Volkswagen Golf 2011

Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion Review

Rating: 8.0
$21,490 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
The Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion uses just 3.8 litres of diesel per 100km, that's less than the Toyota Prius and without all the fancy hybrid gear
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The Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion uses just 3.8 litres of diesel per 100km. That's less than the Toyota Prius and without all the fancy hybrid gear.

Buying a current-generation hybrid has all of a sudden become an almost pointless exercise. You can now buy a German built Volkswagen Golf that uses less fuel and costs thousands less ($28,990).

The Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion is the most fuel efficient Golf of all time. Its 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel 77kW engine (250Nm of torque) uses 0.1L/100km less fuel than the all-mighty Prius and it doesn't even need to carry around batteries and an electric engine. It's also the second most fuel efficient car on sale in Australia (after the Ford Fiesta Econetic).

Volkswagen may be building hybrid and electric vehicles in the near future, but while it perfects that technology the German powerhouse has managed to showcase just how fuel efficient conventional vehicles can be if the right supporting technologies are applied.

Previously the most fuel efficient Golf was the Golf 77TDI, using 4.9L/100km. The BlueMotion essentially makes use of the same underpinnings except it harnesses fuel-saving technologies such as better aerodynamics, start-stop engine system and brake energy recuperation.

To showcase the Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion, CarAdvice was given the opportunity to drive the vehicle around the hilly countryside of Adelaide. Initially we thought the route chosen for us by Volkswagen Australia would be without hills to guarantee we could achieve the quoted 3.8L/100km figure, but alas, we drove through a series of winding mountain roads that would have suited a World Rally Championship stage. It was clear that Volkswagen was not afraid of the conditions in which we tested the BlueMotion. Did we manage to achieve the quoted figure? Keep reading.

As a vehicle, the Golf BlueMotion is just a Golf. It drives like a Golf, it handles like a Golf and is just as practical as one. Volkswagen's entire marketing campaign for the BlueMotion is based around the tag line “You don't have to be enviro-mental when you can be enviro-normal”. A clever play on words that is meant to highlight the fact that the Golf BlueMotion is not a car that compromises on features and practicality just to be fuel efficient.

The German company will not be advertising the BlueMotion against the Toyota Prius the same way Ford did with the Fiesta Econetic. It believes the BlueMotion can stand on its own feet and prove its credentials without needing to put down the competition directly.

Available as a five-door, five-speed manual only, the Golf BlueMotion is likely to only attract certain buyers. It will no doubt lose sales as a result of not being available as an automatic (DSG) and may also be disadvantaged by lack of multimedia support. Volkswagen says the idea of its BlueMotion cars is to be as fuel efficient as possible and that the 3.8L/100km figure was only achievable with a manual gearbox.

If you're wondering why it's not a six-speed manual, it's due to the more appropriate gear ratios of the five-speed manual. Its fifth gear is so tall that it's actually more fuel efficient in the BlueMotion application than the standard six-speed generally fitted to the Golf range.

So, what's so different about the Golf BlueMotion and the Golf 77TDI that it replaces. For a start, it sits 10mm lower on sports suspension, comes with a modified radiator grille, bumpers and side skirt extensions in R-Line styling and rides on 15-inch alloy wheels with low resistance tyres (195/65 - no spare wheel for weight reduction). All of this is done for better aerodynamics. It makes use of start-stop technology, which means the Golf will turn itself off when it's stopped in traffic. It will only turn the engine off if the BlueMotion is stationary, gear is in neutral and the battery is operating normally.

Start-stop technology has been available in many other vehicles for some time, but for the majority of first-time users it will come as a bit of a shock when their vehicle turns itself off each time it stops. It will take a few hours to get used to, and the most important thing to know is that it will instantly turn back on when you engage the clutch. It does this so quickly that there is no need to wait for the engine to re-engage before driving away. By the time you've engaged the clutch and selected first gear the Golf BlueMotion is ready to go. Given how long one can spend in traffic, this system helps save fuel when stationary but can also be switched-off if needed.

