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February 17, 2020

Review: 2020 Volkswagen Santana GTS 180 MPI SE Blaupunkt

I don’t want to admit it, but it’s clear: Volkswagen’s fumbling in the Philippine market. Most dare not say this out of fear of losing ad revenue, but I would be doing you, my dear reader, a great disservice if I didn’t say otherwise. If you want proof to see how far they’ve gone down, there’s no clearer sign than this: the Santana GTS. It’s a million-plus-peso hatchback/wagon that, frankly, shouldn’t exist.

The Santana, also offered in a Plainer Jane manual sedan variant ticks the right boxes. Priced at P 686,000, it’s not just enticing to fleet buyers, but also for those who’ve been aspiring to own a decent European-badged car. However, as you climb up the variant list, this sense of aspiration turns to exasperation. I mean, will anyone consider the Santana GTS’s longer roof worth the P 343,000 price jump?

Sure, it looks good enough in a corporate VW sort of way, and yes, it’s got a more flexible cargo hold than a traditional sedan, but putting those aside, it just doesn’t cut it in today’s design-driven market. At the very least, it should have been the automotive equivalent of vanilla ice cream—at the very least it makes for a nice, sweet ending to any meal. But this here is an ice cube. It chills your Coke, but it’s not something to jump for joy about. It’s not a spice, no sir. It’s a condiment.

Open the door, and the very same stern, emotionless treatment greets you. Vee Dub did try to give it some flair in the form of a flat-bottomed steering wheel, carbon fiber applique, and some red pinstriping on the dash, but overall, it’s drab-looking. As with any other car in this price range, the cabin’s plasticky, but at least the switches, knobs, and what have you feel solid and well-wearing. It’s also worth noting that while the driver’s seat moves six ways and the steering is adjustable for tilt, I couldn’t get comfy with it. This is the first car I’ve driven where I ended up having a sore right ankle because of being forced in an awkward angle in rush hour traffic.

It's not all bad with the Santana GTS though. Compared to other sub-compacts in the market, it, at least, fulfills some basic hygiene factors. It’s roomy for one, not just at the front, but even more at the back as well. There’s no center armrest back there, but at least there’s three adjustable headrests and three 3-point seatbelts. Another where it does well is cargo space, plus the rear seats can be dropped in a 60/40 split adding a degree of flexibility.

Driving-wise, the Santana GTS is mechanically solid, but is as plain as its looks. It’s purely a commuter car—designed to take you from Point A to Point B, but in the most innocuous manner possible. Compared to the base Santana MPI (the official designation of the manual transmission model), this Santana GTS 180 MPI SE adds 100-cc, bumping its outputs to 110 horsepower and 150 Nm of torque. It’s a strong motor, if a bit lacking in overall refinement. It makes short work of accelerating between intersections or traffic lights, but turns somewhat asthmatic when commanded with a full-throttle overtake.

Also, unlike the Santana MPI, the Santana GTS comes with Volkswagen’s BlueMotion technology, and for that adds the most horrible idle start/stop system I’ve ever encountered. It’s bad enough that it takes 2 to 4 seconds to re-start everything, but what makes it worse is the unpredictability. Do yourself a favor, and just turn the darn thing off. Naturally, expect the already horrid 7.8 km/L fuel mileage to drop down further.

Pain in my right ankle aside, at least the Santana GTS feels reasonably solid, and this is yet another hygienic factor it does right. The ride is firm, but never uncomfortable. Solidity is baked right into the chassis absorbing anything before it reaches the cabin. The steering, though a bit dull, is precise. Oh, and as the speeds build up, so does the level of confidence. It tends to pick up a bit more wind noise by the side mirrors once the needle goes past 80 km/h, but at least it has none of that floaty, hallow sensation that’s common in this class of car.

