REVIEW DATE: 06 Oct 2010
Convertibles and fuel economy aren't a natural match but Volkswagen is seeking to change that with its Eos BlueMotion Technology. Steve Walker reports.
45mpg is nothing special by the standards of modern eco-cars but if you could achieve it in a good-sized folding hard-top convertible that felt solidly built and reasonably nippy to drive, would you be interested? Volkswagen hopes you will because it's put together just such a combination in the guise of its Eos BlueMotion Technology.
What's the point in helping to control air pollution levels by running a low emissions car when you spend most of your time cooped-up inside the car unable to enjoy all that lovely fresh air you've helped create? Aside from the cheaper tax, the improved fuel economy and the general glow of self satisfaction that come with a more environmentally-friendly vehicle, there isn't one. That's why we can all be thankful that Volkswagen has moved to address this with its Eos BlueMotion Technology. This is the green car that puts its driver firmly in touch with the fruits of its labours by also being a convertible.
If the environmentally-friendly car is the hair shirt of the automotive world, the convertible is a pair of high fashion designer sunglasses. Any style expert worthy of their daytime TV series would advise against combining the two but Volkswagen paid no heed and just steamed off down the catwalk with the Eos BlueMotion Technology.
The combination brings VW's mid-sized folding hard-top convertible, a car that shares components with both the Golf and the Passat, together with the marque's popular BlueMotion eco-brand. BlueMotion-badged vehicles are commonplace throughout the Volkswagen range and usually feature an economical engine along with a series of modifications designed to enhance its efficiency. The Eos version is no exception.
"This is the green car that puts its driver firmly in touch with the fruits of its labours by also being a convertible.."
The Eos differs from other BlueMotion Volkswagens in two ways. Firstly, it's a convertible and secondly it's powered by a petrol engine. Diesel is usually the preferred choice for anyone wanting to achieve the lowest possible fuel consumption and emissions but despite a 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine being available in the wider Eos range, the BlueMotion Technology runs on petrol. Not just any petrol engine though. Power is supplied by a 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged unit with 120bhp and, thanks partly to the turbo assistance, 200Nm of torque. The engine is widely used in VW Group products and manages to extract decent performance and economy from its comparatively small capacity. In the Eos BlueMotion Technology, it can cover the 0-60mph sprint in 10.9s and hit a 121mph top speed.
Cars with folding hard-top roofs don't always adhere to the highest standards of ride and handling. The Eos, though, is one of the better efforts currently available. The ride quality is superb, the shudders and shakes that afflict so many roofless wonders having been banished over all but the worst road imperfections. It handles competently and there's loads of grip, though this isn't a car you'll often want to drive just for the fun of it. The Eos doesn't feel like a convertible once its roof is in place. It's quiet and a glance skyward reveals a convincing looking ceiling. Roof down, refinement isn't a problem, especially during the sort of low-speed cruising that lets bystanders get an eyeful of the car's impressive looks.
The acid test of any folding metal top car is in how it looks with the roof in place. Many models of this kind have huge and rather ugly rear ends so that they can accommodate typically three large roof pieces. Volkswagen's thinking was to split the top into five sections so that the resulting 'sandwich' when down would fit into a much smaller space, promoting both style and luggage capacity. Has it worked? Well yes and no. Not in terms of luggage capacity: there's as little as you would expect to find in this class of car - either 205 or 380-litres of luggage space, depending on whether the roof is down. There is however, more rear seat passenger space than rivals offer with more backseat headroom than you might expect with the roof up: four adults could travel quite comfortably in this car as long as the distance wasn't too long.
The roof mechanism is worked by an electro-hydraulic pump with no fewer than eight hydraulic cylinders. That all sounds very complicated but it certainly seems to work smoothly enough, the 25-second opening or closing operation creating an effect that still makes pedestrians stand and stare. There's even the option of doing it remotely via the keyfob. Just make sure that there isn't anyone too close behind when setting the whole thing off.
There's a distinction to make with Volkswagen's BlueMotion range. The manufacturer offers both heavily modified BlueMotion models and less extreme eco-cars that it dubs BlueMotion Technology. This Eos falls into the latter category and can be ordered in a choice of S and SE trim levels at prices less than £400 more than standard 1.4-litre models. With the S, there's ESP stability control, air-conditioning, front fog lights, 16" alloy wheels and a sunroof cleverly integrated into the folding hardtop roof. The SE adds 17" alloys, sports seats, parking sensors, automatic headlights and automatic wipers for a premium of £1,100.
The Eos sells at a premium of around £1,000 or so over what you'd pay for a comparably-engined Ford Focus CC or Peugeot 308 CC - that is if you're comparing list prices. Ford and Vauxhall dealers will be more open to sharpening their pencils of course - but then their products will depreciate much faster. Do all your sums and many will see VW's premium over the mainstream as being well worth paying for a better quality product that offers most of what you get in the next class up for a significant saving.
In the Eos BlueMotion Technology, the 1.4 TSI petrol engine is mated to a six-speed gearbox and features both regenerative braking technology which recaptures kinetic energy to charge the battery and a start/stop system that turns off the engine when the vehicle is stationary. There's also a gear change recommendation that flashes up ion the dash telling you the most efficient gear to be in. The result of all this is combined cycle economy of 45.6mpg and emissions of 144g/km. It's still not enough to better the non-BlueMotion diesel Eos (which gives you another 6mpg on the combined cycle) but that engine can be a little raucous for a convertible and it's more expensive.
One of the last things you'd fit to a car that you wanted to return good fuel economy and low emissions would be a folding hard-top roof. The presence of that weighty roof mechanism stops Volkswagen's Eos BlueMotion Technology from ranking amongst the greenest cars around but it is one of the most efficient convertible cars you can lay your hands on and one of the best at the £20,000 price point.
The modifications made to the Eos BlueMotion Technology are barely noticeable but the savings in running costs will certainly add-up over time. If you want a convertible car but would like to keep the wind in your hair as free from carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulates as possible, this Volkswagen is a decent bet.
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