Road Test: Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion
Sector: Lower medium Price: £21,270 Fuel: 88.3mpg CO2: 85g/km
New technology and ever-more complex petrol and diesel engines mean there’s never been a wider choice when it comes to reducing fuel expenditure for a fleet, and the ultra-efficient Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion has become a mainstay of the eco-car set.
Now in its third generation – though only the second to come to the UK – it’s yet again setting benchmarks. Fuel economy is now 88.3mpg, with CO2 of 85g/km putting it among the hybrids and most parsimonious of superminis.
The Bluemotion accounts for around 2% of UK Golf sales, with around two thirds of those going towards corporate users. But it spearheads technology which cascades through the rest of the range. It’s worth noting that, behind those headline figures, all diesel Golfs with a manual gearbox – including the GTD – are now at least as efficient as the first Golf Bluemotion.
While most markets get two trim levels – essentially the S and SE grades – all UK cars are based on the entry-level S trim level. Stylistically it means the optional Bi-Xenon headlights with a blue stripe through them, as featured on the 2013 Geneva Motor Show concept, aren’t available in the UK. It also means the cabin is awash with blank switches.
Most of the basics are there, though. The S-based Bluemotion sold in the UK still includes manual air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, a DAB radio and Volkswagen’s new touchscreen infotainment system. But, for regular long distance drivers, the lack of satellite navigation and cruise control could prove an annoying omission.
There are plentiful differences to account for the £1,215 price walk between this and the equivalent 1.6 TDI S. As with previous Bluemotion models, aerodynamic upgrades include an almost completely closed radiator grille, lower suspension and a redesigned rear spoiler, and the spare wheel has made way for a tyre repair kit to save weight.
The engine uses the same stop/start system and energy recuperation as in all Bluemotion Technology cars, but here it’s uprated from 103 to 108bhp, with reduced internal friction, a cooling system designed to bring it up to temperature more quickly and on-demand oil and water pumps to reduce load. Finally, a longer gearing allows the car to rumble along at lower revs and outside its peak torque while on the motorway.
Despite the changes, it feels pretty much the same as a regular 1.6 TDI Golf. The small wheels counteract the ride quality sacrifice of lower than standard suspension, and there’s no loss of refinement compared to the standard car. It’s a quiet engine, even from cold, and there’s very little road or wind noise at motorway speeds.
The gearbox takes some adjustment though. Bringing the engine to life for overtaking usually requires an extra downshift, and avoiding doing so lifts economy easily into the mid-60s to the gallon with a steady right foot. However, achieving economy anywhere near the claimed 88mpg seems very ambitious in real-world conditions.
That’s a problem, because it upsets some of the car’s whole-life cost advantages. SMR and P11d costs are higher than the Golf S, and the latter means BiK costs are in line with the also efficient 1.6 TDI and 1.2 TDI S, though neither of the S models are eligible for a 100% first year capital allowance.
So, as with all eco cars, the Golf needs to be applied correctly to make sense. It’s a workhorse for long-distance drivers with high annual mileage, but those seeking a low-cost route into a Volkswagen Golf need to weigh up its advantages against other models in the range.
The Golf Bluemotion’s advantages stack up higher as annual mileage increases, where even menial improvements in economy count for a lot. It’s worth considering the whole picture before ticking the box, though, particularly when factoring essential long-distance options such as cruise control and satellite navigation into the picture.