VW's Bluemotion models: driven
The Bluemotion models were revealed at the Frankfurt motor show in September, and VW plans to launch them in the UK between now and March.
All have efficient diesel engines with stop-start systems, longer gearing and energy recovery when decelerating or braking.
The Bluemotion models also have aerodynamic tweaks, low-friction tyres and unique exterior trim. They are equipped along similar lines to entry-level S models.
VW describes its Bluemotion measures as 'the pinnacle of what is currently feasible' to reduce the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of fossil-fuel cars.
The company plans to have 44 Bluemotion technology models on sale by the end of next year.'
Start of 'greener' things to come
VW says that the engine stop-start system and energy recovery under braking are 'the beginning of the electrification of the car'. Together they reduce CO2 output by up to 11g/km, VW claims.
In Europe, the Polo Bluemotion is the cleanest fossil-fuel car on sale but, because the exhaust system has to be re-routed for right-hand-drive models, that's not the case in the UK.
Even so, the 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine – in effect, three-quarters of the 1.6 in the Golf and Passat Bluemotion – gives an average of 83.1mpg and emits just 90g/km of CO2, a figure bettered only by the Smart diesel and Toyota Prius.
Performance takes a hit, though
The engine delivers 74bhp, and 132lb ft of torque at 2000rpm – figures which, on paper, are ideal for a relatively compact and light supermini.
However, this doesn't take into account the long gearing in third, fourth and fifth. At 70mph, the engine is turning over at less than 2000rpm – great for economy but not for driveability.
Change up when the gearshift indicator suggests and the engine will be way below its torque peak, so progress could best be described as leisurely. There's also a big gap between the gearing in second and third that impedes acceleration.
Identical mechanical package
The Golf and Passat – saloon and estate – have an identical mechanical package, with the exception that the Golf is slightly higher-geared.
This means the Golf suffers some of the driveability issues found with the Polo, but not to anything like the same extent. Not so the Passat.
The Passat's 1.6-litre diesel engine is smooth and quiet, and far more sprightly than you might expect given its comparatively small capacity, especially in something as big as the Passat.
It delivers 104bhp, but of far greater importance in cars with long, economy-minded gearing is the 185lb ft of torque that's available from 1500-2500rpm.
Official fuel economy is 74.3mpg in the Golf and 64.2mpg in the Passats, with respective CO2 figures of 99g/km and 114g/km.
The Polo goes on sale in March from £14,500. The Golf will be in showrooms at the end of the year from £17,325, with the Passat to follow in February at £19,000 (saloon) and £20,200 (estate).