Volkswagen Santana 1.4 MPI MT Review

The Volkswagen Santana has been around in the automotive market for a few years now. It was touted to be a Toyota Vios rival but with a bit of a European twist to it. While the Santana 1.4 MPI MT is the entry-level variant, it has a lot going for it in terms of being a great budget-friendly subcompact sedan. It comes with many of the features many Filipinos will want in the car and ticks the right boxes with its feature set especially with this model that we have reviewed that comes with a Blaupunkt sound system.

That being said, on to the review as we tackle what makes the Volkswagen Santana 1.4 MPI MT an attractive choice, its pros and cons, and why you should choose to get one if you are looking for something other than a Vios for your next daily driver.

3.8 / 5
2020 Volkswagen Santana 1.4 MPI MT Review
Engine Output (HP), Acceleration, Transmission, Handling
Exterior & Interior Design, Quality, Fit and Finish, Ergonomics
Ride Comfort
Cabin Comfort, Suspension, NVH Insulation
Safety and Technology
Convenience Technologies, Active and Passive Safety Features
Value for Money
Amount of the vehicle you get for the price, Fuel Efficiency
What You Will Like
  • Fuel efficient engine
  • Good sound system
  • Comfortable ride
What You Won't Like
  • No Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Dull Throttle Response
  • Subwoofer needs to be better secured
How We Do Our Reviews

In terms of design, the Volkswagen Santana is a lot tamer compared to its other competitors. Its design language is corporate but it works well with the car. The body lines are simple and there isn’t anything too flashy with the sedan. You do get halogen headlights at the front with a small horizontal grille. There are no foglights available on this variant but it's okay. Moving to the side and it's just another seat of clean body lines accompanied by 14-inch steel wheels with plastic covers. This is the entry-level variant after all and it was made on a budget so we understand that coming with steel wheels isn’t a bad thing. At the back, you get clean curves and bulb-type taillights. Overall, the Volkswagen Santana isn’t too flashy with is great for those who want a normal-looking vehicle.

Volkswagen Santana interior

Different strokes for different folks and we understand that not everyone can afford the top-of-the-line model. In the case of this entry-level Santana, its interior is gray and black, you do get a few scratchy plastics here and there but other than that everything works well. The materials are sturdy even for this older model that has seen some fair use and everything is where it's supposed to be. The controls are easily within reach and are easy to use. You don’t get drowned in technology unlike what is currently available in other markets on the market. It's refreshing as it comes with the necessities needed in a straightforward commuter car. 

Volkswagen Santana comfort

Ride comfort is great with the Volkswagen Santana as the suspension works well to keep the bumps and road imperfections all at bay. NVH is also good up until around 80km/h when the wind and tire noise starts to creep into the cabin. The seats are also decent in terms of comfort whether you are sitting in the front or at the back. One thing to note is that the bolstering can be a bit stiff for certain people but we found it to be just right. It's enough to hold you in place and support your back and sides on long trips. Another thing we noted is that the seats at the back can be a bit of a tight squeeze for three passengers as the transmission/ exhaust tunnel is a bit high and the seats extend a bit towards the middle to meet the tunnel. Other than that the sedan is overall comfortable.

Volkswagen Santana infotainment

At the heart of the dashboard of the Volkswagen Santana is a 7-inch infotainment system that comes with Android-based software. While this isn’t a bad thing it does take a bit of time to get used to as switching between applications can be a bit laggy. It does come with a screen mirroring feature and Waze installed by default. You will need to use a third-party application to use the screen mirroring function and your mobile phone’s mobile data hotspot to use Waze on the head unit. It's extra steps but the system will work well to get you where you need to go. 

One thing that the Volkswagen Santana has over its competitors is its Blaupunkt sound system. This gives the vehicle access to upgraded speakers along with an under-the-seat subwoofer. Tolerances are a bit tight when it comes to the wiring of the system so you need to make sure that all the wires are connected properly to benefit from the better sound quality. The sub itself isn’t attached to anything under the seat so it will move freely when driving. It also takes a bit out of the foot room for the rear left passenger.

While there are a few cons to the sound system, it benefits those looking for a more bassy sound in their vehicle. Just be wary that the wiring of the sub can come loose from time to time and it's best to find a permanent solution for it. 

Volkswagen Santana safety

The Volkswagen Santana 1.4 MPI comes with the industry standard when it comes to safety features. This means that the sedan has dual front airbags, ABS, ISOFIX points, and an engine immobilizer. In terms of safety, it's decent for what it carries and is on par with the models it fights against at its price point. 

Volkswagen Santana 14-inch steel wheels

Driving the Santana can be a bit of a challenge as the throttle response is a bit dull. It takes a bit more throttle input to get the revs up and it can be a bit of a challenge to rev match correctly when downshifting. However, the shifting action is smooth and the clutch’s biting point is something you can easily get used to. 

Cornering is great in the Santana as you can feel that the chassis is stiff and responsive to your directions. However, the steering is a bit numb so you might find it hard to know what the tires are doing. 

Regardless its handling characteristics are similar to that of the Toyota Vios which is a great benchmark. You can feel that the sedan was designed to be more on the comfortable side rather than the sporty side. This is further evident with the 1.4-liter gasoline engine as it produces 89hp and 132 Nm of torque. Power gets sent to the ground easily, but the motor does run out of steam towards the upper part of the rev range. It likes to stay in the lower to mid part of its rev range so you can benefit more from its mid-range torque. 

Overall the Volkswagen Santana with its 1.4-liter is a great city car. However, you might find power lacking when on the highway as it takes time to get up to overtaking speed especially if you are cruising at around 60km/L and want to overtake.

Volkswagen Santana engine

While the Santana is a bit down on power it more than makes up for it in terms of fuel economy. As the vehicle does not come with a trip or fuel computer we had to do the calculations via the full tank method. With our testing and our use of the vehicle, we were able to get 10km/L in the city following the sedan’s instructions to shift up early at an average speed of around 10km/h and we were able to get 21.4km/L on the highway with an average speed of 90km/h. All in all decent figures for a city-oriented sedan. 

Volkswagen Santana verdict

The Volkswagen Santana 1.4 MPI MT is priced at P686,000 which puts it right in contention with the likes of the mid-range Toyota Vios and entry-level Honda City, along with the lower variants of the MG 5. That being said, if it's put up against the 1.3-liter variants of the Vios then it presents itself as the better and slightly more powerful option. It delivers roughly the same levels of comfort as its Japanese counterparts but comes with the benefit of a better sound system. 

Overall the Santana is great for an entry-level European subcompact sedan, it checks all the right boxes that Filipinos want from a vehicle of its price point. It's frugal on gasoline, comes with a bassy sound system, and is comfortable as well. It is a worthy competitor to the Vios and is an underrated option for those looking to get a subcompact sedan. 

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