In both petrol and diesels guises, the Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion takes parsimony to extremes without inflicting too many sacrifices on the driver. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
Let's get straight to the point here. The Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion offers all the quality you'd expect from a Golf but combines it with 88.3mpg fuel economy and 85g/km emissions in diesel form. And 65.7mpg and 99g/km of CO2 in petrol guise. Tidy.
Time was when buying the eco model in a car range marked you out as a bit, well, weird. Yes, you were prepared to splash out big on a new car, put up with a big hit of initial depreciation and so on, yet you then put up with substandard driving characteristics for the sake of a few miles per gallon. There was always something that smacked of missing the point about such a purchase. Not any longer. You only need to look at Volkswagen's Golf BlueMotion for evidence of that. It's established itself as the default choice for diesel Golf buyers, combining all the good stuff you expect from Volkswagen with almost unfeasible economy and emissions. It sets the new standards that others must look to measure up to.
The BlueMotion's diesel engine is a variant of the 1.6-litre TDI unit. The four-cylinder 16-valve unit offers the usual 110PS and develops its maximum torque of 250Nm in a band from 1,500 up to 3,000rpm, so there's plenty of urge from fairly low down in the rev band and it's not inordinately peaky. Various measures such as reduced internal friction, a clever thermal management system with a shortened warm-up phase, exhaust gas recirculation, a cylinder pressure sensor, a two-stage oil pump, a switchable electric water pump and a water-cooled intercooler right in the intake manifold result in successfully reducing fuel consumption and emissions. To reduce emissions values further, Volkswagen has fitted an oxidation catalytic converter, a diesel particulate filter and a NOx storage catalytic converter. Blue really is the new green. The TDI BlueMotion model will accelerate to 62mph from a standstill in just over 10 seconds and reach a top speed of just over 120mph. It's also worth mentioning that this car can these days be had in petrol form too with a 1.0 TSI three cylinder unit putting out 115PS and capable of 62mh from rest in 9.7s en route to 127mph. Whichever engine you choose, unlike the more expensive models in the Golf line-up, you won't get slick multi-link rear suspension, BlueMotion buyers having to settle for a more rudimentary torsion beam rear end. It's doubtful many will notice as these cars tend not to be driven at ten-tenths.
Design and Build
The Golf BlueMotion doesn't look like some sort of austerity-spec misermobile. It doesn't feature wheels with cheap plastic trims shod with tyres that would look more at home on a scooter or anything obvious like that. In fact, it looks wholly upmarket, despite being hung around the entry-level S trim. Look carefully and you will see the differences though. Aside from the subtle badging, the frontal area has been reduced by 0.03 m2 and aerodynamic drag (Cd x A) by nearly 10 percent, giving it a Cd value of just 0.27. Compared to other standard Golf models, the aerodynamics of the BlueMotion have also been refined by a roof spoiler, lateral air guide elements on the rear window, a masked front grille, partially closed air inlet screens, an optimised cooling system airflow, special underfloor panels, optimised brake cooling channels and a C-pillar spoiler. Dropping the ride height by 15mm not only helps with aerodynamics but also gives this BlueMotion a sporty, foursquare stance. The driving position is supremely adjustable and unlike many family hatches, you can get properly hunkered down in the car if required. The sheer amount of steering wheel rake and reach means that both shorter and taller drivers will have little difficulty achieving a perfect seating position. The cabin's a little wider than before which helps with elbow room and there's also a bit more rear leg room which is a welcome touch. The boot measures a hefty 380-litres, is well shaped and features a low loading height.
Market and Model
Buyers can choose between three and five-door hatch models, plus an estate and the SV compact MPV model. And there's a choice of either 1.6-litre TDI 110PS diesel power or the 115PS 1.0 TSI petrol powerplant. As for specification, well it's pretty much what you'll find in an entry-level S-trim Golf. That means you get the basics like air conditioning, 15-inch alloy wheels, remote central locking and black cloth upholstery. There are some nice details that you possibly wouldn't expect to find on a model at this proletarian point in the range, such as ESP stability control, Bluetooth, a multifunction computer, an XDS electronic diff lock and electronic tyre pressure monitoring. Prices start at just under £20,000 for the 115PS 1.0-litre TSI petrol model or from around £21,500 for the 1.6-litre TDI 110PS diesel. In the case of the TDI, that means a premium of around £1,200 over a standard 110PS 1.6-litre TDI diesel Golf model without the extra BlueMotion tweaks. And you can easily bump that up still further by selecting options like metallic paint, 16-inch alloys, electric rear windows in the five-door version and leather trim for the multifunction steering wheel.
Cost of Ownership
The whole raison d'etre of the BlueMotion models is to ruthlessly pare back the cost of ownership figures and all the variants on offer perform that task with typical German efficiency. A standard Golf 1.6 TDI 'BlueMotion Technology' model returns 74.3mpg on the combined cycle and 99g/km of CO2 - which is pretty good. A fully-fledged BlueMotion TDI version though, takes frugality to a whole new level with a combined fuel economy figure of 88.3mpg and 85g/km, which would be a brilliant showing for a tiny citycar, let alone a well-upholstered family hatchback. Let's think about that figure for a moment. This car has a 50-litre fuel tank which means it can travel 970 miles between refills. It's also worth pondering how far we've come to get to this point.The original Golf BlueMotion, revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in 2007, returned, at that time, a class-leading 62.8mpg with emissions of 119g/km - figures now surpassed by even the range-topping diesel, the 184PS Golf GTD. Go for your Golf BlueMotion with 1.0 TSI petrol power and you can also expect cleanliness and frugality. Both hatch and estate versions manage 65.7mpg on the combined cycle and 99g/km of CO2. So how has Volkswagen done it? Well lightweight design (including 26kg less weight in the running gear and 37kg less in the body) plays its part, along with engine-related modifications and a collection of other measures. These include super low rolling resistance tyres with higher air pressure, longer gear ratios (six-speed manual gearbox), the Stop/Start and battery regeneration systems that are standard in all new Golfs, plus specific aerodynamic modifications.
The Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion has definitely come of age. Whereas once, it was the car bought by the sort of person who went around putting bricks in their toilet cisterns to penny pinch on water bills, it's now a different animal. It's no longer so self-consciously miserly. Yes, in diesel form, it gets 88.3mpg and emits just 85g/km but it looks and goes much like a normal Golf, that most socially versatile of family hatchbacks. Yes, many will be sold to business buyers but the most refreshing thing about this car is the way it enables your leisure time. You can drive it to the Alps without stopping to refuel. Do 10,000 miles per year in it and you could conceivably visit a filling station just once a month. If you want to offset our horribly inflated fuel prices, the Golf BlueMotion is a very quiet but effective protest vote.