In 2013 I bought my first car, the Volkswagen Polo GT TSI. Despite all the warnings from those who owned or had owned VW cars not to buy a VW, I still went ahead. And why not? I personally think that the Polo GT TSI with all its gadgetry (a TSI engine mated to a 7-speed DSG) is the best car you can buy in India under 10 lakhs. And that German build makes other cars feel like they are made of tin and foil. So after test driving the Polo GT TSI, I didn’t wait a second to book my own “pocket rocket”.
And then my car never arrived. I kept waiting and following up with the dealership. It turned out that VW wasn’t manufacturing this variant of the Polo in any other colour than red (Henry Ford all over again). So, obviously I
wasn’t given a choice went with red! Eventually it wasn’t such a big deal because this car looks sweet in red!
After 60 days, my red Polo arrived finally.
This is an unbiased Volkswagen Polo GT TSI user review. To make this post more reader friendly, I’m going to break it down into the good stuff and the bad stuff. You can pick and read what you want to, but I’m just going to put down my conclusion of Volkswagen India here before you continue any further –
Their cars are incredible products of German engineering: precision-built machines. Sadly, everything else they do in India is the exact opposite of what German engineering and brands stand for. German cars, Indian service.
You may now continue reading.
The Good Stuff (the car)
The car is an absolute gem to drive. The engine is tiny but it packs a punch – a 1.2 litre turbo-charged petrol engine means good mileage (I average around 15 kpl in the city) with brilliant performance. Push the pedal to the medal and that same tiny engine turns into a (tiny) growling beast. With the turbo kicking in at 1,500 RPM and power delivery of a petrol engine, zipping around and overtaking is easy-breezy. At 1,500 RPM and in the 7th gear, you’re gliding at 80 km/h. At 3,000 RPM, it’s “Warp speed, Mr. Sulu”.
The 7-speed DSG is as good as it gets. In the D-mode, the shifts are quick and smooth. In S-mode, the car becomes a different being. Driving around in Delhi has become pain free. No more constantly gear shifting. Stuck on a fly-over with traffic? No issues, hill-assist will come to the rescue.
I drove my Polo for a 100 kms a day during its first 3 months. I loved every moment of it.
I recently drove my car to Dehradun. Other than the incredible mileage, it was so much fun revving the engine and letting it rip on the highway. Overtaking was a breeze and even after driving for 6 hours I didn’t feel tired. On the way back, I got stuck in a terrible traffic jam for over an hour after having driven for 5.5 hours. I couldn’t thank my stars enough for driving an autobox.
While in Dehradun, my Polo really took some abuse! It stood through a two hour long hailstorm – hail which was almost an inch in diameter. I was so sure that my wind-shield would crack and paint would chip. But thankfully, there wasn’t a scratch.
I drove through some of the toughest mountain terrain everyday. 500 metres of treacherous uneven rocks on a mountain slope. Every time that I would pass by that stretch, I’d put my gearbox into manual mode and stick to the first gear. My whole car would rattle violently. And trust me, if this were any other non-German car, the car would have some serious issues with things falling apart.
So to sum up, this is definitely the best car in its segment. It’s perfect for a city – small, compact, efficient, powerful, German-built, and much more in an unassuming package.
The Bad Stuff (everything but the car)
So let’s get down to the negatives. Every single person who knew that I was going in for a VW warned me about their after sales service. And they weren’t wrong. Take a look at where they rank in the JD Power ratings for 2014:
- Last in the India Customer Service Index (CSI) Study (Mass Market)
- Last in the India Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study Mass Market
Nonetheless, I still went ahead convincing myself that the odds of something seriously going wrong with my car were minuscule to none. But I was wrong.
On the night of 3rd October 2014, my car came to a standstill in the middle of August Kranti Marg in New Delhi. The next morning a tow truck took my car to the closest VW workshop in Mohan Cooperative.
At first, I was promised that my car would be sent back to me in 2 days. But 5 days later I learned that the alternator had stopped working – a very rare breakdown. In fact so rare, that VW did not have a spare alternator in India! WTF? So now, I had to wait till the alternator arrived from Germany or Czech Republic or wherever!
In the meantime, I went to the workshop personally to check up on my car and to show my face, you know.. to scare them. They promised to keep me updated with the progress. Obviously they didn’t.
Two weeks later I get a call from the workshop informing me that my alternator has arrived and that my car will be ready for delivery the next day.
The next day, my car still wasn’t ready. Two days passed and I was still being given excuse after excuse. I found this very unprofessional. Tell me upfront what all needs to be done and how long it will take.
I got so frustrated waiting that I finally wrote to the Managing Director of VW India! Did I get a response? No. Did I get my car the next day? Yes!
Oh wait, you thought that was it? No, there’s more to come.
As it was a weekday, the good folk at the workshop promised to deliver my car to me. After waiting for three weeks, when my car finally pulled up, I couldn’t help but notice it covered in dust. As it turned out, my car hadn’t been cleaned in the three weeks it had been at the workshop. They just sent it over without even bothering to wipe the dust off. Again, very unprofessional. Isn’t this the most basic courtesy I can expect from a workshop? To clean my car?
And as I was inspecting the dust on my car, I noticed a scratch. Those damn bastards scratched my car!!! I just I lost my shit!
Big or small, I don’t care! For fucks sake, it’s a scratch and VW left it there!
Needless to say I was rude and livid when the feedback calls started coming. I raised my concern which got escalated to the Head of CRM of the workshop. After leaving me without a car for three weeks (which is quite crippling in Delhi) and then returning it without cleaning it along with a bonus scratch, I was furious at VW’s unprofessional service. As a consolation, VW offered me a 10% discount (on labour only) on my next servicing as a consolation – which would probably work out to 150 rupees (less than $3). They also gave me a pen and key-chain which feels like they were made with a hammer and chisel by some underpaid monkey. But they did offer to clean up my car and touch-up the scratch they left behind, which I still have to take them up on (wonder if they’ll even remember).
What VW has to realise is that the real relationship with the customer begins once you’ve sold the product. Customer service is as important if not more important than the product. If you sell me a crappy car and give me crappy service, I’d be ok because at least you’re being consistent. If you sell me an average car and give me incredible service, I’d keep coming back to you (Maruti and Hyundai). But if you sell me an great car with crappy service, I would think twice if I want to come back or recommend you without any reservations.
VW’s after-sales service in India is quite literally anti-German.
And I know that there are people out there who have had worse experiences than the one I had. Maybe they’d be happy to share their stories below.