The first petrol-powered VW Bluemotion model uses an all-new 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine that undermines the case for diesel

What is it?

The first petrol-powered model to be launched under the company’s ‘Bluemotion’ branding.

It’s powered by a new 999cc three-cylinder turbocharged engine based on the impressive unit currently used in the Up city car. The headline claims are for an official CO2 rating of 99g/km and 65.7mpg on the combined cycle.

There’s no doubt that this engine is something of an engineering gem. Volkswagen claims it has the highest specific torque output of any "large-scale series production petrol engine", with 147lb ft being produced by just 999cc.

This three-cylinder unit is part of the EA211 engine family and based around a die-cast crankcase made from a sophisticated aluminium alloy. The exhaust manifold is integrated into the cylinder head and fitted with a cooling jacket which is fed from the engine’s main cooling system.

Two advantages are gained from this. Firstly ,the exhaust gases can help get the engine’s coolant up to operating temperature more quickly, which is essential for maximum fuel efficiency. Secondly, at high speeds the coolant helps cool the exhaust gases before they are sent to drive the turbocharger.

The turbocharger’s impressively compact intercooler – which is integrated into the engine’s intake manifold system – is also connected to the engine’s cooling system. Usually, intercoolers are air cooled and mounted remotely from the engine, being sited by the radiator in the nose of the car.

The Golf's set-up is far more space-efficient and greatly reduces the distance intake air has to travel to be cooled before heading for the turbocharger.

Another nice touch is the cylinder head cover, which is made from aluminium and has the mountings for the valve train integrated into its underside.

The direct injection system works through five-hole injectors and uses a maximum of 250bar, which is unusually high for a petrol engine. VW has also specified a toothed belt to drive the valve train. This is claimed to reduce friction by 30% compared with a chain drive. It is also said the belt will last the lifetime of the car.

The final piece of engineering magic relates to the engine's balancing. A three-cylinder four-stroke engine has an inherent lack of internal balance that manifests as a distinctive ‘thrumming’ vibration.

Normally a crankshaft-driven balancer shaft would be fitted to such an engine, but VW's engineers wanted to avoid the expense, bulk and power-sapping friction developed by a conventional balancer shaft.

VW’s solution - as used by Audi in the 1980s on its big five-cylinder engines - is to use a deliberately unbalanced flywheel and crankshaft pulley. The carefully calculated ‘unbalancing’ of these components, each of which is mounted on opposite ends of the crankshaft, cancels out the internal imbalances of the engine at virtually no cost. The crankshaft pulley, for example, is ‘unbalanced’ simply by cutting out sections of the pulley face, making it heavier at one side.

The whole engine weighs in a just 89kg, or 10kg lighter than the four-cylinder 1.2-litre TSI engine launched with the Golf Mk7.

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Changes to the car have been less dramatic. The chassis has been lowered by 15mm, the radiator sits behind deployable flaps, it gets new airflow-smoothing underfloor panels, low-rolling-resistance tyres and a new spoiler. The upshot is that the Cd figure is shaved from 0.29 to 0.28.

What's it like?

Very refined, smooth-running, cosseting and surprisingly brisk. It should be noted that we sampled the Bluemotion on Amsterdam’s extensive motorway network, which is smooth, well surfaced and, above all, flat.

That said, this Golf performed admirably. Although it doesn’t have the ripping torque and mid-range shove of a modern diesel engine, it is hugely more refined and far more pleasant to wring out through the revs.

The engine starts in virtual silence and its stop-start abilities are far superior to those of any diesel engine, shutting down and sparking up with hardly any notification.

Indeed, I was caught out on a couple of occasions by the almost inaudible engine shut-down at junctions. The only clue was the sudden lack of steering assistance.

At motorway speeds, the only sound invading the Bluemotion’s cabin is subdued wind noise from the around the pillars and side windows. Turn the air-con fan up and the most prominent noise inside is from the face-level vents.

The shift action on this six-speed manual was also slick and nicely weighted, albeit with a reasonably long throw, especially into sixth.

