What is it?
That the latest iteration of the Volkswagen Golf is a very fine car is beyond question. It does everything you would expect of a modern day hatchback and more, offering a broad range of engine options, impressive degree of dynamic polish and excellent refinement characteristics while providing the solidity, finish and general quality usually associated with brands boasting a higher perceived positioning.
However, Volkswagen is clearly not content to rest on the laurels heaped on its perennial best seller. Following on from customary petrol and diesel as well as more recent petrol-electric hybrid and full electric models, there is now a new bivalent compressed natural gas-petrol powered variant of the seventh-generation Golf – the so-called TGI, as unveiled at the recent Geneva motor show.
It's not planned for UK sale anytime soon due to the lack of fuelling infrastructure for compressed natural gas (although VW UK is keen to talk up the possibilities of the fuel). The sister car to the recently unveiled Audi A3 G-Tron and Skoda Octavia G-Tec is aimed at taking advantage of growing sales of compressed natural gas cars in many of Europe’s more lucrative markets, offering prospective buyers running costs that make typical diesel rivals appear almost expensive by direct comparison.
Based on the current price of compressed natural gas in Germany, the new Golf sets you back around £5.00 for every 100 miles travelled based on its official fuel consumption figures. Its ability to run on either compressed natural gas or petrol also provides it with a theoretical range that beats the most economical of existing diesel powered Golf models, the 1.6 TDI Bluemotion.
What's it like?
The Golf TGI is powered by a specially adapted version of Volkswagen’s turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine. Its provides adequate if not exactly inspiring performance, delivering a rather unspectacular 108bhp at 4800rpm and 147lb ft of torque at 1500rpm.
The packaging of the compressed natural gas tank and the various changes made to the Golf’s MQB platform structure to improve rear end crash safety add handsomely to the kerb weight, which is 170kg more than the Golf TSI 1.4 at 1320kg. As a result, straight line acceleration is less than spectacular, with Volkswagen quoting a 0-62mph time of 10.9sec.
But what the four-cylinder unit lacks in outright punch, it more than makes up for in refinement. It is all but inaudible at the lower end of the range, revs smoothly to the redline and is free of the inherent vibrations of a diesel engine - both in compressed natural gas and petrol modes.
Compressed natural gas is the default mode at start up. When reserves are depleted, the engine automatically switches over to petrol on the run. The change is seamless, the only indication of the fuel source being a lamp within the instrument binnacle, which houses a separate gauge for each.
The engine is mated to either a standard six-speed manual or optional seven speed dual clutch gearbox - the latter offering the choice of two driving modes: sport and standard. A 15kg compressed natural gas tank fills the space usually dedicated to the spare wheel and part of the boot, while a 50 litre petrol tank is retained from more conventional Golf models, giving the Golf TGI a boot that is 89 litres smaller than that of regular petrol and diesel powered models at 291 litres.
Should I buy one?
The showstopper is that its not available in the UK. But nevertheless, while encouragingly cheap to run, the Golf TGI lacks the sparkle of some siblings. It will capture sales among buyers who make running costs at top priority.
Keener drivers are advised to opt for the 138bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol powered Golf 1.4 TSI ACT, which delivers significantly stronger performance without too much of a burden in overall economy.
Volkswagen Golf TGI Bluemotion
Price n/a; 0-62mph 10.9sec; Top speed 121mph; Economy CNG 3.4kg/100km, petrol 55.4mpg; CO2 CNG 92g/km, 119g/km; Kerb weight 1320kg; Engine 4-cyls, 1395cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 108bhp at 4800rpm; Torque 147lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual clutch