Brazil was once VW’s home away from home. Here, it felt loved and welcome. It controlled 50 percent of the market. Time passed. An Italian upstart arrived and eventually robbed it of first place by being more agile. VW meanwhile grew bigger appetites and found a new home in China. Brazil, the ex-favorite, the dark, mysterious, tropical, big bosomed former love affair relies on the crumbs that fall off the table of the slanted-eye enchantress.
Bertel Schmitt broke the news. He revealed that the Santana, Volkswagen’s engagement present for the Chinese lover, will find its way into homes all over lands south of the Rio Grande. It could eventually vie for the attention of those who live in the better-off portions of the Americas. Why not? Nissan’s Versa has proven that Americans are game. The VW Santana is nothing more than VW’s take on that car. A car that occupies a segment that is growing the world over. The B-segment sized car sold at A-segment sized prices. Right here on TTAC, I’ve covered more than a few of those cars. VW’s Santana will follow the trail blazed by Chevy’s Cobalt, Renault’s Logan, Nissan’s Versa, Peugeot’s 301 and even Fiat’s Grand Siena (another pretender for a place in Americans’ heart), not to mention the Toyota Etios, extensively and expertly covered by our own Bertel Schmitt.
According to reports on Brazilian enthusiast sites bestcars.com.br and webmotors.com.br, the car doesn’t quite follow the recipe first conceived by the Franco-Romanian collaboration of Renault-Dacia. Differently from Renault, Nissan, Fiat, Toyota and Chevrolet (which used their all new global small car platforms in a dedicated way to produce really brand-new spanking cars), the VW Santana sits on a time-tested (and by now fully amortized) PQ24 platform. Incontrast to Bertel’s report, Brazilian websites say that this and not the more modern PQ25 will be used. I tried to clear this up at VW Brasil. The nice folks there were not talking. In fact, they denied the car is even coming. Veteran VW do Brasil watchers, however, point out that when Volkswagen in Brazil denies something, it means it’s true. Time will tell then.
Stretching out the PQ24 platform, the new car is bigger than the Polo Sedan and smaller than the Jetta. It measures 4.47 m (14.67 ft.) in length, 1.71 m (5.61 ft.) in width, is 1.47 m (4.82 ft.) tall and, more importantly, has a wheelbase of 2.6 (8.53 ft.) m. In this case, VW closely follows the script written by earlier entrants into this segment. VW has also followed the unofficial class rules and has chosen to provide an uninspired design that helps keep production costs low. Inside, hard plastics and skimpy instrumentation alongside chrome bits that show potential buyers that it’s a cut above the lowly hatchbacks that dominate the base echelons of Third World markets.
To be launched at the Guangzhou Salon in China this year, in that country it will sold as of December. The Santana will come with 1.4 and 1.6 engines and a mechanical transmission with 5 gears or an auto with 6. In Brazil, rumors have it that it’ll make use of the locally made 1.6 and the Jurassic 2.0 offered on lowlier Jettas. Gearboxes will be the same mechanical 5-speed, though the 2.0 could come mated to a full 6-speed auto. Automated transmissions should also be available.
Guaranteed to create confusion, the car could either be called Santana or Jetta, depending on the market. In Brazil, VW will go with Santana and sales should start in the second half of 2013. As this car will kill the Polo and be placed below the Mexican-built Jetta, VW reasons that by using this hallowed name, it will be easier to convince Brazilians to part with their money. If you feel that this a cheap shot that only the most obtuse will not see through, I won’t argue.
In short, a car built to a price point. Using proven and cheap mechanicals while offering space for families looking for room or some degree of prestige for those who want to be seen as a step ahead of those in their A-segment hatches and sedans. A sure hit.
[Editor’s note: The news that both the new Chinese Jetta and the new Chinese Santana will be based on Volkswagen’s latest A0 Quer Platform A05, a.k.a. PQ25, and not on the previous gen A04/PQ24 version, was not broken by Bertel Schmitt. Carnewschina had it from Autocar The Brits allegedly test drove the new Jetta and wrote that both the new Chinese Jetta and the new Chinese Santana “are underpinned by a heavily reworked version of the Polo’s PQ25 platform with a more rugged torsion beam rear axle to cope with China’s unique road conditions.”
As Marcelo said, time will tell whether British Autocar or Brazilian Bestcar is right. Honest to Buddha, I have no idea what of the story is true, and I know better than to ask Volkswagen what platform a car will be built on when it hasn’t been announced yet. All I know is that China’s Gasgoo wrote two weeks ago:
“Shanghai VW's new Santana and FAW-VW's new Jetta, respectively codenamed VW253 and VW253-2, are already in the works. Despite the fact that they are being designed separately, they will both share the PQ25 platform, which is currently used in the VW Polo and Skoda Fabia.”
But then, what does Gasgoo know. They also write that “the original Santana was the first model Shanghai VW imported from Brazil.” Humbug. The first Shanghai Santanas were built from CKD kits shipped from Germany, soon thereafter, everything was built locally.
PQ24 or PQ25 does not matter anyway. Either would be a vast improvement over the previous platforms that were born when yours truly was a budding copywriter. And that was a long, long time ago.
The current Chinese Santana is based on the old, 1970s style B2 platform, which was basically the same as that of the old Audi 80/4000. The Santana was reworked several times.
The current Chinese Jetta is based on Volkswagen’s likewise antique A2 platform. Think back to the disco age and Golf Mk2, and you are right there. Generation Why: That was before your parents had sex.
Both Jetta and Santana led the seller lists in China well into the new millennium, giving SAIC and FAW little incentive to spend the money on something new. Most of Shanghai’s taxi fleet is still Santana-based. Beijing’s taxi fleet was an ocean of Jettas, until they were washed-out by a flood of Beijing-built Hyundais.]