FOR years my frugal ways have been the source of many jokes.
The usual barbs such as moths emanating from the wallet, Jewish religious links and having short arms with long pockets have been fired in my direction for years.
It now seems Australians are following my tight-arse example. We’re saving more than ever and counting the pennies.
And there’s a growing range of cars which appeal to those who embrace thriftiness.
The Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion may sound like something you’d suffer with a bad case of gastro, but it’s actually a pin-up for efficiency.
Launched with trumpeting about its green credentials, it’s actually more an example of squeezing blood from a stone than environmental saviour.
While the BlueMotion scored 4.5 stars in the Federal Government’s Green Vehicle Guide, its smaller sibling (the 1.2-litre petrol Polo) is actually greener, even though it uses, on average, more fuel. What lets the Golf down is its diesel pollution rating.
But take nothing away from the new hatch.
It is engineering genius. It emits less than 100g of CO2 per kilometre but sips, on average, just 3.8 litres per 100km.
Black and basic, the Golf cabin will not leave you awe-struck but deserves plaudits for functionality. Some chrome-look inserts along the dash and doors help break up the bland palette, and it’s mostly soft-touch materials across the dash with limited use of hard plastics in the console and doors.
The dials are well labelled and easy to use. Key stereo and trip computer functions can be accessed by your thumbs, courtesy of the steering wheel mounted controls, although strangely there’s a telephone button when there is no Bluetooth accessibility (it has only been added as a dealer fitted accessory this week).
Getting a good driving position can be hampered by the lack of reach on the steering wheel. It has only vertical adjustment.
On the road
Everything about the BlueMotion is geared toward fuel savings. It has the stop/start function, which cuts the engine at idle, low rolling resistance tyres, and the gears have longer ratios in third, fourth and fifth to decrease engine speed.
You can cruise along at 100kmh at well under 2000rpm.
Underneath the car has seen major modifications to improve airflow and aerodynamics while the ride has been lowered by 15mm to reduce drag.
Getting going can take some patience. It takes time for the turbo to spool up (the 0-100km sprint time of more than 11 seconds is testament to this), but once you sit in the torque sweet spot above 2000rpm things take an interesting turn.
The little turbo-diesel is a perky donk that rarely lets you down.
If you follow the suggested shifts, little arrows next to the gear indicator near the speedo, things can be mundane. It’s focused on eco driving, which is probably why people will buy it, but the Golf is capable of much more.
Changes of direction are impressive at speed with a responsive feel through the steering. You just have to keep the revs up to make the most from what the lively Golf set-up has to offer.
You get slightly more tyre noise with the low-rolling resistance rubber, but not enough to be annoying in the cabin.
What do you get?
A lot has been stripped out of the Golf to make it lighter.
Among the items on the complimentary list are 15-inch alloys, cruise control, single-CD stereo with auxiliary input, leather multi-function steering wheel, and unique blue and black cloth seats.
As a sacrifice, you have to go without satellite navigation, parking sensors and reversing camera – dealers can offer them as extras. There is also no spare, just a repair kit. Safety hasn’t been compromised, with traction control which includes the normal swag of technology and seven airbags are also included.
This is fast becoming a competitive little segment, with rivals including the Ford Fiesta Econetic ($24,990), Volvo C30 DRIVe ($36,150) and Mini Cooper D ($34,800). The hybrid options include the Toyota Prius ($34,990) and Honda Insight ($33,490).
With careful driving, you could wring more than 1400km from one tank. The official figure is 3.8 litres for every 100km, but our want for more responsive acceleration saw it hover around five – still a miser.
Services and repairs would be no more expensive than any other golf. Nor would insurance.
This is a family car in Europe, and the Golf is quickly gaining popularity here.
Five adults can be carried in the little hatchback (although it would bog down on inclines), but it would be squeezy across the back seat.
Folding rear seats and a reasonable size boot add to the appeal.
No need for gawky lines that shout environmental friendliness. The BlueMotion has a slick sports kit and 15-inch alloys which make it an attractive little package.
The BlueMotion badges (which stand for the elements to be protected such as water and air combined with future direction) are the only thing that distinguishes it from your normal Golf.
More for less. That is exactly what we are getting from carmakers nowadays.
This BlueMotion offering is a sign of things to come from Volkswagen, with its ultra-low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions under 100g/km.
While it’s no performance star, the fact you can get about 1400km on a tank is brilliant efficiency.
Model: Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion.
Details: Five-door front wheel drive small hatch.
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel with auto stop/start generating maximum power of 77kW @ 4400rpm and peak torque of 250Nm @ 1500-2500rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual.
Consumption: 3.8 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 11.3 seconds.
Bottom line: $28,990.
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