Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI Bluemotion: the answer to VW's diesel blues?

VW Golf Bluemotion, front
The petrol-powered Golf Bluemotion uses a 1.0-litre engine

If the emissions cheating scandal has made you think twice about diesel, the petrol powered VW Golf Bluemotion could be worth a look

It would not be unreasonable to assume that internal combustion should have been perfected in the 100 or so years it’s been used in cars, but still improvements in efficiency continue to be found. Most notable in recent times is the trend for downsizing, or reducing engine capacity while maintaining performance through the use of a low-pressure turbocharger. Which is how you end up with a tiny 999cc, three-cylinder engine that can quite comfortably power a five-seat family car.

We've already seen Ford do as much with the Focus, and now Volkswagen has followed suit, with what turns out is rather fortunate timing for the scandal-hit company. Don’t want your Golf powered by the giant can of worms that is a VW diesel anymore? No problem, because petrol is now almost as efficient.

The Golf is a rival to the Ford Focus and Audi A3

To signal as much, this engine powers what is a full-fat (or should that be low fat?) Bluemotion eco model, optimised for fuel efficient motoring. In the past, these have been some of the weakest in VW’s various model ranges, with odd gearing to ace the much-criticised NEDC economy tests, and stingy equipment levels in order to save weight.

Worse still, because so much engineering effort was required to make the cars as lean as possible, VW then had to charge customers more to buy them. So what you ended up with was slower and more meanly equipped than other Golfs, yet also more expensive. And all just to save a few pounds in fuel, which you probably wouldn’t do anyway because to make good progress in a VW Bluemotion required a foot made of lead and the mechanical sympathy of a 17-year-old.

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Bluemotion, though, has matured as a concept, and while it still isn’t the cheapest way to buy a VW, the cars at least are desirable in their own right. For example, the Golf is supplied in what VW calls “Match” specification, which means that when you climb in you aren’t left wondering who stole all the equipment. In fact, with power folding mirrors, parking sensors and even satnav, you wouldn’t guess this was a fuel-saving special at all.

As with all Golfs, there’s room for four adults to fit comfortably, and I can report to anybody else who happens to be the youngest of three children that even the middle rear seat is wider than average. There’s a big boot, too, although the extra room created in the Bluemotion by the jettisoning of the weighty spare wheel won’t be of much use when you get a puncture.

The Golf's interior is one of the best in the business

The three-cylinder motor is taken from the Up city car, but with a turbo to boost that car’s 74bhp output to a healthier 113bhp, along with 148lb ft of torque. In official fuel tests it averaged 65.7mpg, which is 8mpg more efficient than VW’s 1.2-litre, 84bhp petrol engine, but still 17mpg shy of its 1.6-litre Bluemotion diesel. However, the Bluemotion diesel costs £1,500 more to buy, so you’re talking a big annual mileage to recoup that difference, and it’s not like its petrol equivalent is inefficient. In real-world driving we saw between 45-53mpg, so this is a cheap car to run, whether you’re doing so privately or on a company car scheme.

The Golf Bluemotion costs from £19,840

The engine’s delivery is quiet, smooth and strong, with none of the low-down lag that once charactised turbo engines. Of course, you lose that wave of mid-range torque that you get in a diesel, but the superior refinement is ample recompense. The Bluemotion’s wind-cheating lowered suspension also makes for slightly firmer low-speed ride than the Golf norm, but it’s still an exceptionally comfortable car, and with impressively little intrusion from wind and road noise.

The faults are few, and in some cases avoidable. For example, if you want a DSG automatic gearbox the 1.0-litre Bluemotion is best avoided, for its focus on economy means it is on a constant mission to reach seventh gear as quickly as possible. Worse than that, it also likes to pull away in second as if it’s a W12-engined Bentley, which can make it noticeably – and at times worryingly – slow out of the blocks. So if it want this engine, have it with a manual gearbox.

The other sticking point is that the Golf’s comfort-oriented approach means it lacks the steering response and agility of a Mazda3 or Ford Focus, preferring to de-stress its occupants with well-judged damping and a bit of Radio 3.

If that sounds like the kind of driving experience you’d enjoy, this will prove to be a very likeable car indeed.


Volkswage Golf 1.0 TSI Bluemotion

Tested: 999cc, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, front-wheel-drive

Price/on sale: 1.0TSI Bluemotion from £19,840/now

Power/torque: 113bhp @ 5,000rpm/148lb ft @ 2,500rpm

Acceleration: 0-62mph in 9.7sec

Top speed: 127mph

Fuel economy: 65.7mpg (EU Combined), on test 52mpg

CO2 emissions: 99g/km 

VED band: A (£0)

Verdict: An efficient, quiet and classy family car that shows you don't need diesel in order to be efficient. We'd stick with the manual gearbox, though.

Telegraph rating: Four stars out of five

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