Test drive: VW Golf Plus BlueMotion

21 January 2009

Volkswagen’s Golf Plus seems pretty close to a perfect second-hand purchase. Buying new, you’ll need to cough up slightly more than you would for a standard Golf to get into the slightly taller, slightly more versatile Plus. But a year on and the Plus commands noticeably less than its more conventional siblings.

Bargains are set to become even more pronounced as a facelifted Golf Plus is around the corner, offering a new nose, roof rails, a marginally nicer interior and not much else to shout about.

With this in mind, we went hunting for a bargain Golf Plus through VW’s approved-used scheme. We were, of course, interested in the BlueMotion model, which boasts official CO2 emissions of 127g/km, putting it into £120 tax Band C at present, and the new Band D tax category from March this year, qualifying for a £90 tax disc from March 2010.

Without too much trouble we found a pristine eight-month-old example with just 1,300 miles on the clock, on sale for £9,995. New, the Golf Plus BlueMotion currently sells for £16,647, so we think less than ten grand is a price that’s very hard to ignore. And no, that doesn’t mean slumming it in a poverty-spec model – our car has metallic paint, automatic aircon, electric windows all-round, a trip-computer, remote central locking, 15in alloy wheels, ISOFix child-seat mountings, body-colour mirrors and ESP.

Behind the wheel, the driver is greeted by the familiar VW interior style – sober shapes, quality plastics and lots of cupholders. The controls are fuss-free – unlike the larger Passat, there are no novelty keyfob-starter buttons here, you start the motor by twisting a key.

The Golf Plus’s only real party piece is its sliding rear seat. The whole split rear bench slides backwards and forwards, allowing you to trade legroom against boot capacity. There’s a strange rear armrest-cum-storage box that you can position between the rear seats or in the boot. Along with a row of four slim storage compartments in the roof lining, these are the car’s only real attempts at MPVish versatility. The front seats don’t swivel, fold into picnic tables, or pop out to become deckchairs, sadly.

In all of VW’s BlueMotion models you get five gears and tall gearing. The long-legged setup feels awkward in the smaller Polo BlueMotion, but the larger, torquier engine here can get away with the stratospheric ratios. It feels sluggish in top at dual-carriageway speeds, but not like it’s in the wrong gear. At 50mph in fifth gear the rev counter shows 1,300rpm, at 70mph just 1,900rpm. The four-cylinder engine is also smoother and much more muted than the raucous three-pot in the Polo.

A trip computer between the Golf Plus’s two main dials includes a small illuminated arrow, which reminds the driver when it would be more frugal to change up or down. This digital nanny is, thankfully, not daft. If you’re pressing ahead and asking for rapid acceleration, it keeps itself to itself as the revs climb. But as you near the speed you want and ease off, the arrow pops up to remind you to change until you’ve selected the best gear for your cruising speed and throttle position. Downshift reminders come just at the point where the engine starts to labour, so are arguably not necessary.

In our tests we did about 40 miles of motoring on country roads and dual carriageways, and averaged 55mpg according to the trip computer.

The suspension on the BlueMotion model is 15mm lower than standard, in the interests of aerodynamics, imparting a firm ride. Cornering on the low-rolling-resistance, 65-profile tyres was confidence-inspiring in the dry – we didn’t try it in the wet.

Drive a Toyota Prius and everyone can tell you’re trying to be green, but choose a BlueMotion and nobody need ever know. The biggest external clue is the badge on the boot. Up front, the main grille is blanked off on the inside, with cooling air entering through the grille below the bumper. There’s no spoiler at the rear.

Overall the Golf Plus BlueMotion is a likeable, comfortable and frugal family car. And at less than ten grand, before you start haggling, it’s a credit-crunch-busting bargain to boot.

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