Although the road conditions were hardly challenging, the chassis tuning seemed to have achieved a fine balance of cosseting, easy-rolling comfort without degenerating into heaving and bouncing across obstacles.

Were I a business driver, the Golf would make a compelling tool. It’s not only the in-car refinement and humming turbine of an engine that makes it so usable but also the fine interior, wide, comfortable seats and extensive storage space. This is a really first-rate cockpit.

The only real negative is, perhaps, that some drivers might feel it is a little characterless. 

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Should I buy one?

The big caveat with this impressive machine is the kind of real-world economy that is likely to achieved. The omens are good, however, considering the 50mpg-plus being delivered by 1.4 TSI engine equipped with cylinder deactivation.

So if you are thinking of buying a smaller diesel-engined car, you should definitely test drive this 1.0 Golf Bluemotion. VW has created an engine that is impressively refined and doles out brisk performance with a civility that modern diesels just can’t match.

I’d go so far as to argue that this engine should make you a better driver. Instead of relying on the indiscriminate mid-range thrust of a diesel engine, the Bluemotion petrol engine rewards more thoughtful and attentive driving, especially on the motorway.

On the financial front, compared with the Golf 1.6 TDI Match – which also has a 99g/km CO2 rating – this 1.0-litre petrol model is £1150 cheaper and has a six-speed gearbox to the Match's five speeds. The petrol Golf also has a 14% company car tax rate, which is 3% less than the diesel.

If this engine delivers real-world economy of 45mpg and above, the case for dropping diesel – with all the attendant worries about pollution – has never been better.

Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI Bluemotion Match

Location Amsterdam; On sale Now; Price £20,395; Engine 3 cyls, 999cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 113bhp at 5000-5500rpm; Torque 147lb ft at 2000-3500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1211kg; 0-62mph 9.7sec; Top speed 127mph; Economy 65.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 99g/km/14%

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Oilburner 3 June 2015

I have to agree with the naysayers

If you want a smooth, reliable petrol engined car that can deliver 50 mpg plus in the real world, then get a Toyota Hybrid.

OK, an Auris or Prius (or even Lexus CT200h) might not have the appeal of a Golf, but if reliability is important to you then Toyota has it without question.

No turbo, no high pressure fuel system, no DPF, no clutch or flywheel and upwards of 60 mpg on petrol if you're careful - Toyota has it nailed. Our Prius feels nearly indestructible. It's coming up for 6 years old and just refuses to go wrong - ever.

On the other hand, if you're a company car driver or leasing a car on PCP giving it back at the end, there's a lot to be said for the Golf. Probably won't cause too much trouble in those first three years and will feel like a much more premium ownership experience, if that matters to you.

marj 3 June 2015

Now I know

Now I know Autocar is the VW Press Team with comments like "Although the road conditions were hardly challenging, the chassis tuning seemed to have achieved a fine balance of cosseting, easy-rolling comfort without degenerating into heaving and bouncing across obstacles.". The Bluemotion with the beam axle rear suspension crashed through every obstacle it found resulting in a slight bunny hop 9 times out of 10. It certainly wasn't cosseting. Although this could have fully independent rear suspension like its larger engined brothers, but I doubt it. For such a technical tour de force up front they should at least equip it with all round independent suspension. Then there is the point that to get this car moving you will probably have to drive it like an Italian on speed to get anywhere, which would result in a loss of economy. So by 50,000 miles tis we little motor with its turbos, intercoolers, 3 pistons going 10 to the dozen will be ready for the knackers yard. Effectively ruling out the main USP for buying a Golf.
Mini2 2 June 2015


If Autocar think "a real world economy figure of 45mpg" will get diesel drivers out of their cars, they've got another thing coming.
marj 3 June 2015

Mini2 wrote: If Autocar think

Mini2 wrote:

If Autocar think "a real world economy figure of 45mpg" will get diesel drivers out of their cars, they've got another thing coming.

I know plenty of people who have the Dci 1.5 diesel engine in their cars who regularly achieve 70mpg so don't think this will tempt them away. But 45mpg from a petrol is commendable.