From £15,8278
The first petrol-powered VW Bluemotion model uses an all-new 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine that undermines the case for diesel

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Golf

Just how good is the mighty Volkswagen Golf? The seventh generation of Europe's best selling car has been facelifted to keep its nose ahead of its rivals

What is it?

The first petrol-powered model to be launched under the company’s ‘Bluemotion’ branding.

It’s powered by a new 999cc three-cylinder turbocharged engine based on the impressive unit currently used in the Up city car. The headline claims are for an official CO2 rating of 99g/km and 65.7mpg on the combined cycle.

There’s no doubt that this engine is something of an engineering gem. Volkswagen claims it has the highest specific torque output of any "large-scale series production petrol engine", with 147lb ft being produced by just 999cc.

This three-cylinder unit is part of the EA211 engine family and based around a die-cast crankcase made from a sophisticated aluminium alloy. The exhaust manifold is integrated into the cylinder head and fitted with a cooling jacket which is fed from the engine’s main cooling system.

Two advantages are gained from this. Firstly ,the exhaust gases can help get the engine’s coolant up to operating temperature more quickly, which is essential for maximum fuel efficiency. Secondly, at high speeds the coolant helps cool the exhaust gases before they are sent to drive the turbocharger.

The turbocharger’s impressively compact intercooler – which is integrated into the engine’s intake manifold system – is also connected to the engine’s cooling system. Usually, intercoolers are air cooled and mounted remotely from the engine, being sited by the radiator in the nose of the car.

The Golf's set-up is far more space-efficient and greatly reduces the distance intake air has to travel to be cooled before heading for the turbocharger.

Another nice touch is the cylinder head cover, which is made from aluminium and has the mountings for the valve train integrated into its underside.

The direct injection system works through five-hole injectors and uses a maximum of 250bar, which is unusually high for a petrol engine. VW has also specified a toothed belt to drive the valve train. This is claimed to reduce friction by 30% compared with a chain drive. It is also said the belt will last the lifetime of the car.

The final piece of engineering magic relates to the engine's balancing. A three-cylinder four-stroke engine has an inherent lack of internal balance that manifests as a distinctive ‘thrumming’ vibration.

Normally a crankshaft-driven balancer shaft would be fitted to such an engine, but VW's engineers wanted to avoid the expense, bulk and power-sapping friction developed by a conventional balancer shaft.

VW’s solution - as used by Audi in the 1980s on its big five-cylinder engines - is to use a deliberately unbalanced flywheel and crankshaft pulley. The carefully calculated ‘unbalancing’ of these components, each of which is mounted on opposite ends of the crankshaft, cancels out the internal imbalances of the engine at virtually no cost. The crankshaft pulley, for example, is ‘unbalanced’ simply by cutting out sections of the pulley face, making it heavier at one side.

The whole engine weighs in a just 89kg, or 10kg lighter than the four-cylinder 1.2-litre TSI engine launched with the Golf Mk7.

Changes to the car have been less dramatic. The chassis has been lowered by 15mm, the radiator sits behind deployable flaps, it gets new airflow-smoothing underfloor panels, low-rolling-resistance tyres and a new spoiler. The upshot is that the Cd figure is shaved from 0.29 to 0.28.

What's it like?

Very refined, smooth-running, cosseting and surprisingly brisk. It should be noted that we sampled the Bluemotion on Amsterdam’s extensive motorway network, which is smooth, well surfaced and, above all, flat.

That said, this Golf performed admirably. Although it doesn’t have the ripping torque and mid-range shove of a modern diesel engine, it is hugely more refined and far more pleasant to wring out through the revs.

The engine starts in virtual silence and its stop-start abilities are far superior to those of any diesel engine, shutting down and sparking up with hardly any notification.

Indeed, I was caught out on a couple of occasions by the almost inaudible engine shut-down at junctions. The only clue was the sudden lack of steering assistance.

At motorway speeds, the only sound invading the Bluemotion’s cabin is subdued wind noise from the around the pillars and side windows. Turn the air-con fan up and the most prominent noise inside is from the face-level vents.

The shift action on this six-speed manual was also slick and nicely weighted, albeit with a reasonably long throw, especially into sixth.

Although the road conditions were hardly challenging, the chassis tuning seemed to have achieved a fine balance of cosseting, easy-rolling comfort without degenerating into heaving and bouncing across obstacles.

Were I a business driver, the Golf would make a compelling tool. It’s not only the in-car refinement and humming turbine of an engine that makes it so usable but also the fine interior, wide, comfortable seats and extensive storage space. This is a really first-rate cockpit.

The only real negative is, perhaps, that some drivers might feel it is a little characterless. 

Should I buy one?

The big caveat with this impressive machine is the kind of real-world economy that is likely to achieved. The omens are good, however, considering the 50mpg-plus being delivered by 1.4 TSI engine equipped with cylinder deactivation.

