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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Golf - BlueMotion hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Excellent fuel economy, unaffected boot space, comfortable ride, competent handling, good value
Room for improvement
No automatic transmission option, idle-stop feature can be intrusive, sluggish performance

23 May 2011

You may not get the same green ‘cred’ that goes with being spotted driving a Toyota Prius, but the BlueMotion Golf is a very practical eco car that is easy to drive. It may not be perfect, but its shortcomings are minor when considering just how practical it is.

Despite not coming with a spare wheel (although it has room for one), it is an appropriate car for the Australian environment.

It is not as quiet as a Prius, cannot operate without the engine running and is only available with a manual transmission, but it is a lot cheaper, returns excellent fuel economy on the open road (where hybrids are not so good) and the full-size boot is a big plus.

The drive experience is not greatly affected by its green upgrades, but the engine at times feels a bit under-done. Whether it is the gear ratios or the engine itself, changing into a new gear is often accompanied by a delay as the turbocharger gets going. It can bog down a bit for an instant before returning to regular service.

Overall, the engine provides adequate performance considering how little fuel it is using, dispatching hills and minor rises without effort, and it ticks over at just 1700rpm at 100km/h, making it a great long-distance cruiser.

Though reasonably refined for a diesel, the idle-stop system means the engine cuts in and out a lot in stop-start traffic. This can be intrusive because, being a diesel, it shudders on start-up. At least you can turn the idle-stop system off if it annoys you.

The competent five-speed manual has a sturdy shift feel. You certainly don’t miss having a sixth gear when highway cruising thanks to the tall top gear, but closer ratios would certainly help around town.

It’s a shame there is no automatic version and, with the 77TDI automatic no longer available, the cheapest diesel automatic Golf is now the 103TDI at some $36,490.

The BlueMotion Golf provides a comfortable ride. Thanks to its smaller-diameter wheels with higher profile tyres and softer damping rates, the car handles bumps and ruts without fuss.

Comfort does not come at the expense of handling, though, as is a nimble machine that remains composed going through turns at speed. It is no GTi and these tyres are made for economy rather than ultimate grip, but it can be a lot of fun through a twisty section of road.

The precise steering gives the driver good feedback while road noise is acceptable, although the tyres are noisier than normal at times, which is not uncommon with low-rolling-resistance tyres.

The BlueMotion Golf looks standard apart for the smaller wheels, front lip and rear spoiler, but it has a nice stance on the road and looks like a smart Euro hatch with a sporty side rather than an economy special.

It is standard fare on the inside, with all the basic features in a neat, if not exciting layout. The seats are comfortable and there are enough features such as cruise control to justify the price tag.

Fuel economy is, of course, what this car is all about and, while our test drive at the launch predictably did not live up to VW’s claim of 3.8L/100km, a figure of 4.9L/100km was pretty good in such circumstances.

The BlueMotion Golf is a good example of how the car industry can make eco motoring easy for average people. There are some niggles, but they are worth putting up with for the fuel savings and reduced environmental impact.

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