While Toyota grabs the eco high ground with its Prius, Europe’s makers are also trying to elevate themselves to the sunny green uplands with a range of hybrid-rivalling misers. From Econetic Fords to Efficient Dynamics BMWs; from Blue Efficiency Benzes to Ecoflex Vauxhalls; from Ecomotive Seats to Bluemotion Volkswagens. They’re all at, concocting increasingly daft model names to levitate their greenest offerings.
Volkswagen, which has been building fuel-sipping specials (remember the freewheeling Ecomatic Golf?) long before Toyota first started to court green preeners, has just launched a new range of Bluemotions, from 90g/km Polo Bluemotion to 114g/km Passat Bluemotion.
We concentrate here on the big-selling 99g/km VW Golf Bluemotion, Europe’s first sub-100g/km mid-sized hatch (the new 99g/km Ford Focus Econetic follows early in 2010). It’s just as well we’re writing about the Golf, because the over-geared, sluggish and noisy Polo Bluemotion is about as appealing as a diet of tofu and lentils. (The Passat Bluemotion is much more of a feast, but that’s another story.) So how is the VW Golf Bluemotion different from a regular Golf?
Start with the normal 105bhp 1.6 TDI Golf, which uses one of the sweetest diesels around. Power and torque stay the same when Bluemotioning. Add stop-start (so the engine shuts down when the car is stationary) and regenerative braking (capturing kinetic energy to top-up the battery). Improve the aerodynamics so it cleaves the air cleaner (note lower ride height, revised grille, new front bumper and the small rear wing).
It doesn't end there. The tyres have less rolling resistance. The five-speed manual gearbox has longer ratios in third, fourth and top, allowing for an easier low-revving gait.
The changes add just over 10mpg (on the official combined cycle) and about £1500. That’s about two years' fuel costs (if you do 10,000 miles a year), and because the Golf Bluemotion squeezes under the crucial 100g/km barrier, there’s zero road tax if you live in the UK. So it makes sense financially, as well as ecologically. But what’s the new Mk6 VW Golf Bluemotion like to drive, compared with other diesel hatches?
Very impressive. The latest VW common-rail diesel is a sweety. Even at the redline-encroaching 5000rpm, it sounds restrained. It also has enough torque to cope with the higher gear ratios, surfing along with 185lb ft between 1500 and 2500 rpm.
It’s no fireball – no Eco/Blue/Efficient etc green Goddess is – but performance is perfectly adequate. The ‘Gearchange up’ indicator encourages low-rev parsimony, and to use the low-end brawn of the turbodiesel.
What’s more, the latest VW Golf Bluemotion has a terrific ride, handles nicely, steers sharply, and is probably the most pleasant of all mid-sized hatchbacks in which to spend time. So you’d buy a Golf Bluemotion over a Prius or another same-size parsimonious diesel?
Yes, it’s a better drive than the Prius – not least because it’s the best part of 200 kg lighter (blame the Prius's two engines and big battery pack). And I’d buy a Golf over any other same-size car. Only the (pricier) Focus comes close. Verdict
The current Golf Mk6 is just about the apogee of the mid-size hatchback, the climax of 30-odd years of refinement since the first Golf virtually invented this sector way back in the mid ‘70s. It is now such a grown-up, beautifully honed machine.
The Bluemotion ups the eco ante, while sacrificing nothing in everyday performance over a normal non-true blue 1.6 TDI Golf. >> Are tweaked, greener versions of existing models the way forwards? Or bespoke eco cars such as hybrids? Click 'Add your comment' and have your say