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Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TDI Bluemotion review (2011 onwards)
Model: Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TDI Bluemotion
Bodystyle: Three/five-door hatch
Engine: 1.2-litre turbo three-cylinder, diesel
Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
What is it?
When we tested the first generation Polo Bluemotion back in 2007 it was among the first of a new breed of pared back eco models with lowered suspension, longer gearing, low rolling resistance tyres, aerodynamic tweaks and other changes intended to maximise efficiency.
As such it was a bit of a novelty, standing out in its distinctive Glacier Blue metallic paint and blanked off grille and amazing with its 102g/km CO2 emissions and 70-plus mpg figure. In a stroke VW proved that hybrids might not be such a smart solution to our eco driving needs.
Eco models like the Bluemotion are now everywhere and no self-respecting supermini or C-segment hatch range is without its Ecomotive, Greenline, Cleartec, Econetic or similar. Now in its second generation VW is capitalising on its head start with a new Polo Bluemotion.
In place of the original Bluemotion's super efficient but somewhat agricultural 1.4-litre TDI the new Eco Polo has an all-new 1.2-litre three-cylinder common-rail diesel, start-stop, electrical regeneration under braking and various other new features. It costs £14,860 in three-door form and £15,480 for the five-door.
Where does it fit?
That's a hefty £1,125 premium over the price of the cheapest standard diesel Polo, £1,795 more than the Skoda Fabia Greenline and nearly £2K more than the cheapest SEAT Ibiza Ecomotive, both VW group stablemates using fundamentally the same platform and engine.
The new eco Polo has got more of a fight on its hands than the first one ever did too, Ford now offering a Fiesta Econetic (£14,495 for the five-door), Vauxhall its Corsa Ecoflex (five-door versions from £13,740) and other new rivals appearing all the time. In short, fuel misers have never had it so good.
Clearly you're paying a bit of a premium for that VW badge but ain't it ever thus, Volkswagens typically a tad more pricey than their opposite numbers. And the standalone Bluemotion is a definite 'statement' car over and above the regular SE diesel with the same engine.
The distinctive paint scheme - a £445 extra - and the external aero modifications to single out the Bluemotion as something a bit different though, even if the second-gen version doesn't quite have the Euro modded overtones the slammed ride height and teeny wheels gave the first one.
Is it for you?
The sub-100g/km emissions will offset that additional price if you drive into London regularly, the Bluemotion green enough to qualify for an exemption and saving metropolitan drivers £8 per day on that score. That and the snob appeal of the VW badge will be enough for some.
Like a Prius, a choosing a Bluemotion is as much an advertisement these days of your motoring mindset as spoilers and big alloys have traditionally been for the boy racers. And there's no doubting that, like the rest of the Polo range, the baby VW is a class act.
It's got a lot more presence than Polos of old, the junior Golf styling giving it a more premium, big-car feel than before. But, though less hairshirt than the first wave of eco superminis, it still feels quite minimally equipped compared with regular models.
You do at least get standard Climactic air conditioning, reach/height adjustable steering, an MP3 compatible stereo with aux-in socket and a full suite of safety gear. Weirdly VW still makes you pay an additional £75 for floormats though.
What does it do well?
There's a sense many modern cars are drowning in complexity and gadget-laden interiors so the Polo Bluemotion's honest simplicity actually comes as something of a breath of fresh air. That's a polite way of saying it has a fairly basic spec but when the fundamentals are this good it's not a problem.
Indeed, without any distractions you just appreciate quite how well VW screws its cars together and what a quality product the Polo really is. There's no faff, no acclimatisation required just a simple, logical interior that's built to last and comfortable, functional and satisfying to live with.
Same goes for the way it works. The first Bluemotions left you in no doubt of their eco priorities, the long gearing in particular leading to glacial acceleration and a bizarre pairing with entertainingly communicative handling and tyres whose low rolling resistance also meant relatively low grip levels.
The 1.2 TDI is still a gruff little unit but not as tractor-like as its 1.4 predecessor, the controls all typically VW in their well-weighted feel. If not as poised as a Fiesta the new Bluemotion is, like all Polos, a lot more lively than the previous generation.
What doesn't it do well?
Not a great deal really. A mere five gears to play with seems a little mean these days but, in all honesty, is fine with the diesel's spread of torque. It's no rocketship, mind, even if the Bluemotion doesn't have the longer gearing any more.
0-62mph in 13.9 seconds is pretty leisurely and if you like to make progress the peppy 1.2 TSI petrol is an absolute gem and only costs a couple of hundred pounds more, boasting a six-speed gearbox and much more generous SEL spec into the bargain. Cripes, you even get floormats as standard!
What's it like to live with?
The slowness isn't ultimately a deal breaker though and the Polo feels fun and nippy to drive around town, even if the numbers on the spec sheet suggest otherwise. The five-door option is useful too.
By bringing the Bluemotion closer to the mainstream there isn't quite the sense that this is a special version as much as the first time around but that's more a case of the rest of the range moving closer to the Bluemotion philosophy overall.
How green is it?
The official numbers of 80.7mpg and the 91g/km CO2 emissions underline quite how effectively the Bluemotion fulfils its efficiency brief. But that initial advantage the first-gen model had has now disappeared and most of the Polo's immediate rivals are on similar terms.
You'll have to an eco driving expert to see that figure though. Cut and thrust London traffic saw a still-impressive mid to high 50s, the start-stop working effectively up to a point but soon disabled once the battery is too low for constant restarts.
Would we buy it?
As a standalone car the Polo Bluemotion is a neat piece of kit, a likely utterly painless and very cheap to run ownership proposition and blessed with, in supermini terms, a premium badge. The sensible application of real-world technology gives it a real eco edge too.
But the mechanically identical (as good as) Ibiza and Fabia are cheaper still and if we were buying a Polo the more fun to drive 1.2 TSI would get our vote. No reflection on the Bluemotion though - it's a great car but one with much keener competition than before.
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