On test here is the recently introduced Match BlueMotion Edition 1.0-litre TSI 115ps five-door six-speed manual. The sentence tells the Golf-ers in the Camshaft Arms that it is a high economy version with a three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine producing 113.4 brake horse power.
You may be thinking that the Golf is quite a large hatchback to have just a one-litre engine. Well, this generation of Golf lost around 100 kilos and along with developments in engines it actually feels almost sublime. The motor produces 148 lb ft of torque from 2,000 revs per minute up to 3,500rpm. This means it is responsive when you want to go faster and almost as flexible at low engine revs as a diesel.
A smart aspect of this engine is low carbon emissions, which at an official 99g per kilometre equal those of the previous diesel-engine BlueMotion. In other words, petrol technology has improved.
Desire for diesel is understandably driven by “company” motorists who achieve more miles per gallon, with tax advantages for them and the employers who own the cars – even though a diesel engine has a price premium over petrol. In most EU countries diesel is cheaper at the pumps, enough to make diesel engine cars even more attractive. We have all been behind cars which belch out a smog of foul black fumes.
Hand on heart and all that, would I buy this super smooth, economical one-litre petrol Golf instead of a diesel? Yes I would.
It is super quiet, refined, quick and thoroughly pleasing. If I wanted to I could drive it at 124 miles an hour – which is roughly as fast as I achieved in my 3.5 litre V8 Morgan – admittedly a 1970s model but rather faster from 0-60. I seem to remember it would reach 70 in seven seconds.
The Golf is timed at 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds. These days this is fast enough for my temperament, taking the view that progress is limited to the next bottleneck. You just get there first in a faster car.
Yet it feels eager. It can excite with its sports suspension and lowered ride on 16-inch alloys with 205/55 Dunlops. I’d mark it down for tyre noise – whether caused by tyres or the chassis set-up I know not.
I couldn’t fault it for grip and handling. The secret is not to try to do something the car is not equipped for – like tackling a farm track or, in this case, trying to keep pace with a hot hatch or a Honda Civic Type R.
I took it to CarFest North (on a successful new site at Bolesworth Castle in Cheshire) where the ultra hot Civic was flanking the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs on stage. Honda, the stage sponsor, was one of the exhibitors with audience participation, including tuition on mini motorbikes for youngsters and on ATVs for adults (me). Its new NSX supercar, on a media launch in Portugal, but blurbed in the programme for a CarFest debut, never showed.
The trip, mostly by motorway, averaged very nearly 60mpg. A more mundane journey on my 45-mile simulated commuter route recorded 51mpg. A shorter route of motorway and city roads achieved 42mpg.
The navigation system, standard with this model, was accurate and helpful but the speech pattern was often confusing in a dull monotone, viz “turn into street Burton Street”. The first “street” is superfluous. At other times, the pronunciation made words almost unintelligible. So I’d give the nav system a resounding 6/10 with the advice to VW to do it better.
This ultra economical Golf is not the cheap entry to life with the world’s favourite hatchback. You can buy a three-door with an 84bhp petrol engine for £17,625 or the five-door version for £18,280 or an estate from £18,980. Most Golfs are well over £20,000. My five-door hatch costs £20,765 plus £560 for the stunning blue metallic paint. A three-door model is £20,110. The one-litre estate is £21,315. Standard paint choice – just grey. Kit includes the dynamic navigation on a 5.8-inch touchscreen with speed signs, digital audio, multi-option plug-ins etc.
Fuel saving is helped by braking regeneration of the battery and stop-start ignition at halts. It has adaptive distance control city emergency braking and a speed limiter. The front seats have heaters and there is a useful drawer under one of them. The false boot floor, covering a hidden storage area, forms a flat deck when the seats are folded away.
Verdict: One of those cars I could want to buy.