UK drive proves Bluemotion is a better real-world eco solution than a hybrid

What is it?

The eco-car at its simplest and best: this is VW’s new Golf Bluemotion, which we’ve just sampled in right-hand drive, and in the UK, for the first time.

While the last Golf Bluemotion used VW’s noisy 1.9-litre pumpe-duse turbodiesel lump, this new one runs a cleaner and quieter 1.6 that produces 104bhp – one horsepower more than the last car – and 184lb ft of torque.

It’s the same engine that runs in the entry-level Golf diesel, except for the Bluemotion it’s got a modified crankshaft, cylinder head and oil pump, an intelligent alternator that runs faster while you’re braking or decelerating for a mild form of regenerative braking, and a starter-generator for automatic stop-start.

Elsewhere, the Golf Bluemotion has low-resistance tyres, a taller gearset for its five-speed manual gearbox, some very subtle aerodynamic modifications, and sports suspension that lowers it on its wheels and thereby reduces drag.

All of which combines for carbon emissions of just 99g/km – making this Golf free to tax – and a combined fuel economy claim of 74.3mpg.

What’s it like?

First and foremost, it’s a sixth-generation VW Golf, so it’s roomy, very impressively designed and built, appointed with precision and care and, concurrently, also about as desirable as economy cars get.

The current Golf’s excellent packaging and adjustable seats allow for loads of headroom in this car, as much legroom as four adults really need, and a first-class driving position. Like its rangemates, this Golf steers and handles with assured and polished precision too. It’s a little more stiffer-legged than you might expect - thank those sports springs – and there are occasions when its ride quality feels a little choppy. Thankfully, they’re rare.

Refinement is the one attribute this car offers that you don’t expect. That tall gearset doesn’t make it a great performer, but it does mean that, at 70mph, the engine’s turning over at just 2000rpm, and doing so quietly enough that you can hardly hear it.

The act of getting this car to 70mph isn’t going to worry the muscles in your neck, but it’s easy enough. There are times, when overtaking on the motorway or climbing gradients across country, when the combination of that tall top gear and modest torque quota means you’ll need to reach for fourth gear. Likewise, making progress in town can call for frequent trips through the ‘box; at 35mph, the car’s gearshift indicator will advise you to be in fourth, but if you want to accelerate at anything other than retirement pace, you’ll need third.

All that gear-changing makes driving this car feel strangely old-fashioned – like diesels used to feel 25 years ago. And yet driving it remains a gratifying experience, because you don’t mind working with that solid-feeling gear linkage when you reward is such excellent fuel economy.

And what we mean by ‘excellent’ is a long way north of 60mpg on a decent out-of-town run. The car we drove had fewer than 2000 miles recorded and yet still it turned in 63.1mpg on a 100-mile trip down the M1, moving with mixed traffic between 50 and 75mph. Once its engine has loosened up properly, 70mpg might be possible, provided you’re not in a rush. And in this tester’s experience, a Toyota Prius or Honda Insight couldn’t get within 10mpg of that on the same run. They wouldn’t be much more frugal in town, either.

Back to top

Should I buy one?

If what you want is a frugal and cheap-to-keep family car without too many bells and whistles, absolutely. This car’s more than £2000 cheaper than a Ford Focus Econetic, costs over £1000 less than the cheapest Toyota Prius, and is just as refined and usable as the latter.

The new Golf Bluemotion is a provider of effective low-cost motoring without the frills, but with a healthy portion of quality, class, practicality and VW brand cache. It proves that a small, clever diesel internal combustion engine still beats the most sophisticated petrol-electric hybrid powertrain out there in the real world. And it succeeds in making getting around cheaply feel really rather special.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
vengey 24 July 2010

Re: Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion

The Prius has a place, but what that place is I'm not sure. It would seem mandatory for Prius drivers to try and break the land speed record on the motorway (We've all seen them, right?). At motorway speeds, they are less efficient than a BMW 3 Series and way less than the 320D ED. Probably less efficient than most of the German cars, to be honest. A roads as well, they are not worthwhile. They seem to excel more when you are sticking to sub 30 MPH speeds. Yet it has slow acceleration and is quite big. So, the slow saloon for city centre driving?

I'd say the Prius is a work in process. It's nice for everyone to support its development by buying it.

cornwallman 21 July 2010

Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion

I've just picked up last week a Bluemotion Golf, the basic 99g/km one, ex demonstrator with 5k on the clock. My previous car was a Golf 2.0 GT tdi. Pleased with it so far, although only done a few hundred miles. The drive round the North circular to Slough had the mpg reading 68. Further drive west to Cornwall avg 60mpg. My regular 8 mile main road/country road commute ( relatively hilly) it seems to do about 54 mpg with gentle driving.

overboost 12 February 2010

Re: Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion

artill wrote:
I cant say i understand this diesel Vs Hybrid arguement. Surely Hybrid technology is an add on. It would work just as well on diesels if anyone thought they could make money selling one. This thing would probably do 100 mpg if it had the Prius hybrid system attached.
The hurdle to diesel hybrids is that most petrol engines in hybrids are not your normal gas engine. The Prius runs a unique 1.8 Petrol with a more constant running speed. Also in the US where hybrids really sell, nox is an issue. To do the same with the TDI, they would have to fit an even cleaner diesel with urea injection then add the hybrid tech on top. The new Euro6 emissions standards will make this mandatory and at that stage small diesels maybe dumped as the cost vs the return, hybrids will make more sense especially if the R&D can be reused in the USA. Note however that VW did show a small hybrid diesel Jetta coupe and the Detroit show. The Prius does about 50-60mpg regularly so thats the target, why would vw need to get 100mpg if the price is alot more. As to cost, I think the engines mods alone would add to the cost of making it.