Since its launch 20 years ago the Mazda MX-5 has effectively ruled a class of one, but, finally, two decades on, it may have a challenger. At the start of 2009 at the Detroit motor show, VW unveiled the Bluesport concept, a two-seat mid-engined roadster that’s scheduled to go on sale in early 2012 for around £20k.
What's more, the concept was much more the a show car with shoddy fibreglass panels and a meagre motor - it's so well sorted that the Bluesport drives more like an early prototype than a £1.5m one-off. CAR has just driven it, so read on to find out what the Bluesport is like.
£20k? That's pretty cheap - has VW raided the corporate parts bin to create the Bluesport?
Yes, but there's nothing wrong with Golf bits and pieces. So the engines and transmissions will come from existing models, the chassis gives us a glimpse of the forthcoming MQB platform with the front axle from the next Polo, and the multi-link rear is from the Golf. The concept also uses Polo parts for the steering, and old Golf R32's brakes.
What's in this Bluesport name?
Think of it as a sporting version of VW's Bluemotion vehicles, so there's a 2.0-litre diesel engine with 178bhp, and an Eco mode that activates a stop-start system and brake energy recuperation. The result, according to VW, is a 5% reduction in fuel consumption on the urban cycle. The overall figures are equally impressive: the Bluesport achieves 65.7mpg and 113g/km.
But open-top sports car are meant for driving, so if you hit the Sport button the six-speed ‘box will swap cogs faster, up-shift later and down-shift earlier. Plus the steering speeds up (and is wonderfully direct) and the throttle becomes more responsive.
>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our VW Bluesport concept first drive
What's the Bluesport like on the road then?
Surprisingly good - it feels absolutely rock solid and creak free on the move, with crisp steering, responsive brakes and a decent suspension set-up. The 258lb ft has no trouble in shifting the concept’s 1300 kilos (the production car will weigh closer to 1.2 tonnes) and the big brakes easily pull the Bluesport to a pause.
The big wheels cause it to tramline a little, but overall the allegedly unfinished car provides a remarkably smooth and balanced drive. It's a beautifully balanced car.
A joy – it’s minimalist, but it doesn’t feel meagre either thanks to the easy-to-use touch-screen MMI and climate control dials that glow blue or red depending on the temperature you set. The driving position is low, but there’s plenty of leg and elbow room, and the black leather-trimmed seats are very comfortable.
The bright orange roof is also a thing of beauty, weighs only 27kg, and despite the mid-engined layout and cubby for the folding hood, there's 112 litres of storage space in the nose and another 70 in the rear.
Will we see it?
That's the plan. In February 2009 project VW215/1 officially kicked off so the project is well under way. There's been no public green light, but VW Group officials are working hard to make the numbers add up, and according to insiders the final go-ahead is only a formality.
If all goes well we'll see a VW roadster in 2012, hopefully followed by Seat and Audi versions, and then even a baby Porsche. And we shouldn’t have to wait too long afterwards for a fixed-head sibling…
If Volkswagen can get the Bluesport into production - and it's looking ever more likely that it will - then come 2012 we'll see a gorgeous and affordable sports car. We can't wait.
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