CJ Hubbard
22/05/2007 00:00 | By CJ Hubbard, contributor, MSN Cars

Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion review (2007-2010)



Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion (© Volkswagen)

What – Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion
Where – Hanover-Wolfsburg, Germany
Price – £11,995 - £12,995 (estimated)
Available – August
Key rivals – Citroen C2 1.4HDi, Renault Clio 1.5 dCi, Ford Fiesta 1.4TDCi, Toyota Prius, Honda Civic IMA

Summary

New super-efficient VW Polo BlueMotion shows there’s life in diesel technology yet. Extensive modifications balance comfort, dynamics and efficiency for the good of the planet.

Likes: phenomenal fuel economy and emissions performance, no huge sacrifice in the driving experience, build quality, refinement, that it exists
Dislikes: the steering could have more feel, expensive

Read more Volkswagen car reviews

Who needs a hybrid?

VW Polo Bluemotion (© image © VW)

If I told you I’d just been driving a car that has an official combined fuel consumption figure of 72.4mpg, what would you think? And if I went on to add that it emits only 102g/km of CO2, where does that leave us? I can imagine several possible scenarios. An assumption that the car was a hybrid seems likely – given the remarkable PR success of the Toyota Prius. You might imagine the car to be terribly slow. Or very expensive. Even experimental. But the Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion is none of these things. It’s simply a 1.4-litre turbodiesel, and it’s yours this August for around £12,000.

VW Polo Bluemotion (© image © VW)

Of course, that rather depends on your definition of ‘simple’. And whether it’ll be yours in August might depend on how quickly you join the queue – VW’s already been forced to triple production to keep up with European demand. But the Polo BlueMotion is a very real demonstration of what’s possible with more traditional automotive technology given some thought adapting it to environmental concerns. The BlueMotion badge is VWs way of identifying the most fuel and CO2 efficient vehicles in its passenger car ranges; this Polo is the second car to gain the accolade (the first was a Passat) – but it certainly won’t be the last.

Simple?

VW Polo Bluemotion (© image © VW)

In the sense that the BlueMotion’s three-cylinder TDI engine is essentially the same as the other 1.4 turbodiesels in the Polo range. However, in addition to modified engine management, the Polo BlueMotion gains a variable geometry turbocharger to improve low-speed torque, a particulate filter, and revised gear ratios for better efficiency at speed. It’s also undergone a strict regime of weight loss and aerodynamics-enhancing drag reduction. Bodywork changes are extensive, including a new grill, rear spoiler, and front air dam. Specially forged alloy wheels reduce weight by a massive 2kg per corner, and narrower, harder compound tyres ease rolling resistance.

Serious intent

VW Polo Bluemotion (© image © VW)

None of this stuff is cheap to do. Volkswagen is clearly not mucking about. And if you’re starting to worry about compromise – don’t. VW has tried this sort of thing before with the ‘3-litre’ Lupo (as in: 3-litres of fuel for every 100km; the Polo BlueMotion manages 3.9-litres). The spectacular failure of that car taught VW more than a few lessons about balancing economy against dynamics and quality of life. As such, the BlueMotion not only has such niceties as electric front windows, a CD/Radio, six airbags and central locking, it also looks pretty cool – with unique silver trim accents distinguishing it from rest of the range.

VIDEO: VW Polo BlueMotion

VW Polo Bluemotion (© image © VW)

There’s even going to be a higher spec model, likely to boast air conditioning, remote locking and leather bits of trim – though the efficiency will suffer slightly: fuel economy dropping to 68.9mpg, CO2 emissions rising to 108g/km. Considering all this, you have to start wondering about the performance. But even in its modified state, the 1.4TDI produces 79bhp and a usefully chunky 144lb ft of torque between 1,800 and 2,200rpm. Top speed on paper is 109mph, and while 0-62mph in 12.8 seconds is hardly the ‘sprint’ the press pack suggests, it’s very far from being the slowest car currently on sale.

No compromise

VW Polo Bluemotion (© image © VW)

All of which sounds remarkably impressive, but it’s not until you get in and drive the thing that you really appreciate the scope of Volkswagen’s achievement. Perhaps it wouldn’t matter if it drove horribly, but in fact, it’s really rather good. Seriously – you’ll be surprised, especially if you’re used to tooling about in a synthetically sterile Prius for the sake of your environmental conscience. In defiance of its longer gearing and revised electronic brain, the Polo BlueMotion is remarkably punchy – even at motorway speeds. And even if it the gearbox is slick enough to provoke unnecessary, let alone necessary, shifting.

VW Polo Bluemotion (© image © VW)

What’s more, refinement is almost beyond reproach. It sounds a bit old-school clattery at idle, but the three-cylinder beat is characterful at low speeds and evidence of its derv-buring status disappears almost entirely at a cruise. The steering’s light, but feels consistent, and although the skinnier tyres provide less ultimate grip, we had no trouble tackling some winding hill roads in the rain. It’s positively relaxing at 85mph on the autobahn, too. Interior quality is as you’d expect of a junior VW, with funky seat trimmings livening a cabin that provides adequate space for four average-sized adults, and can accommodate five at a push.

Real world economy

VW Polo Bluemotion (© image © VW)

That makes the Polo BlueMotion the most fuel efficient five-seater in Europe. Comparisons to cars like the Prius are somewhat spurious unless you actually need the bigger Toyota’s load space. But if you’re only driving one to make a difference, the Polo not only manages more mpg, it also emits less CO2. My co-driver and I averaged 57.4mpg without even trying – and that includes hitting the 109mph max on a derestricted autobahn, pulling away in second, and nudging the rev limiter in lower gears. More careful colleagues were matching and even exceeding Volkswagen’s figures. Sometimes simple just seems to work.

The MSN Cars verdict: ****

Delivers highly impressive real-world fuel economy with minimal compromise. Refined, comfortable, and even nice to drive, the Polo BlueMotion should be top of your eco-friendly small car list.

Ratings out of five: VW Polo BlueMotion

Need to know

Diesel engine 1.4-litre, three cylinder, turbo
Power (bhp) 79
Torque (lb/ft) 144
0-62mph (secs) 12.8
Top speed (mph) 109
Combined MPG 68.9 - 72.4
CO2 emissions (g/km)/tax (%) 102-108/18 

Twin-test: diesel v hybrid
Driven: Fiat Panda multijet
Driven: Mini Cooper D
Driven: Renault Modus dCi
VIDEO: VW Polo BlueMotion

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