The Volkswagen Santana is a subcompact sedan that replaces the Polo nameplate in the Philippines. It dates back to 1984, when Volkswagen releases a notchback saloon (three-box sedan) that was based on the second-generation Passat. Since then, it had various nameplates depending on the region it was in. However, in Asia and Latin America, it is very much well-received as the Santana.
Unlike the Polo, the Santana looks a lot similar like its compact counterpart, Jetta. The bumper, as well as the headlights and chrome-accented grille, is almost as close as with the compact sedan’s. Volkswagen's launch of the Santana is aimed directly to rival well-established subcompact sedans in the country, such as the Honda City and the Toyota Vios. The cabin offers this simple yet Volkswagen-class feel. There's a height adjustment feature for the driver's seat, a straight-forward three-spoke steering wheel, adjustable steering column, as well as a pollen filter on the air-conditioning system.
The Volkswagen Santana was initially launched in May of 2018 as a sole manual transmission variant, along with other Volkswagen cars that are manufactured in China. As the entry-level sedan of Volkswagen Philippines, it replaced the Polo as the most affordable vehicle in the lineup.
In September of the same year, Volkswagen PH added the AT version of the Santana, which has a bigger engine but with a tad heftier price tag.
Platform, Chassis and Powertrain
The Santana rides on Volkswagen’s A05 platform that’s shared with the Jetta. Under the hood, the Santana either has a 1.4L MPI or the more powerful 1.5L MPI gasoline power plants. The 1.4L produces 89 hp and 132 Nm torque, while the 1.5L churns out 109 hp and 150 Nm torque, with the smaller engine mated to a 5-speed manual and the bigger one connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Both variants are front-wheel drive, while the suspension setup is McPherson independent in front and composite torsion beam semi-independent at the rear. Front and rear brakes are ventilated discs and drums, respectively.
89 hp, 132 Nm of torque (1.4L)
109 hp, 150 Nm of torque (1.5L)
The 1.4L manual version of the Santana behaves like a proper city sedan, good enough for daily driving duties. The cabin is quiet even when idle, but the clutch has a high biting point. The automatic variant, on the other hand, delivers more power from its 1.5L mill. Its 6-speed automatic transmission delivers power without hesitation.
Handling-wise, both versions of the Santana are easy to drive and maneuver within the city. Out in the open, the cars stay composed but with few corrections with the steering. It’s also a plus that the Santana AT comes with cruise control, which made highway stints more relaxing.
The Santana MT comes with bare necessities that are useful for daily driving. The Santana AT, on the other hand, has extras, including a Blaupunkt infotainment system with offline navigation. The system doesn’t have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but you can pair up your smartphone using its Bluetooth function.
Other tech features found in the Santana are the idle start/stop engine feature and cruise control – features not commonly found in subcompact sedans.
The Santana features a straightforward design – full of straight lines and unbent character lines. This non-conforming styling makes the car look timeless as it would take some time before this design gets old. The car comes with halogen headlights and foglight while sitting on 15-inch alloys (AT) and 14-inch steelies (MT).
As with the exterior, the Volkswagen Santana’s interior has a no fuzz styling that never gets old. Flanked with horizontal lines, the dashboard is simple, which invokes a touch of class. However, the choice of materials in the cabin isn’t too classy as the layout.
The Santana AT variants are upholstered with gray leather, as opposed to the fabric trims in the MT variant.
The Santana comes with dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, and stability control. It also comes with ISOFIX child tethers at the back, which is good news for those who will be traveling with a child.
Pros & Cons
What you’ll like in the Santana, whether it’s the manual or automatic variant that you’re looking at, is its timeless and non-conforming design. You’ll also like its maneuverability within the city, while the presence of auto start/stop engine and cruise control are a welcome surprise in the subcompact class.
As for the lows, the Santana can improve further in its choice of materials within the cabin. It could use some masking of the hard plastics. The MT variant needs some tweaking with its clutch height, as well.
Our Verified Buyer Reviews come from confirmed customers that have had their purchase registered on the AutoDeal platform.
Jan Emille Tena
Volkswagen Santana 1.4 MPI MT
Purchased from Volkswagen, Sta Rosa
December 21, 2020
Classic and simplicity at its best.
Its power won’t disappoint you. Good for city driving and BEAST in long drives lalo kapag full loaded sa passenger and cargo. Super tipid pa......
Classic and simplicity at its best.
Its power won’t disappoint you. Good for city driving and BEAST in long drives lalo kapag full loaded sa passenger and cargo. Super tipid pa sa Gas!
For its safety, well it is on the fair side, walang tech features but hey, once you’re inside and on full control of the car?! Mapapa “hayahay ang buhay” ka. Air conditioning is superb! ‘Yung frame sya especially on side doors, you will definitely feel na matibay sya and my friends tells me whenever they ride in my VW Car, sabi nila “wow pre parang SUV yung feel sa pagsara ng pinto” hehe
Caco’s review was like a mirror image when i tested the car..and a validation after i purchased it..the looks cannot compete with the japanese car.but heck..it will last longer..pr......
Caco’s review was like a mirror image when i tested the car..and a validation after i purchased it..the looks cannot compete with the japanese car.but heck..it will last longer..premium feels but super affordable price...
Ask our team of experts any question and we will do our best to give you the best answer possible.
Is the Santana's trunk the biggest in its class?
The Santana has a very spacious luggage space. In fact, it's the biggest in its class. However, the Santana doesn't have folding rear seats, which means that it doesn't have a flexible cargo area.
Does the Santana come in manual transmission only?
Initially, Volkswagen Philippines brought in the Santana with a 1.4L gasoline engine that's connected to a 5-speed manual transmission. The company, however, added 1.5L variants that have a 6-speed automatic gearbox.
Does the Santana come with a touchscreen stereo?
There are variants of the Santana that come with a 2DIN stereo. Volkswagen, however, offers the subcompact sedan with an option to upgrade to a touchscreen Blaupunkt infotainment system.
Which country makes the VW Santana?
The Volkswagen Santana is made in China in collaboration with SAIC Motor Group.
Are the Santana and the Polo the same?
No, the Santana isn't the same as the Polo. However, the Santana stands as the replacement of the Polo sedan on Volkswagen Philippines' lineup.
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