Function key: 2021 Volkswagen Santana 180 MPI AT SE

Function key: 2021 Volkswagen Santana 180 MPI AT SE

Volkswagen Philippines is marketing the VW Santana as your introduction to “German engineering,” “luxury” and the “today car.” Does that mean that the Volkswagen Santana is every little bit of Volkswagen as any other Veedub?

Yes, the VW Santana may not be your mainstream Golf, Polo or even classic Beetle, but being a global car does have its advantages, and the VW Santana 180 MPI AT opens up a world of possibilities for you, and getting your foot in the door for the brand.

VW Santana Trunk

Starting with how it looks, the Volkswagen Santana won’t tug on any heartstrings, let alone be on a wall poster or desktop background of any teenage boy or girl.

And I’ll tell you exactly what I mean

Exterior

The design language of the Santana is as straightforward as you can get. Sharp, straight lines all around with nary any drama to get the blood pumping. Measuring 4475mm long, 1706mm wide, and 1469mm tall, the Santana features boxy styling that’s reminiscent of contemporary offerings from VW. Large halogen headlamps are the order of the day, flanking a nice, uniform grille with the large VW badge, The lower grill sits in between nicely appropriated fog lamps, and the bonnet seems to mimic a power bulge, but not quite.

VW Santana Head Lamp

Germans are most well known for their efficiency and no-nonsense approach to, well, everything and If you want to be convinced that the Santana is 100% German engineered, this design should wipe away all your doubts and fears. 

VW Santana Tail Lamps

The side provides an equally dry-looking profile with the monotony only broken by a sharp belt-line that runs across laterally from the tip of the headlamps to the rear tail lamps. Fifteen-inch mags shod in 185 60 R15 tires look dinky in an age where 16 inches are the norm, but I appreciate the inclusion of bright side mirror-integrated turn lamps.

VW Santana Badge

You really shouldn’t be expecting much with the design of the VW Santana. The overall look evokes a sense of pragmatic, utilitarian design, and simple aesthetics. And that continues over to the rear with straightforward tail clusters as well as reflectors at the bottom. At least they have this nice remote opening to access the boot space. We weren’t able to get the exact number of liters it can handle but I tried fitting 12 empty slim water jugs in there and it can handle all that plus more with no problem.

Interior

I can see the Santana fitting three of me abreast in the back with no problem. I like how the seats are designed with this checkered pattern in the mid section of the seats. The totally iconic Golf GTI has similar plaid seats and I think VW is trying to evoke the same design language in their lower tier models. I feel bad for the passengers not having any AC vents or USB ports in the back, but bottle holders on each side of the door and in the middle, as well as their very own dome light, are great additions all in all.  The lack of a 60:40 split-and-fold function for rear seats is a bummer but at least it has ample leg room and knee room as well as space for three passengers.

VW Santana Interior

If the exterior design of the Santana is more, ho hum, You can’t help but feel impressed at how the interior is put together. It certainly is better molded than your average subcompact sedan. You won’t be finding any soft-touch materials on the dashboard, but at least the entire cabin is ergonomic with the buttons and gauges nicely laid out. Being a European car, the light switches are dials on the far left of the drivers side, while the stalks are used to control the wipers and cruise control. It also has manual AC controls, a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay but, sadly, not Android Auto. The Volkswagen Santana also has six speakers, a USB port for smartphone integration and charging a small, stowable center armrest with space for small items and adjustable steering wheel.

VW Santana Infotainment

The steering wheel, sadly, is only adjustable for rake and not reach. But with manual controls on the seats, it’s easy to find your ideal driving position. You also have media controls on the flat-bottom steering wheel. The overall design is refreshingly normal, wonderfully well-built as all Volkswagen vehicles are (and should be). I’ve always been a fan of how VW gauges are laid out, with brightly lit panels and a center screen for your trip information. I know VW is trying its best to give new drivers the complete VW experience, and I appreciate how it hasn’t compromised too much with the design. The sunroof may be small and dinky, but I’m glad it has one. However, this dial takes some time to get used to. I thought it was for the center dome light,  but it was for the sunroof. With all the rain we’ve been having lately, I was actually drenched!

VW Santana Seats

Safety and performance

Safety features include your standard airbags (four of them to be exact), ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution with hill start assist, stability control, rear parking sensors, Isofix anchors, a tire pressure monitoring system and three-point seatbelts for all passengers.

VW Santana Driving

Under the hood, you get a 1.5-liter four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine, that makes 108hp and 150Nm of torque with Bluemotion — VW's automatic engine shutoff feature to save on fuel. While I have to commend VW for adding Bluemotion technology on the Santana, I find the system a bit too jarring, with the transition so abrupt that driving in traffic-ridden Metro Manila with it is just too disturbing. Luckily, there’s a button just above the shifter column here to shut it off, but by default it is activated so always keep that in mind.

VW Santana Shifter

Driving the Santana, you can’t help but appreciate the smooth drive it does offer. It kind of feels like you’re driving a European car, which this most definitely is. Independent MacPhersons up front and a semi-independent torsion beam in the rear provide a smooth and even ride. 

