.

Driving the Volkswagen Virtus 1.5L DSG Automatic

1.5L, 4 cylinder turbo-petrol engine makes 148 BHP @ 5,000 – 6,000 rpm and 250 Nm @ 1,600 – 3,500 rpm:

The 1.5L engine in the Virtus is shared with the Slavia, Taigun and Kushaq and we were mighty impressed when we drove it previously. This engine gets 4-stroke positive ignition direct injection with active cylinder technology. It’s offered only with a 7-speed DSG AT (Slavia gets a 6-speed MT too). On paper, the engine produces 148 BHP & 250 Nm which is much more than Honda City 1.5’s 119 BHP and Hyundai Verna 1.0’s 118 BHP. These figures put it in a different league altogether. 

Fast and effortless at any legal speed, this powertrain compliments the ride and handling characteristics of the car beautifully. The combo makes the Virtus an effortless mile-muncher if fuel prices aren’t a concern.

Slot into D mode, take your foot off the brake pedal and the Virtus DSG slowly creeps forward. This will be highly appreciated in heavy traffic conditions where you can drive with just the brake pedal. With a light foot, the gearbox moves up the ratios pretty quickly. Impressively, you won’t feel these shifts as the transition is butter smooth. While the automatic transmission makes the Virtus very easy to drive in the city, when crawling in slow traffic (1st – 3rd gears), you will experience a little jerkiness, which is a typical DSG trait. In the city, the 1.5 motor’s healthy bottom end helps you get around effortlessly. The throttle response is good and the Virtus rolls smoothly. Add to that, the direct-injection and turbocharger ensure that the engine isn’t lethargic at any speed. There’s always enough power on tap to accelerate or overtake quickly.

Out on the highway is when things go from good to great! This is easily among the most fun-to-drive sedans for 2 million bucks. You’ll find yourself addicted to flooring the throttle whenever there’s an empty stretch of road. Volkswagen claims a 0-100 km/h time of 9 seconds for the 1.5 TSI DSG. Outright performance is excellent and the strong mid-range takes care of all the overtaking you need to do. Downshifts are quick (not as fast as upshifts though) and the gearbox responds well to throttle inputs. The 7th ratio gives the Virtus DSG long legs on the highway. And touring you must do – this car is built for long road trips. In terms of cruisability, the 1.5 TSI can run at triple-digit speeds all day long without breaking into a sweat. The engine spins at a relaxed ~1,900 rpm at 100 km/h. In summary, the 1.5 TSI DSG is a jewel of a combination that will keep you happy at low revs & high, and in the city as well as on the highway. Other than its reliability woes, this is one of the best AT gearboxes sold in India.

IMO the 1.5L TSI sounds great even at high revs. It has a very sporty tone to it which is addictive too. If you are continuously driving hard and / or in ‘S” mode, your passengers might complain about the sound though. 

Tap the left paddle for a downshift and manual mode is engaged. The ECU blips the throttle to match the revs and holds the gear till near the redline. This gets addictive, especially during overtakes! However, even in manual mode, the DSG will upshift above ~6,250 rpm and also downshift below ~1,000 rpm. We feel this is on the conservative side. Manual mode will also ignore wrong gear selections which put the engine out of the above rpm ranges. Long hold the paddles to revert to auto mode.

Cruising around in D mode, one won’t even notice the gears being shifted. They are damn smooth. The kickdown response time is quick enough and you will never feel that the gearbox is hunting for gears either. It’s in the right ratio almost all the time. When you are in the mood to drive the car aggressively, engage Sport mode by pushing the gear lever down once. In S, the gearbox downshifts to keep the car in the powerband, holds the ratios longer and lets the punchy mid-range do all the heavy lifting required. Out on the open road, you will find it hard to resist the urge to go hard on the throttle. The Virtus is simply brilliant to drive!

