Sometimes it strikes me that the most significant progress is the kind that nobody really notices.

I spent my Christmas break in a VW Passat Bluemotion, complete with the new 104bhp 1.6-litre VW Group commonrail turbodiesel engine.

Volkswagen Passat S 1.6 TDI Bluemotion first drive

There is nothing headline-grabbing about this car.  It does not have a fuel cell, solar panels or an electric motor anywhere under its decidedly bland exterior, and it is not made entirely out of recycled potato and hemp.

It is a normal family saloon with a low-powered turbodiesel engine under the bonnet. But it took me and the other half to see family in Koburg, Germany for New Year in perfect comfort whilst easily achieving over 800 miles to each 70-litres of fuel.

That still means we fell short of the claimed 62.8mpg combined figure, but we did manage mid-50mpg for much of the trip and there was no compromise in the overall capability of the car. It was quiet, spacious and pleasant to be in. And it was cheaper and more convenient overall than catching a plane and picking up a rental special at the other end. 

Of course, the Passat Bluemotion is exactly as dull as it sounds, and clearly this is a way to make the most of what’s left of finite fossil fuels (and motorists’ over-stretched wallets) rather than the answer to all our renewable fuel needs.

But I think the car industry deserves more credit for making such a constant and rapid move towards better use of resources. That there are many similarly efficient models around, including excellent efforts from Mercedes, BMW, Ford, Kia and Audi among others only goes to prove that progress really is global.

So in the midst of all the frenzied efforts going into producing tomorrow’s planet-saving, blue-sky technologies, let’s take a moment and remember that we’re not doing so badly with the stuff that you can buy today. Well done, chaps. Now carry on.