What is it?
This is the new Golf BlueMotion, the frugality flag-waver of Volkswagen's seventh generation hatchback line-up. It’s powered by a 1.6-litre diesel engine producing 108bhp and 184lb ft of torque, but the headline figures with which we really need to concern ourselves are a claimed combined economy figure of 88.3mpg and commensurate CO2 emissions of just 85g/km – a significant 15 per cent improvement on the previous Golf BlueMotion based on the sixth-generation hatch.
The Golf BlueMotion hits its giddy new heights of efficiency with what are now a standard-issue list of engineering tweaks, nips and tucks over and above the standard Golf’s fuel-saving stop-start and battery regeneration systems.
It’s aerodynamically more efficient, thanks to a lower overall ride height (down 15mm over the regular Golf) which reduces the car’s frontal area. The BlueMotion also wears a drag-reducing roof spoiler, a revised grille and different underbody panels to improve airflow over and under the car, and it has ‘optimsed’ engine and brake cooling systems.
The BlueMotion also wears what VW describes as 'super'-low rolling resistance tyres, and features longer gear ratios in a six-speed manual gearbox which is now lubricated by thinner-viscosity to reduce drag on the gears
Other need-to-know figures are that the Golf BlueMotion comes in both three and five-door hatchback forms, costing £20,335 and £20,990 respectively. We drove the three-door.
What's it like?
Like a Golf, only more economical. In other words, the Golf BlueMotion is a refined, handsome, easy-to-drive hatchback with a distinct feeling of near-premium solidity and a finely honed blend of form and practical function.
There are only two things you really want to know about the Golf BlueMotion, and that’s whether or not it can achieve anything close to its exceptional claimed combined fuel economy figure in everyday driving, and whether the engineering compromises imposed on the car to achieve those figures detract from the driving and ownership experience.
Well, in the first instance, we were restricted to a relatively short test route (about 40 miles or so of suburban and rural Dutch roads) without the opportunity to carry out brim-to-brim economy calculations of our own, so a definitive answer to the question will have to wait until we have or hands on the car for longer back in the UK.
However, on that short route, with sensible but not over-the-top restraint, the Golf’s trip computer recorded an eyebrow-raising 76mpg. If that figure is even within 10-15 per cent of accurate (which, in our experience, VW Group trip computers tend to be) it’s impressive.
As far as the compromises go, there are few. The engine is extremely smooth and refined, even down to the 1000rpm at which the on-board display’s gearchange prompter had as selecting a lower gear when decelerating. At such low revs some small amount of vibration can be felt through the steering wheel but the engine still pulls willingly and without hesitation; anywhere above that point it’s free of vibration.
Despite the gearbox’s lengthened ratios, there’s still enough urge to pull with decent strength for safe if not overtly spirited overtakes higher up the rev range, and you’ll not be feeling out of your depth on the motorway.
The Golf BlueMotion also rides very smoothly, with only the faintest hint of bump-thump over more pronounced holes and bumps - of which there were, admittedly, very few on Holland’s smooth and pristine continental-spec Tarmac. We’ll give the ride another look back here in the UK when we’re checking the fuel economy ourselves.
Ultimately, though, you have to play the BlueMotion’s game in order to get the best out of it, and you won’t get near those headline figures if you use the loud pedal like an on-off switch and expect the car to do the work for you. If that’s the case, and/or if you regularly travel with a full load of of people or a boot full of things, then a slightly higher-powered, but still reasonably economical, 2.0 TDI incarnation of Golf might suit your needs better.
Should I buy one?
If the overriding purchasing criteria for your family hatchback is the bottom-line economy and CO2 figure, then yes, you probably should. A Ford Focus ECOnetic costs less and promises frugality close to that of the Golf BlueMotion (83.1mpg, 88g/km), but Ford’s frugal 1.6-litre diesel isn’t as refined or as pleasurable to use as Volkswagen’s, and it’s arguably harder to get near to Ford’s claimed economy figures in day to day driving than it is VW’s.
Volkswagen has previously set the standard for fuel-saving hatchbacks with earlier incarnations of Golf BlueMotion, and it looks like it’s going to stay that way for some time.
Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion
Price £20,335; 0-62mph10.5sec; Top speed 124mph; Economy 88.3mpg; CO2 85g/km; Kerb weight 1265kg; Engine 4 cyls in-line, 1598cc, turbodiesel; Power 108bhp at 3200-4000rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual