Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion

Eco-friendly yet fast and fun... green Golf remains a brilliant contender

The Golf is the most familiar face in this test, and for good reason. It’s our reigning class champ, and the car Ford’s engineers and executives will have in their sights with the new Focus. 

The styling has evolved down the decades, and the Golf MkVI plays it safe – the Focus is bolder and the Astra is sleeker, but there’s no doubting the VW’s timeless appeal and classy image. 

BlueMotion specification is identified by racier bumpers, unique alloys and gloss black grille slats. The small rims don’t really fill the wheelarches, but the eco model’s lowered suspension does the styling a few favours, as well as improving aerodynamics.

It’s standard VW fare inside, with a beautifully constructed dashboard that is clearly and intuitively laid out. The fit and finish are faultless, and there’s little to suggest this is an eco-tuned model, althoughour car’s multifunction leather steering wheel is a £445 option. 

You get plenty of seat and wheel adjustment, so the driving position is good. And while the car in our pictures is a three-door model, interior space and practicality are another strong point for the five-door model on test here. 

Sit behind the driver, and there’s barely any less space than in its longer rivals, with generous rear legroom and the most headroom on test. However, the Golf’s back seats are narrower than in the Ford and Astra, so it is the least comfortable choice if you need to squeeze three adults across the back. 

The 350-litre boot is well proportioned, and while it doesn’t match the Astra’s 370-litre load space, it trumps the Ford and has a wide opening. But enough about the spec – hit the road and the first thing to strike you about the Golf is its refinement. While the Astra never lets you forget its diesel powertrain, the VW is smooth at idle and under acceleration. 

In fact, its linear power delivery is extremely impressive. 

At the track, it was the fastest car to complete the benchmark 0-60mph sprint, with a time of 10.7 seconds, although in-gear performance is compromised by the BlueMotion’s tall ratios, which are devised with economy, rather than pace, in mind. It isn’t as flexible as the more powerful Focus, and even trickling out of junctions in second gear can see the engine struggle. However, once you get used to this trait, the Golf is refreshingly simple to drive for such an economical car. 

The lowered sports suspension is designed to boost efficiency, and affects comfort, as the BlueMotion doesn’t ride with the smoothness and fluency of ordinary models. If anything, though, it’s more compliant than the stiff set-up of the Focus Zetec at low speeds.

Up the pace and the VW trails – the Ford rides well at higher speeds and is more capable and enjoyable to drive. The Golf is safe and sure-footed, but doesn’t have the Focus’ dynamic polish or feedback. 

While the major controls are well weighted, they all feel a bit more detached than in the blue oval model. However, in everyday driving, the differences are small, and the Golf is more capable and rewarding than the lacklustre Vauxhall. 

Predictably, our BlueMotion test car really rams home its advantage when it comes to economy. As with the Ford, it has a gearshift indicator to help you drive more efficiently, but the VW also boasts revised engine management, regenerative braking, low-rolling-resistance tyres and lightweight alloys. 

Its stop-start system also functions more readily than the Ford set-up, unfazed by the use of energy-sapping kit such as air-con. This results in CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km, making it exempt from road tax and London’s Congestion Charge. And it returned 42.4mpg on test – 4.7mpg more than the Ford. 

The BlueMotion is more than an eco-special, though. It’s a polished family car that also happens to be very economical.

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: Our class champion is a formidable opponent. BlueMotion trim has excellent green credentials and demands surprisingly few compromises, so does it retain the crown?

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