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Best Affordable Car SeatsWHEN Volkswagen Philippines launched five new models in May, it paved the way for the company’s commitment to expand its brand in the local market. Expanding brands means not only introducing more premium models, but more importantly and affordably. After all, this German marque never earned its reputation of offering affordable vehicles to Filipinos.

Among the newly introduced models are the Santana MPI M / T Trendline. At a price of just P686,000, this model is by far the most affordable Volkswagen model in the country. This vehicle has been around for the last 30 years and, in fact, is considered the entry-level model sought in China. But to pit against the best sellers in the classroom with the likes of the basic models of Vios and Mirage, the price alone is not enough. To find out if Santana is a viable option in the classroom, by offering more than its low price, we are testing the newly introduced subcompact subcompact in dark black.

Proven in the future are some of the design cues of Volkswagen that are consistent with all of its current models. There’s a stylish fascia with brand-branded sleek halogen headlamps, which are lined with grille with lines and chrome emblems in the center. There is also a secondary grille vent on the bottom of the bumper. All the frame character lines associated with each upper corner of the headlights and grille provide definitions to the bonnet and waist belt line. There is also a delineation on the wheel arch that complements the profile on the panel and the bottom bumper of the door. For wheels, the test unit is equipped with a standard 14-inch steel rim with a silver cover.

Special vehicles for most Volkswagen vehicles are monochromatic themes. This subcompact dashboard dashboard does not have the usual modern look, but looks more like a simple retro and layout with the dominant hard plastic material. If you like the cabin design of the late 80s and early 90s, you might appreciate it more. Seen through a D-shaped chunky helmet with tilt adjustment is an analog gauge with an information display in between. The fitting audio system, on the other hand, is pretty good as it allows accessing MP3 files via USB or SD card. As for the chairs, two different fabric materials are used to isolate the appearance of the middle padding from the side bolsters. Finding good driving posture is still easy thanks to the manual seat altitude adjusters. In addition, the rear leg room is very generous because of the long wheelbase of the vehicle 2.603 mm.

We were surprised to find some other convenient additions that are not normally expected in entry-level cars. One is the headlamp leveler that you usually find only in the premium variant. Another is a speed sensing door lock along with an automatic unlock, as soon as you remove the key from the ignition button. In addition, there is a gear indicator with an active function on the instrument information screen, which we found very useful. Not only does it tell you which teeth are involved today, but also actively emit a signal to raise the teeth every time the engine revolves reach the ideal range. Now that’s a cool feature for entry-level cars. We can only hope for another 12 volt socket, preferably where it can accommodate rear passengers.

Powered by a 1.4-liter Multi-Point Injection (MPI), a four-cylinder gasoline engine, more than enough delivery for urban residences. But operating a five-speed manual paired gearbox offers more fun. Maximize the strength of each equipment is given, but the action of the shifter to move from one gear to another makes it more attractive. This particular distinction is an absolute treat for every manual gearbox purist. Squeezing each bit of maximum torque allows the vehicle to achieve rapid acceleration with very little doubt. But even upshifting just above the low-end range, torque registrations are already substantial for a steady increase in speed. You just have to get used to operating the clutch pedal because it is positioned closer to the brakes and, at the same time, requires a higher lift to reach the point of friction. However, think of this as a factor to keep your left foot on the pedal.

The Santana MPI M / T Trendline variant is a good example of how to make German-engineered cars more affordable while still maintaining a value-for-money factor with some additions. Combine with some of the fun and reliable vehicle driving elements that are not widely available in its class, Volkswagen’s own entrain model of this subcompact sedan, indeed, has what it takes to compete against a market that dominates fellow Japanese.