REVIEW DATE: 15 Feb 2008
Volkswagen is making it easy for customers to choose the most economical models in its range. Just look for the BlueMotion badge as attached to the back of this Polo. Andy Enright reports
When it comes to fuel economy, Volkswagen has some history. Remember the Lupo 3-Litre? No, it wasn't a citycar with a big V6 shoehorned in. Instead it was a car offered in Europe that claimed to be able to run 100km on only three litres of fuel, which works out at around 94 miles per gallon. Other manufacturers caught onto the idea of offering special economy models but strangely, Volkswagen have until recently ignored the market where fuel prices are so high that motorists feel as if they're being squeezed until the pips squeak. Right here in the UK.
That's changed with the launch of their BlueMotion range of cars and the Polo is the first to make landfall. The BlueMotion concept boosts fuel economy in three key ways, namely lower weight, improved aerodynamics and higher gearing. The results are impressive to say the least and offer real world savings to motorists. In its base form, this car benefits from a combined fuel consumption figure of 74.3 mpg and CO2 output of 99 g/km, so it qualifies for a place in the tax-exempt VED band 'A'.
Developing an all-new economy diesel engine from scratch would have cost an arm and a leg so it was lucky that Volkswagen already had an award-winning unit to plumb into the Polo BlueMotion. The 1.4-litre three-cylinder TDI engine is fitted with electronically controlled, high pressure direct injection. The variable geometry turbocharger provides high levels of torque at low engine speeds and swift response with very little lag. The end result is 80bhp at the flywheel which is a respectable amount of poke for a car that's marketed as an economy special.
The BlueMotion will zip to 60mph in 12.5 seconds and run on to a top speed of 109mph if you're willing to adopt caveman throttle tactics. The aerodynamic changes to the car haven't upset the handling although the low rolling resistance 165/70 tyres are optimised for fuel economy rather than handling. As with all mainstream Polo models, ride quality is very good and all-round visibility is also better than many key rivals.
With its slightly odd-looking smoothed off grille, the BlueMotion looks like no other Polo. The only differentiation over other variants is that regardless of the body colour, the wing mirrors and trailing edge of the rear bumper are finished in silver. The spoiler that hoods the rear window isn't too over the top either. Only those in the know will twig your aversion to filling stations.
"It's a testament to Volkswagen's efforts that the Polo BlueMotion manages an average economy figure of some 74.3 miles per gallon."
As far as space and versatility are concerned, there's very little about this BlueMotion model that's different to a regular Polo model. This means that there's plenty of headroom front and rear and a decent amount of carrying capacity. Only a lack of MPV-style oddments storage counts as a demerit.
Build quality is predictably good with the Polo leading the way in terms of perceived quality in the cabin. Yes, if you look a little lower down on the fascia you'll find cheaper, harder plastics but the main panels are expensively thermoformed and the cool blue interior lighting and unique fabric finishes help differentiate the BlueMotion model.
The problem with developing cars like the BlueMotion is one of simple economics. By its very appeal, it is targeted at customers who are the most pragmatic when it comes to spending money. The first question is whether these same people will play the badge equity game in the first instance and choose a Volkswagen. A marginally thirstier Peugeot or Ford will probably work out cheaper over a three year ownership period if typical supermini mileages are concerned. Even if Volkswagen does woo them into the fold, the next question is whether the incremental advantages of the BlueMotion model are worth choosing over the better equipped Polo diesels.
It's a testament to Volkswagen's efforts that the Polo BlueMotion manages that average economy figure of some 74.3 miles per gallon. Compare that to the 60.1 mile per gallon figure of a standard Polo 1.4TDI three-door and it's clear that real world fuel savings are achievable. I'm fairly sceptical of absolute manufacturer fuel economy claims but the percentage difference between the two cars is probably reliable.
The BlueMotion should also do very well in terms of depreciation. It's actually priced at around the same as a Polo 1.4TDI SE and the fuel saving advantages can only become more attractive. It's not as if the Government is going to start feeling sorry for Britain's motorists and slash fuel prices. The green commitment appears to be gaining even more traction in the corridors of power and an escalation in fuel costs may be one cross-party solution that has some legs.
Tyre-shredding teens are probably not the market Volkswagen are aiming this car at and as a result, insurance ratings are reasonable. Expect to pay premiums reflected by a Group 5 rating and you shouldn't be too far wide of the mark.
Although £12,120 is a fair sum of money to hand over for a car that aims to save you cash, the Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion is not without its attractions. It comes in two guises - BlueMotion 1 and BlueMotion 2. Adding to the BlueMotion 1's list of standard equipment (which includes a diesel particulate filter, twin front and side airbags, a CD player and electric windows), the BlueMotion 2 benefits from air conditioning, rain sensing windscreen wipers, remote central locking and leather trim for the steering wheel, handbrake and gear knob.
The most attractive thing about this model is that it asks so little of its owner. You don't have to put up with intrusive engineering solutions or weird styling. In most respects, it's just another Polo, albeit one that can drive from London to the South of France on one 45-litre thankful thanks to that headline 74.3mpg economy. There will be many more BlueMotion models across the Volkswagen range, so think of this as a painless way to have a little pop back at the Chancellor. I think we can all appreciate that.
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