When the Golf BlueMotion is decelerating via the brakes, brake energy recuperation technology uses the kinetic energy of the vehicle to charge the battery. By doing this more intensely when the vehicle is decelerating as opposed to at all times, it eases the load of the engine which has to keep the battery charged. It's unclear just how much fuel each one of these technologies saves individually, but it's the total as a whole which manages the remarkable 3.8L/100km figure.

The BlueMotion will also suggest perfect gearshift times for maximum fuel efficiency when driving. This goes a long way to helping you get the maximum fuel saving.

Visually the Golf BlueMotion is an attractive vehicle. There are small BlueMotion badges on the grille and tailgate which, from a distance, can make the car appear to be a special-edition sports model. The lower stance and the more aggressive styling (thanks to the bumpers) make the BlueMotion look much sportier than it really is. If the 15-inch wheels didn't give it away so easily, it could actually look rather mean – for a hybrid-beater. The rear is also home to smoked lights and a roof edge spoiler in GTI design.

Sit inside and you'll instantly tell this is a Golf. There are no gimmicks that will tell you how many trees you've saved or whether a polar bear is thanking you from the North Pole. It won't even draw smiley faces if you drive economically. It's all just serious business. A typical Golf.

Nonetheless, the no nonsense approach means soft-touch plastics around the dashboard and doors, comfortable seats in a unique BlueMotion cloth trim, a leather steering wheel and low tyre pressure indicator. Like all Golfs, it can comfortably fit four adults for long distance drives and five if necessary. It's also as safe as they come thanks to all the electronic nanny controls you can think of (ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, EDL, ASR & ESP) plus seven airbags.

The Golf BlueMotion makes use of an RCD310 multimedia system which has no support for Bluetooth phone connectivity or audio streaming. Given that there are no options available for the model (except $500 for metallic paint), it also misses out on iPhone/iPod/USB support, which is surprising given the 'no-compromise' nature of the BlueMotion's marketing campaign. Not having Bluetooth available even as an option is disappointing. To be fair, it does have an auxiliary jack which allows nearly all music players to be connected the 'ancient' way.

All practicality and features aside, if you're buying a BlueMotion you're probably curious as to whether or not the vehicle can actually achieve its quoted fuel economy figure of 3.8L/100km.

As part of the test, my co-driver and I decided to first find out just how much fuel we can force the BlueMotion to use before seeing if it can achieve the official figure. For the first test we drove the eager Golf up and down a four kilometre section of winding mountain road over and over and over again – as fast as we could (obeying the speed limit, of course). After the smoke from the brakes had subsided, we looked at the car's trip computer for a confirmation of fuel figures. Our best effort, after nearly 30 minutes and almost 40km of rally-style driving, resulted in an average fuel economy of just 7.3L/100km. Impressive really, given we were desperately trying to use as much fuel as possible.

The next and perhaps more practical test was to see what the fuel economy would be if we drove the vehicle normally, as in, replicate the driving style of what an average person would do on a daily basis. This meant that we weren't going 80km/h in a 100km/h zone just to save fuel. But instead, we drove it like it was any other car and kept with the speed limit at all times. To our surprise, even with our heavy-footed driving style, after the 64km drive route from the countryside to Adelaide airport it displayed an average fuel economy of just 3.9L/100km. Only 0.1L/100km higher than the official figure. A positively surprising result.

The conclusion? Unlike the Prius which takes someone with a PhD in aerodynamics and engineering to get the official 3.9L/100km figure, the Golf BlueMotion can easily achieve its quoted figure by an average driver. Going by its official figure, the Golf BlueMotion should be able to drive for at least 1,400km on a single tank of diesel (55L). Even if it gets 80% of that on a regular basis, you're still well and truly getting over 1,000km per tank.

On a different note, while we were conducting our 'how much fuel can we force it to use' test, we realised that the BlueMotion sports surprisingly good ride and handling characteristics. It's comfortable on rough surfaces but its low sports suspension allows for lively cornering and the 250Nm of torque provide adequate pull for out-of-corner acceleration. A lot more fun to drive than any other super fuel efficient car we've ever found ourselves in.

If you can look past the manual-only disadvantage and the fact that it lacks Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity or native support for iPod/iPhones, the Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion is not only the most fun you can have in a fuel efficient car, but it's also practical, cheap, attractive and a lot more engaging than its competition.

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