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Poetry in slow motion - the VW Golf BlueMotionBy: Tim Gibson

If there’s one cliché that never fails to irritate motoring journalists, it’s that they’re only interested in super-sleek performance cars.

As it happens, in almost 20 years as a motoring writer, I’ve only driven a handful of sports cars. And while I won’t deny that it’s a memorable experience to sit with your bottom just an inch above the tarmac while racing along at high speed, driving these vehicles has by no means been the highlight of my career.

I’m much more interested in cars that are capable of being used on a day-by-day basis while still feeling a bit special. Cars like the first generation Ford Focus, which ranks as one of the finest motor vehicles ever manufactured. Or the Land Rover Defender, Volvo 850, Mercedes W124 estate, and Honda CR-V – all of which offer a compelling combination of fitness for purpose and quirky driveability.

The Mk2 VW Golf is another example. I think the stars aligned when the men in Wolfsburg sat down to design this appealing little hatchback. Trouble is, for many VeeDub fanatics, it’s been downhill ever since.

So when I took delivery of a Mk6 Golf BlueMotion, it’s fair to say I was slightly anxious about how we’d get on. Like many, I think the flabby family cars that have borne the Golf nomenclature since the early-1990s are a long way removed from their lean, autobahn-bashing antecedents. And while I applaud VW’s commitment to producing a highly fuel-efficient version of Europe’s best-selling car, I also feared it would be a trifle, well… dull, actually.

I wasn’t mistaken. The BlueMotion is worthy. It’s clever and capable, and, on paper at least, jaw-droppingly economical. It’s also handsome and classy, with neat styling touches that pay homage to the Golf GTis of old.
The trouble, however, is this: the obsessive quest for fuel economy comes at the price of driver satisfaction. With tall gearing (designed to keep engine revs to a minimum in third, fourth and fifth) and a sluggish feel to the engine, there’s nothing to engage you when the Golf is in flow. I found myself changing gear far more regularly than I would expect in a torquey turbo diesel – something that was especially tiresome on twisty country roads at the end of a long day behind the wheel.

The trade-off comes in the BlueMotion’s ability to sip fuel and emit miniscule amounts of carbon dioxide. That means you can cover almost 800 miles between refills and benefit from zero-rated VED, as well as best-in-class company car tax burdens.
These figures make for enticing reading – because, let’s face it, most people who buy a BlueMotion will do so with the wellbeing of their wallet, rather than the planet, in mind. That makes the car’s 20-plus grand asking price feel a bit steep, especially when you think what else you can get for similar money.

That said, VW is renowned for its competitive finance packages, meaning you can park a Golf on your driveway for not much more than £200 per month. Put like that, the BlueMotion begins to look like a pretty sound investment.
Like many decisions that make a great deal of sense, purchasing a Golf BlueMotion won’t set your pulse racing. You’re unlikely to skip down the stairs in the morning, eyes alight at the prospect of driving your new motor to work. But you will feel decidedly chuffed when you weigh up the vehicle’s running costs and eco-credentials. And if motoring journalists like me could bring themselves to be more interested in that sort of thing, the world would no doubt be a better place.

Vital Statistics

  • On test: Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion 1.6 TDI 5sp manual
  • Power output: 105bhp
  • Top speed: 118mph
  • 0-62mph: 11.3 seconds
  • Fuel economy: 74.3 mpg (manufacturer’s quoted figure for the combined cycle)
  • Price: £20,015 OTR

About the author

Tim Gibson is a freelance journalist who writes for publications including The Daily Telegraph, Civil Service World and Total 4x4. He is a founding Director of The Writing Hut Ltd, a copywriting agency based in South Somerset

Features September 2012

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