On the flip side, we have scarily serious concerns over the DSG’s long-term reliability. Just search on Team-BHP and you will see story after story of DQ200 failures & breakdowns. This gearbox has inherent design defects IMHO. Some BHPians who can’t resist the DSG have mentally committed themselves to 2 breakdowns over 8 – 10 years of ownership. If reliability is your topmost criteria, you should pick the 1.0 with a torque-converter AT, or consider another car model altogether.

Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)

The 1.5L TSI is overall refined. It’s a lot smoother than the 1.0 TSI, which has some 3-cylinder vibrations. All the vibrations are well controlled and so is the engine noise inside the cabin. At high revs, the engine note sounds sporty.

Mileage & Fuel Economy

The 1.5L engine comes with Active Cylinder Technology. When cruising calmly on the open road, the ECU shuts off cylinders 2 and 3 to reduce fuel consumption. This 2-cylinder mode will lead to good long-distance FE, that is if you drive calmly (which is tough in the TSI). The Virtus’ ARAI fuel efficiency numbers haven’t been revealed yet.

Driving the Volkswagen Virtus 1.0L Turbo Petrol AT

1.0L turbo-petrol engine makes 114 BHP @ 5,000-5,500 rpm and 178 Nm @ 1,750-4,500 rpm:

The other engine option in the Virtus is a 999cc, turbocharged, 3-cylinder, direct-injection petrol engine that puts out 114 BHP and 178 Nm. This engine is paired with either a 6-speed manual (MQ200-6F) gearbox or a 6-speed torque converter automatic (AQ250-6F) and we got to test the latter. In comparison, the Honda City’s 1.5L naturally-aspirated, 4-cylinder petrol engine makes 119 BHP and the Hyundai Verna’s 1.0L, 3-cylinder turbo-petrol engine makes 118 BHP. The Verna’s 1.5L, naturally aspirated, 4-cylinder engine produces 114 BHP.

The Virtus’ 1.0 TSI is the same engine that we saw in the Vento 1.0 TSI, however in a different state of tune. Right off the bat, the key difference is that in the Virtus, it makes more power, but is tuned more towards comfort.

When it comes to driving, the throttle response is satisfactory and the Virtus moves off the line with ease. The engine is tractable and isn’t dead at low rpms. But, there is little turbo lag. If you really want, you can pull from under 1,000 rpm, but it’s only when you cross 1,500 rpm that the motor starts feeling more comfortable. The turbo kicks in at ~2,000 rpm and if you’re used to a strong turbo kick, you will be slightly disappointed by the soft power delivery of this unit. Overall, the city driveability is good and the power delivery is nice and linear. Combined with a light electric power steering, good ergonomics and excellent all-round visibility, the Virtus is very city-friendly.

Out on the highway is where you will appreciate the mid-range and the top-end of the engine. Past the 2,000 rpm mark, the engine pulls nice and clean all the way till 5,500. If you’re pushing hard, this is where you would want to be. A bonus here is that the engine doesn’t sound coarse at high revs, in fact, it sounds quite sporty. Even beyond 5,500 rpm, the top-end isn’t flat and the engine keeps pulling all the way till 6,600 rpm. Highway cruising is a comfortable affair too in the Virtus and it can do triple-digit speeds quite easily.  All in all, while this engine may not be lightning quick, it is definitely fast and smooth.

The 6-speed torque converter is butter-smooth in its operation and you will barely notice the shifts happening. Also in day to day driving conditions, the torque converter automatic makes sure you are in the right gear almost all the time. We didn’t find it getting confused or hunting for gears at any point and the AT will keep most drivers happy. You do get a manual mode and there are paddle shifters if you want full control, but like most torque converters, these aren’t very engaging. Most owners will just let the electronics do all the shifting. One of the biggest advantages, however, is that given the conventional design of a torque converter, this would prove to be more reliable in the long run compared to the DSG automatic in the 1.5L turbo-petrol.

Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)

The 1.0L TSI is overall a refined motor. Despite being a 3-cylinder engine, the vibrations and noise are well controlled. On the move, things are fine at regular rpms. It’s only when you hit high revs that the 3-cylinder thrum is obvious. But it’s an enjoyable, sporty note. Road and tyre noise are also kept in check. On the other hand, wind noise did start creep in at 90 km/h, but it was not excessive.

Mileage & Fuel Economy

If driven with a light foot, the 1.0 TSI AT should give you acceptable FE. However, do keep in mind that turbo-petrol cars are sensitive to throttle input and the torque converter automatic does seep in more fuel than a manual. So, drive the car hard and you’ll see the tank needle drop very fast. To aid the fuel efficiency, you get an idle start/stop system that shuts off the engine when the car is stationary and the gear position is neutral.

Suspension

Ride Comfort

The Virtus comes with a McPherson strut suspension at the front and a twist-beam rear axle. It rides on 16″ rims shod with 205/55 R16 tyres. The recommended tyre pressure is 33 PSI all around with two people on board. Under most driving conditions, the Virtus’ ride quality is compliant. In comparison with the Slavia, there’s a hint of stiffness on the Virtus, but the difference isn’t stark like it was in Octavia and Jetta. At low speeds going over some rough roads, you will appreciate the absorbent nature of the suspension as it keeps you comfy. Body movement is controlled well and the suspension soaks up small potholes with ease. Big potholes do register themselves sharply in the cabin though.

Handling & Dynamics

The Virtus’ road manners are pretty sorted. The straight-line stability is great and the car feels extremely steady cruising at speeds of 100-120 km/h. Long road trips should be pretty comfortable in this sedan.

Get to some twisty roads and the Virtus won’t disappoint. The light front end makes it easy to attack corners. There is a bit of body roll, but it is well controlled and doesn’t feel excessive even when pushing the car hard. This allows you to carry more speed into corners. There’s a hint of understeer, but the Virtus manages to hold its line nicely. Our test car was equipped with Goodyear Assurance Triplemax 2 tyres and they worked fine for the power on offer.

The 1.5L TSI does feel a bit stiffer than the 1.0L TSI as the suspension has been tuned to better suit the extra weight in the front. The ride, though not plush, is still compliant. Even over bad roads, it doesn’t feel uncomfortable. As the speed increases, the ride gets better.

The slightly stiffer suspension setup of the 1.5 TSI makes it even more capable in the corners than the 1.0 TSI.

Steering

The EPS is light at parking & city speeds which is now the market’s preference. For daily driving, this steering works just fine. It weighs up nicely as the speed increases, but libranof1987 wished it would’ve weighed up even more at high speeds. What deters the driving experience is that there’s no feedback from the steering and it feels very disconnected. For a car that has good power and also a chassis to complement that power, the steering just feels like the oddball here.

Braking

In this segment, only the Hyundai Verna top-end 1.0 turbo petrol gets all-wheel disc brakes. The Virtus gets discs at the front and drums at the rear. The brake pedal is well calibrated and feels sharp to use. The braking is powerful and very confidence-inspiring.

Niggles & Problems

VW is generally known for expensive maintenance bills and the occasional major breakdown. Truth is, many owners have suffered multiple breakdowns, especially with the DQ200 DSG gearbox. Even apart from the gearbox, don’t expect a Toyota or Maruti kind of ownership experience over 5 – 10 years. Take the extended warranty without a second thought, and be sure to get the car serviced on time. For its part, VW is trying to improve its brand image with the Sarvottam 2.0 initiative, and there are maintenance packages too, but the dealers are the same, the cars are complicated & the parts are expensive. Those buying the 1.0L AT (torque converter) / MT might enjoy better long-term reliability than owners of the 1.5L DSG.

No insulation sheet under the bonnet:

Continue reading the discussion on the 2022 Volkswagen Virtus on our forum.





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