It's very clear at this point that the Santana GTS scores with its solid chassis. However, beyond its Teutonic solidness, it offers almost nothing remarkable or memorable for a car that costs P 1,029,000—unless you really, really need a sunroof on your sub-compact. Oh, and even opting out of the Blaupunkt audio package brings the price down by just P 31,000 to P 998,000.

And that’s the kicker right there. The Santana MPI made sense because it relied on its solid engineering and affordable positioning, together with its bigger than typical A-segment size and engine. In this top-trim Santana GTS form though, those advantages disappear. As it starts to get entangled in a segment dominated by competitors that offer more tangible, emotional differences be it design, technology, or connectivity, the Santana’s over reliance on its German underpinnings loses all its luster. Peel everything back and it does have solid foundations, but the house built on top of that is just too flimsy.

2020 Volkswagen Santana GTS 180 MPI SE
Ownership 2020 Volkswagen Santana GTS 180 MPI SE Blaupunkt
Year Introduced 2018
Vehicle Classification Sub-Compact Car
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basic
Body Type 5-door Wagon
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 110 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 150 @ 4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 7.8 km/L @ 13 km/h,
13.1 km/L @ 29 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,282
Width (mm) 1,706
Height (mm) 1,489
Wheelbase (mm) 2,603
Curb Weight (kg) 1,120
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Composite Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Tires Dunlop Enasave EC300 185/60 R 15 T (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features None
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps Yes, Front & Rear
Auto Lights No
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Manual, 6-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Fabric/Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Proximity Key No
Climate Control Yes, Manual
Audio System Stereo
SD Card
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes


  1. some car companies think the filipino consumer is unshopisticated and uninformed. they remove many features and bring dated cars, whereas in other markets where they are, they have updated cars. in china, Australia and south Africa, VW have polo, golf, Up and variants of their diverse line-up.

    1. The Santana was okay given the price...but I've never found love in the Santana GTS, Lavida, and Lamando.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I disagree with Ren. Only VW Philippines with their fake pretentiousness think that of the Filipino consumer. Imagine distributing a car brand that has top contenders among the different segments but decided that no, Filipinos will buy dated China "pang-taxi" vehicles just because they're cheap and it has the VW emblem. F these guys.

    4. Oh, btw- the fact that since replacing the marquee models with China domestic market models VW Phil still probably sold more Golf GTS than Santana GTS even at a higher price should tell you something.

      And that something is VW Philippine management is a bunch of idiots that deserve to be fired en masse for slowly killing the brand in RP. Good job, guys!

  2. So much for a brand that I longed for to make a comeback. They were so promising a few years ago and now their line-up is as drab as a shelf of premium toilet paper.

  3. Its just that Filipinos, go for cheap reliable cars since before, and they go for a Toyota right away. But for my first car I bought the VW Santana MPI just this year.

  4. It's a matter of time for the World's number One carmaker VW to make a dent in the most competitive auto market. They should keep pushing in the advertising media offering Low Down promo. Soon they people will realize to try it's product.

  5. Should be balanced, at least. The price is that of a TOTL Honda City or Mazda2, which have superior fuel economy, better to drive, more comfortable and more reliable.

    I for one thinks VW should've stuck with their offerings from Europe instead, and concentrated their efforts on the MPV/Van/Crossover market (Touran, NEW Tiguan, Caddy, Sharan, etc).

  6. Volkswagen has been in the industry for 87 years and built one of the best cars in the world.i believe VW is already making its presence felt in the country as i see VWs on the road already. Years back, Volkswagen was very famous in the country because of the Beetle, Kombi, Brasilia and Buggy. They need to bring back that affection of filipinos with VW

  7. How come there's no emission data on these China made VW's available anywhere?

  8. You want a Polo like Australia? You want a Golf like Australia? Then get ready to pay when you need spare parts:

    Oh, and the emissions debacle? Only a diesel thing. Of absolute non-relevance to the MPI engines in cars like the Santana.

  9. ayala should pirate the MG guys to right the sinking VW barge



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