Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion review

12 July 2013

VW Golf 7 BlueMotion side view

VW Golf BlueMotion
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Good: hybrid-equalling economy, the usual Golf virtues
Bad: slightly pricey next to a 99g/km diesel Golf
Price: from from £20,335
There have been only seven generations of Volkswagen Golf since the first sharp-cornered design rolled out 39 years ago, but in a relatively brief five years we’ve already arrived at the third generation of Golf BlueMotion – the most fuel-efficient option in the range.

And I’ve arrived in Amsterdam to drive it. Evidently this is the launch destination of choice for car manufacturers wishing to demonstrate great fuel economy. The roads are flat and straight and slow, and seemingly surfaced with pale grey silk. I’ve driven these roads before, squeezing between canals and cyclists, in both an Opel Ampera and Toyota Yaris Hybrid. If you can’t get good litres per 100km here, there must be something wrong with your driving.

And evidently there is something wrong with my driving, because I can’t seem to do as well as my co-driver, Richard Lane of Green Car Design. I watch the economy meter with the intensity of a cat, change gear obediently when hinted at by the dash, try to maintain momentum and generally over-analyse what I’m doing all the way to 4.2l/100km (67.3mpg). Richard switches the trip gauge off, ignores the shift hints and repeats the same route while prodding and poking at pieces of trim to see if they rattle. This laid back approach delivers a markedly better result at 3.8l/100km (74.3mpg). I grumble and decide I must have warmed it up for him.

VW Golf 7 BlueMotion front view

Blessed with the latest Golf sheet metal, the new BlueMotion must count amongst the most attractive of green-label (or indeed blue-label) specials. It’s a little wider, noticeably lower, imperceptibly longer and substantially lighter than the car it replaces. The lowered suspension, dropped by 15mm, helps the car’s stance enormously and doesn’t hurt refinement – in fact I think it feels more comfortable than the ordinary 1.6-litre TDI edition of the Golf, which can feel a bit floppy on its axles when pressed.

Sadly the 17-inch wheels on the German car in my pictures won’t be available in the UK, where the standard fare will be 15-inch alloys plus a £400 option to add 16s. Everything else should make it across the channel unscathed, including the prominent tailgate spoiler, blanked-off front grille and the underbody aerodynamics you can’t see. These help the BlueMotion Golf to achieve a drag coefficient of 0.27, down from 0.29 for the rest of the Golf range. The 2008 edition, for comparison, dropped from 0.32 to 0.30 in BlueMotion trim.

VW Golf 7 BlueMotion interior

Five years of progress is laid bare in lots of other numbers too. As the Golf has gone from Mk V to VI to VII, the BlueMotion edition’s CO2 score has tumbled from 119 to 99 and now to 85 grams per kilometre. Combined cycle economy has improved from 62.8 to 74.3 and on to 88.3 miles per gallon.

The engine has changed completely, compared with that first 1.9-litre Golf BlueMotion. It’s a 1.6-litre common-rail injection turbodiesel unit now, extensively tweaked to warm up more quickly and waste less energy stirring its own fluids. It also has stop-start, which was strangely absent in the original BlueMotion Golf despite VW’s long history with the technology. Stop-start was rare in 2008 but not freakishly so.

VW Golf 7 BlueMotion rear view

While peak power and torque numbers haven’t risen noticeably in five years, the latest BlueMotion engine hits its stride much lower in its rev range, with full power of 110PS from 3,200rpm, down from 4,000rpm before, and peak torque of 250Nm from just 1,500rpm, down from 1,900rpm. That really is low-down grunt, meaning you can shift up much sooner than you expect. And indeed sooner than the instrument panel suggests.

Also five years on, the new BlueMotion Golf has finally gained the six gears it’s needed from day one. The extra cog in the neat-shifting manual box allows a better spread of bets on the road and has improved the benchmark sprint to 62mph. It’s now 10.5 seconds, down from 11.3 seconds for the prior car.

Lessened bulk helps too – with the latest BlueMotion having shed 26kg from its running gear and 37kg from its bodywork, according to VW.

The BlueMotion Golf is available in both three-door and five-door format, and towards the end of the year there’ll be a BlueMotion edition of the new Golf Estate – the first load-lugger to carry the badge. Prices start at £20,335 for the three-door, with a £655 premium for the additional practicality of five doors. Given the base price, VW Golf lease costs should be available in the vicinity of £220 per month for private customers.

VW Golf 7 BlueMotion three door version

Sadly an automatic gearbox isn’t an option. VW’s outstanding DSG dual-clutch gearbox would suit the character of the car perfectly, and with eco-mode shift programming it would help less skilful drivers (like me) get the best from the BlueMotion technology. And talking of modes, it’s worth noting that the BlueMotion car doesn’t have any. While most of the latest Golf range can be tweaked between sporty, normal or eco setups governing both steering and throttle, the BlueMotion is permanently eco, as you’d expect.

And if that sounds offputting, don’t be put off. The BlueMotion feels perfectly natural to drive, with no laziness in throttle response or somnambulant steering.

VW Golf 7 BlueMotion cockpit

Indeed, my only real criticism of the car is its price, which reflects the extra work that has gone into the car but presents a sizeable barrier to Golf BlueMotion ownership. While not outlandishly expensive, the BlueMotion edition is about £600 more than a base model 1.6 TDI Golf with optional alloys. And that ordinary diesel Golf boasts an impressive 99g/km CO2 score – equal to the BlueMotion just departed.

As a result, to choose the new BlueMotion model you’ll need to actively want the most frugal model in the Golf line-up, and be prepared to pay a little for the privilege. No doubt you will agonise over buying a car at all, have a fully lagged loft and will have at least been thinking about installing solar panels on the roof.

If that sounds like you, go for it. This is a car you can buy confidently, with both the head and the heart.

VW Golf 7 BlueMotion wing badge

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