Volkswagen Santana 1.4 MPI Trendline M/T

Everybody knows Volkswagen (VW) is German for “people’s car”, and everyone knows someone who has at one point driven or owned the iconic beetle. German brands are known for their engineering and build quality, evident in their cars that are still running after 30-40 years. But it seems that VW’s are out of reach of the Pinoy masses it was made for, or are they?

The Volkswagen Santana was introduced to our local market to change that. It’s the most affordable VW priced at Php686K, in the same price bracket as the entry level 1.3 Vios m/t, the 1.2 Dzire GL m/t, the Almera 1.2 m/t, the Accent sedan 1.4 GL m/t, well, you get the idea. Volkswagen Philippines were open about their China manufactured Santana. Which begs the question, is it still more German than Chinese? Or the other way around?

If you look at the rest of VW’s local line up, there’s no doubt that these vehicles are worthy of their sticker price, reflecting all you would expect from mid to high-end class German vehicles. But a VW vehicle in the same class as “affordable” subcompacts, priced with reach of the same subcompacts makes the cynical Filipino think there’s a catch.


This is an entry level Volkswagen Santana. You’ll notice straightforward clean lines on the exterior, which it has in common with most of VW’s lineup. There’s the chrome grille that extends out to the halogen headlights with a prominent VW emblem front and center. There are color keyed door handles and electric adjustable side mirrors with integrated turn signal lamps. It rolls on 175/70’s on 14” steel rims.


The simplicity of the exterior applies inside too. Just about all the surfaces are plastic, but all in keeping costs down, yet it all feels solid and the fit and finish is spot on. Interior materials are dark, which I prefer as it reduces glare on sunny days. The two-tone fabric seats are comfy, even on long drives. When you get in the height adjustable driver’s seat with tilt adjustable steering wheel, ergonomics are good with everything within reach.


Under the hood is a smooth revving 1.4-liter Multi-Point Injection (MPI) 4-cylinder gasoline engine with maximum power output of 90Ps at 5,500rpm, maximum torque of 132Nm at 3,800rpm and mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. It also has the biggest fuel tank in it’s class at 55 liters.

The Santana’s ride is firm and planted, if I’m allowed to say, drives and handles just as “German” as the higher end VW models. With front McPherson Independent Suspension and rear composite torsion beam semi-independent suspension, you get a dull thud over bumps and road imperfections, feels solid unlike other cars in its category. Electric power steering keeps things light especially in tight spaces. Standard on this model are driver and passenger airbags, rear three point seatbelts, ISOFIX anchor points, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), and immobilizer. This is car is as German as the brand, if we didn’t tell you in the beginning, you couldn’t tell it was made in China. What you get is good value, a German brand, built to their exacting standards at a true “people’s car” price.  It’s available in Polar White, Reflex Silver, Pepper Grey and Deep Black and again SRP starts at P686,000. And there’s no catch.


Words and Photos – Neil Pagulayan