REVIEW DATE: 03 Nov 2009
Volkswagen's Golf is at its greenest in BlueMotion form. Steve Walker reports.
At one extreme of its ever-popular Golf family hatchback range, Volkswagen has the GTI and GTD models. These go exceedingly quickly and come festooned with desirable trinkets to turn the hardnosed showroom visitor in to a weak-kneed cheque-signing machine. Taking an entirely different tack, we have the Golf BlueMotion. It's less likely to reduce prospective buyers to putty in the sales team's hands with its power and panache but could be just as compelling on a more cerebral level. BlueMotion is the Golf for people more concerned with mpg than mph.
BlueMotion has become a big brand within Volkswagen, rolled out across all of the marque's mainstream product lines. Its arrival coincided with a shift in the priorities of car buyers towards fuel efficiency and low running costs and its aim is to deliver both without tarnishing the polish of the Volkswagen ownership experience in any meaningful way. Some BlueMotion models have done this more successfully than others. The basic premise is to make lots of small alterations which combine to have a big effect on the car's efficiency. Early BlueMotion efforts took quite dramatic steps to save weight, removing features that most buyers would have preferred left in situ, and relied on somewhat dated engine technology. Both issues look to have been addressed by the latest Golf BlueMotion cars, with buyers no longer required to make major sacrifices to obtain the headline-making fuel economy.
The aging 1.9-litre direct injection diesel engine that formed the basis of early BlueMotion Golfs has chugged away to meet the Volkswagen factory-trained technician in the sky. Its successor is the altogether smarter and more youthful 1.6 TDI common-rail diesel. In the Golf, this engine is available in 90PS and 105PS guises but, rather counter intuitively for the most fuel efficient model in the range, it's the 105PS version that sits up front in the BlueMotion. Performance is far from shabby with an 11.3s 0-62mph time and a 118mph top speed. There's also torque of 250Nm from just 1,500rpm, so this isn't an eco-car that's going to nullify its environmental benefits by forming a lengthy queue of traffic in its wake.
"The 74.3mpg that the Golf BlueMotion returns on the combined cycle will do all the convincing that many customers need"
But what about the fuel economy and CO2 returns vital to the appeal of a car of this kind? Well this is where it starts getting slightly more complicated. A standard Golf 1.6 TDI with 105PS returns 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and puts out 119g/km. But your Volkswagen dealer will also sell you a 'BlueMotion Technology' version that manages 68.9mpg and 107g/km. This comes in Golf hatch, estate and practical Golf Plus guises, but if you're happy to simply choose the standard three or five-door hatch bodystyle, then you can consider the fully-fledged Golf BlueMotion variant we're primarily looking at here. Thanks to a Start/Stop system, regenerative braking, hill hold, longer gear ratios, low rolling resistance tyres and a multifunction computer showing recommended gear changes for maximum economy, this model is able to go a step further than its stablemates: how does 74.3mpg and 99g/km of CO2 grab you?
To avoid confusing buyers any more, Volkswagen has kitted out its most frugal flagship Golf BlueMotion hatch with a sports styling kit to improve aerodynamics and boost efficiency. This kit comprises sports bumpers, side skirts and an enlarged rear roof spoiler as well as 15-inch 'Wellington' alloy wheels, cherry red rear lights, chrome grille louvres and BlueMotion badges at the front and rear of the vehicle. Less welcome is the news that to reduce weight further and therefore aid efficiency, the car comes with a tyre repair kit rather than a spare wheel.
The interior of the BlueMotion is identical to that of the standard models. Quality soft-touch plastics are everywhere and virtually every available button or dial gets its own chrome border. The instruments that used to illuminate in blue on the MkV models are now bright white but the overall shape of the dash is similar to that in the previous generation Golf. The advancement in refinement can be partly attributed to a special design for the door and window seals, a damping film that supports the windscreen and a clever engine mounting system.
Choosing a BlueMotion Volkswagen no longer means consigning yourself to a car with precious few mod-cons. This model comes with ABS, ESP, seven airbags, Climatic semi-automatic climate control and an RCD 210 radio / MP3 compatible CD player. By leaving that lot on the shelf, Volkswagen might have saved an extra half an mpg but to be of real benefit to the environment, the car has got to sell in big numbers and a detailed equipment list gives is an enhanced chance of doing that.
Volkswagen is by no means the only manufacturer campaigning in the family hatch sector with a green special model. Together, the issues of fuel economy, costs and the environment have formed a major battleground in the car market and all of the major players are attempting to reap the benefits in terms of increased sales. Amidst all the ECOnetic Fords, ecoFLEX Vauxhalls, Optimal Drive Toyotas and others, things can get a little confusing for the motorist trying to reduce costs. The Golf BlueMotion is currently one of the more advanced efforts, but pricing of over £17,000 positions it at the upper end of the sector. In fact, the asking price positions this car at nearly £800 more than the standard Golf S 1.6-litre TDI 105PS model. Is it worth it? Volkswagen reckons so, confident a customer will recoup this money due to the Golf BlueMotion being exempt from annual road tax and reduced fuel costs. A driver covering 10,000 miles per year would save over £120 per year in fuel savings alone by going for the BlueMotion rather than the standard variant.
The 74.3mpg that the fully-fledged Golf BlueMotion returns on the combined cycle will do all the convincing that many customers need. 99g/km CO2 emissions will help too, producing a tangible annual saving that will only increase for higher mileage buyers. This sterling performance at the pumps is achieved through a series of mechanical alterations, including longer third, fourth and fifth gears in the five-speed manual gearbox, regenerative braking that charges the battery when the car is slowing down and a stop, start system that cuts the engine when the car is stationary.
With its classy image and quality construction tending to command a premium over family hatchback rivals, the Volkswagen Golf isn't an obvious choice for car buyers seeking to reduce costs. In BlueMotion guise, is looks far more frugal with its low fuel consumption and emissions but the best bit is that the things that make the Golf special are still very much intact.
The results below show the top GOLF deals on buyacar
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