VW Santana Side Mirror

Steering is responsive, which isn’t something I can say for many of its competition. Direct feedback and responsiveness are the Santana’s strong suits. Power delivery is also, surprisingly, sprightly for a small car. Horsepower and torque figures may be par for the course but thanks to the finely tuned six-speed automatic transmission, the engine knows what gear it needs to be at any particular moment. 

VW Santana Light Switch

If you need more power, shift it down to S mode just below the D on the shifter and you will instantly feel the Santana’s acceleration and driving characteristics change. There are no paddle switches or shift slots to change it on your own, but it does keep the revs longer and detects if your right foot needs to stay at a particular gear longer. 

VW Santana Rear Quarter

Fuel economy for the Santana is tested at around 9kpl in the city and 14kpl on the highway, which is par for the course for subcompact sedans. To be totally honest with you, I totally misjudged the Santana just because of its tad-unexciting look. But just because a car looks like, well, a car means it's boring. I really enjoyed the  Santana.

Conclusion

Pricing for the VW Santana starts at P686,000 for the entry-level variant that comes with a smaller 1.4-liter engine, a manual transmission and tinier 14-inch mags. If you want the 1.5-liter engine with the six-speed automatic, you’ll have to step up to the 180 S variant for P898,000 while this top-of-the-line SE Trim goes for P962,000. 

VW Santana Front

The competition includes the best-selling but dime-a-dozen Toyota Vios, all-new but more expensive Honda City, aging Mazda 2, Korean twins Kia Soluto and Hyundai Reina as well as dark horses MG 5 and Changan Alsvin

VW Santana Profile

I’ve written a lot of jokes about the VW Santana, but after driving it and appreciating it for exactly what it is, I’ve decided to throw them all out entirely. I have severely misjudged this car. Truly, the only way to really know what a car is all about is through a test drive.

SPECIFICATIONS

Volkswagen Santana 180 MPI AT SE

Model Year

2021

Vehicle Classification

Sub-Compact Sedan

Warranty

3 years / 100,000 kilometers

Under the Hood

 

Engine Model

EA211

Type

1.5-liter I-4 Gasoline DOHC  Engine

Power

109 hp @ 6,000 RPM

Torque

150 Nm @ 4,000 RPM

Fuel Capacity

55 Liters

Transmission

6-Speed Automatic Transmission

 

Drive

Front-Wheel Drive

Tested Fuel Economy City

9 km/l

Tested Fuel Economy Highway

14 km/l

Chassis

 

Brakes

F - Ventilated Discs; R - Drum

Front Suspension

F - Independent Macpherson; R- Semi-independent Composite Torsion Beam

Wheelbase

2,603 mm

Wheels

15-inch

Tires

185/60/r15 

Dimensions

 

Length

4,475 mm

Width

1,706 mm

Height

1,469 mm

Ground Clearance

- mm

Kerb Weight

1,160 kg

Exterior

 

Headlamps

Halogen

Foglamps

Yes; Halogen

Side Mirrors

Power-adjustable with Turn Signals

Daytime Running Lamps

No

Body Kit

None

Interior

 

Instrument Gauge Cluster

Traditional Analog with Digital Screen

Infotainment System

7-inch HD Touchscreen with Apple CarPlay

Adjustable Steering

Yes; Tilt

Passengers

5

Power Adjustable Seats

No

A/C System

Manual

 

Steering Controls

Yes

Speakers

6

Interior Material

Leather/Fabric

USB ports

Yes

Power Sockets

Yes; 12V

Safety

 

Airbags

Yes; 4 airbags

ABS with EBD and Brake Assist

Yes

Traction Control

No

Stability Control

Yes

Hill-Start Assist

Yes

Hill-Descent Control

No

Seatbelts

F - 3-point with pre-tensioner; R - Rear 3-point Seatbelts for 3 Occupants

Rear Defogger

Yes

Remote Start

No

Immobilizer

Yes

Forward Collision Warning

No

Autonomous Emergency Braking

No

Adaptive Cruise Control

Yes; with speed limiter

Automatic Headlamp Levelling

Manual

Lane Departure Warning

No

Rear Cross Traffic Alert

No

Parking Assist

No

PRICE

 Click here for the latest prices

 

Photos by Roy Robles

Explore Volkswagen Santana

Volkswagen Car Models

  • Volkswagen Santana
    Volkswagen Santana
  • Volkswagen Lavida
    Volkswagen Lavida
  • Volkswagen Lamando
    Volkswagen Lamando
  • Volkswagen Santana GTS
    Volkswagen Santana GTS
  • Volkswagen T-Cross
    Volkswagen T-Cross
  • Volkswagen Multivan Kombi
    Volkswagen Multivan Kombi
Volkswagen Cars

Coronavirus

Latest Volkswagen Santana Car Videos on Zigwheels

Zigwheels
Watch Volkswagen Santana Car Videos

Compare & Recommended

Trending Sedan

  • Upcoming