So if you are thinking of buying a smaller diesel-engined car, you should definitely test drive this 1.0 Golf Bluemotion. VW has created an engine that is impressively refined and doles out brisk performance with a civility that modern diesels just can’t match.

I’d go so far as to argue that this engine should make you a better driver. Instead of relying on the indiscriminate mid-range thrust of a diesel engine, the Bluemotion petrol engine rewards more thoughtful and attentive driving, especially on the motorway.

On the financial front, compared with the Golf 1.6 TDI Match – which also has a 99g/km CO2 rating – this 1.0-litre petrol model is £1150 cheaper and has a six-speed gearbox to the Match's five speeds. The petrol Golf also has a 14% company car tax rate, which is 3% less than the diesel.

If this engine delivers real-world economy of 45mpg and above, the case for dropping diesel – with all the attendant worries about pollution – has never been better.

Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI Bluemotion Match

Location Amsterdam; On sale Now; Price £20,395; Engine 3 cyls, 999cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 113bhp at 5000-5500rpm; Torque 147lb ft at 2000-3500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1211kg; 0-62mph 9.7sec; Top speed 127mph; Economy 65.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 99g/km/14%

Join the debate

Comments
24

2 June 2015
Only caveat is VW do not have a great track record with initial reliability of their 'innovations'.
e.g. DSG, Twin-charger.

Think I'd wait for long term reliability reports for this engine, or perhaps the first half dozen service updates to pass by...

2 June 2015
Though this engine deserves to be installed in something lighter like a Volkswagen Up and related models.

2 June 2015
If you "wring out through the revs", then that good mpg will not materialise.

2 June 2015
So does the cam belt have a long life, or the car have a short one? On a more serious note, this Golf's specification sounds interesting, but I'm not sure if I trust VW when it comes to new technology. Too often its customers end up doing the development work and used car buyers end up with expensive repair bills. So how about a Japanese style 5 year warranty to allay any such fears and justify the brand's premium status?

2 June 2015
LP in Brighton wrote:

So does the cam belt have a long life, or the car have a short one? On a more serious note, this Golf's specification sounds interesting, but I'm not sure if I trust VW when it comes to new technology. Too often its customers end up doing the development work and used car buyers end up with expensive repair bills. So how about a Japanese style 5 year warranty to allay any such fears and justify the brand's premium status?

Cannot agree more. VW infamously reduced the life expectancy of their timingbelt intervals down from 60K miles to 40K miles on many of its diesel models whilst in service. This after you bought the car, the VW service departments took great joy in informing you this and relieving you for the circa £300-£400 to change the belt whe you least expected it, and of course they bribed you into changing the waterpump, because "your paying for the labour anyway". I cannot remember the last time I had a waterpump fail on a chain cam engine! Good to see many here wise up to the nonsense that is so called VW reliability, it just does not exist in their newer models. Integrated components technically brings many benefits. But when they fail, which they inevitable do, the replacement cost is exorbitant. Once they are out of warranty VW will gladly take your cash. But Japanese, still the kings!!

2 June 2015
The report says it has a 6-speed manual but the cockpit photo shows a DSG gear-lever. Is it just a library photo or is DSG an option?

2 June 2015
Jeremy wrote:

The report says it has a 6-speed manual but the cockpit photo shows a DSG gear-lever. Is it just a library photo or is DSG an option?

You can get both, in the hatch the CO2 is the same.


2 June 2015
My low annual mileage and mostly city driving means diesel power is just not for me (I prefer petrol anyway) so its good to see some interesting developments in petrol engines. But like others, I'd be very nervous being an early adopter of VW technology, better to wait a few years until its proved itself.

AV

2 June 2015
This car has a cam belt, a turbo, and (I assume) a dual mass flywheel clutch, if you (sensibly) avoid the DSG.
Three likely sources of grief. Are they pretending it can go 20,000 miles without an oil change too? The short warranty demonstrates the faith the maker has in this fabulous new technology.
Meanwhile, an Auris hybird will do everything this car does and more: better fuel economy, better warranty and a drivetrain that has proven itself to be capable of many years trouble-free service. And it's made in Derby, England.
This relentless fawning over VW Group products is bizarre.
Other manufacturers are making better cars.

2 June 2015
AV wrote:

This car has a cam belt, a turbo, and (I assume) a dual mass flywheel clutch, if you (sensibly) avoid the DSG.
Three likely sources of grief. Are they pretending it can go 20,000 miles without an oil change too? The short warranty demonstrates the faith the maker has in this fabulous new technology.
Meanwhile, an Auris hybird will do everything this car does and more: better fuel economy, better warranty and a drivetrain that has proven itself to be capable of many years trouble-free service. And it's made in Derby, England.
This relentless fawning over VW Group products is bizarre.
Other manufacturers are making better cars.

Bravo! Autocar Journalists are currently absolutely besotted with JLR products and VW's lovely interior plastics. I mean, I cannot help but fondle and caress my mates Golf dashboard, oh its just divine......who cares Autocar!!!!!!!!!

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