Good: improved fuel economy without performance drop, cheap road tax
Not so good: standard equipment levels are low
The latest Mk VII Golf BlueMotion is perhaps the best demonstration yet that there is more at work here than some simple badging. The car itself sits 15mm lower than the standard Golf and is further differentiated by a unique front bumper and a blanked off grille, all of which help to reduce drag on the car, thus helping to improve fuel economy. It rolls on 15-inch alloy wheels that are smaller than usual and shod with generously side-walled tyres, which provide reduced rolling resistance and as a by-product deliver a comfortable ride. Other fuel economy aids include a spoiler around the rear window that contributes to the Golf BlueMotion's low drag coefficient value of 0.29. Those with a penchant for factoids should note that this is the same aerodynamic value as a Porsche 991-spec 911.
You might think that a model designed to return noticeably better fuel economy would be pretty gutless when it comes to driving performance but you'd be mistaken in this case. Volkswagen has actually added a further 5hp to its well-proven 1.6-litre four-cylinder TDI engine, which, in tandem with a six-speed manual gearbox, actually delivers performance that the majority of drivers shouldn't have an issue with. As is now the norm, it is equipped with start-stop and unlike some Volkswagen's system is quite responsive.
One thing that I found refreshing, although many probably won't, was the lack of a multifunction steering wheel. The simple, three-spoke design felt and looked slightly old-school, but not dated. However, the lack of Bluetooth was annoying - it is available with an upgrade to the ‘Composition Media' system at a cost of €512.
As for the drive itself, there is very little difference between the BlueMotion model and a standard Golf, which is no bad thing. Even on poorer road surfaces the ride is good thanks mainly to those thicker tyre sidewalls, and even though it might not be high up on the list of intended uses, it is capable of remaining composed when hustled that bit harder.
Those wanting to extract the maximum fuel efficiency from the car will need to work that bit harder to do so, especially around town. The gearbox ratios are designed to offer the optimum in fuel conservation, but driving on rural roads will require plenty of shifting between third, fourth and fifth gears.
During my time with the BlueMotion I undertook a real-world economy drive from Malin Head to Mizen Head, using very little motorway and deliberately not trying to hyper-mile. I won't bore you with the whole drive, but the end result was an average fuel economy figure of just over 66mpg, which for a car that was two-up, with luggage, and driven in an entirely normal fashion was quite respectable. It may still fall short of the official 88.3mpg figure, but the car I drove had very low mileage on it, so that should improve over time too.
Where the Golf BlueMotion really excels is that it can offer consumers genuinely improved fuel economy without any real sacrifice in terms of their overall driving experience. It may be a little bit light on specification, but given the long-term fuel savings, it could still be worth shelling out for a few more optional extras.