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The Volkswagen Santana in China; a History

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Volkswagen announced an all-new Santana for the Chinese market, it will debut in 2013. Time so for a short history on the current Santana, made by the Shanghai-Volkswagen joint venture since 1985. There was the original Santana, the Santana Variant, the Santana 2000, the Santana 3000 and the Santana Vista. We take a look at all of ‘m. On the first pic a party in Shanghai when the very first China-made Santana rolls off the assembly line.

Volkswagen Santana China

This is the original Shanghai-Volkswagen Santana, based on the German Volkswagen Passat B2. Production started in 1985. First engine was a 1.6 with 87hp. In 1987 Volkswagen added a 1.8 with 94hp. The 1.6 however continued all the way until 2006. Size: 4546/1690/1427, wheelbase is 2548.

The original Santana is still on the market today, powered by the 1.8, price starts around 50.000 yuan. Sales are still good, Shanghai-Volkswagen made some 70.000 in 2011. That indeed is 26 years of the Passat Santana sedan in China, but in the meantime a lot more Santana happened:

Volkswagen Santana Variant China

Production of the Santana Variant started in 1987 and was immediately popular with police and all other kinds of government services. The Variant was powered by the 1.8. The Santana sedan did also fine with the government but the biggest buyers were taxi fleets.

Volkswagen Santana 2000 China

Next up was the Shanghai-Volkswagen Santana 2000. Not based on the original Santana but on the Brazilian-build Volkswagen do Brasil Santana 2000. Production started in 1995. The China-made Santana had a slightly longer wheelbase and longer rear-doors.

Volkswagen Santana 2000 China

Power came from the 1.8 which now delivered 97hp. Size: 4680/1700/1423, wheelbase was 2656. The Santana 2000 was not a replacement for the Santana, it was an addition. The Santana 2000 was seen as a slightly bigger and more luxurious Santana. Price started around some 90.000 yuan.

The Shanghai-Volkswagen Santana 3000 arrived in 2004, succeeding the Santana 2000. The redesign was done not by Volkswagen in Germany but, for the first time, by the Shanghai-Volkswagen joint venture itself.

Volkswagen Santana 3000 China

Lotta fake wood in dash, fake wood was indeed very much the fashion in those years, all China-made cars had it. Nowadays the fake-wood things is fortunately mostly gone. The Santana 2000 also got a new engine; a 2.0 with 107hp. The 1.8 continued.

Volkswagen Santana Vista China

The Santana 2000 proved to be short lived because its replacement, the Santana Vista, arrived in 2008. Design was again done by the Shanghai-Volkswagen joint venture.

Volkswagen Santana Vista China

Power came from the 1.8, the 2.0 and… the original 1.6. Yez, Volkswagen brought is back from the museum the create an entry-level Santana 3000. The Santana Vista (Zhijun in Chinese) is still on the market today. Price starts at 58.900 yuan and ends at 79.800 yuan.

Volkswagen Santana Vista China

Dash toned down a bit…

Volkswagen Santana Vista China

Altogether some 3.5 million Santana, 2000, 3000 and Vista have been made in China since production started in 1985. Many of the early cars are still on the road. The Santana earned Volkswagen a strong reputation as a maker of reliable no-frills automobiles. The new Santana will be judged harshly by Chinese media and car buyers alike, let’s hope it is good enough the carry the Santana-badge. Debut likely at the 2013 Shanghai Auto Show.

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  1. Great article Tycho, thanks! I would recommend Martin Posth’s ‘1000 Days in Shanghai’ for also some interesting information about the Santana and how it helped VW dig it’s heels into the Chinese market.

  2. i heard in china original boxy Santana is available to fleet users now more like last moments of Ford Crown Vics, and we can only see them hauled by trailers with taxi paintings.

  3. I visit Shenzhen, China a couple of times a year and use the taxis there fairly often and more often then not they are a VW Santana Vista. These cars are incredible, they almost seem indestructible, the way the drivers boogie around around town and they seem to be able to start off in a a high gear. One particular heart pounding ride from the airport into town I found out that they really do move, our driver was doing a great impression of Mario Andretti (sp), but the car really ripped along and just like an A2 Jetta, it had no problems what so ever when it was into the triple digits. If I ever found myself spending more time in China I would consider buying one.


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