The petrol-engined Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion appeared on the scene before the VW emissions scandal broke; it was already one of the firm’s solutions to diesel emissions, making more sense to the majority of buyers than a diesel model.
Over recent years Volkswagen has given us a number of BlueMotion products – ie. the most economical models in the brand’s ranges – but they’ve all been diesel. In the pursuit of maximum economy, this is understandable. However, although diesel engines can assist with the lowering of CO2 emissions, as we’ve seen from the Volkswagen emissions scandal, diesels aren’t great in terms of emissions that impact upon local air quality, such as particulates and NOx.
Superminis such as the Polo are generally used for local driving rather than motorway cruising, and so diesel engines aren’t a great choice in this segment; as well as their particulates and NOx emissions, diesel engines are expensive, heavy, and not as responsive as petrol units. So enter the petrol-engined Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion, the first petrol BlueMotion model in Volkswagen’s range.
The Polo has a recognisable appearance, and the latest incarnation looks more like a mini-Golf than any previous generation. Like the Golf, it’s a practical shape, but it’s hardly the most exciting-looking car in its segment. Similar comments apply to the interior; it’s functional but it wouldn’t really win an award for creativity.
Things aren’t much different on the engineering front. There may be a petrol engine in a BlueMotion-badged Polo for the first time, but a petrol engine in a Polo isn’t dramatic news in itself. The 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, and of course there’s front-wheel drive. BlueMotion models have a number of engineering tweaks to maximise efficiency.
There may be a temptation to expect a Polo with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine to feel underpowered. However this car is actually very good to drive, and definitely better than the diesel-engined BlueMotion: it feels light, smooth, and refined. The small and lightweight engine helps to add some agility to the handling, and the ride also seems to benefit.
Some people may have noticed that the Polo has had some success in rallying. Don’t think that the Polo BlueMotion drives like a rally car (you’ll need to test drive a Polo GTI to get close to this experience), but the chassis does offer a bit more fun than previous Polos.
For everyday driving, if you’re not looking for hot-hatch thrills, the Polo BlueMotion is a sensible and refined choice.
The official NEDC combined economy figure for the Polo BlueMotion is 68.9mpg, equating to commendably low emissions of 94g/km CO2. The petrol Polo averaged 49.8mpg over a week of mixed driving (in our experience, diesels come closer to the official figure in real-life driving). Predictably this is a fair way short of the 68.9mpg, but it’s respectable for a petrol car. On longer runs the Polo consistently managed more than 50mpg.
The basic price for the Polo BlueMotion is £15,410. Our test car featured options of rear electric windows (£170); carpet mats, front and rear (£85) (we still find it surprising that buyers have to pay extra for mats on a £15,000 car); and silver metallic paint (£540) – taking the price of the test car to £16,205.
Like most VW Group products, there’s a wide range of models to choose from, including petrol and diesel engines, and a variety of specification levels.
The Polo generally does most things competently, even though some rivals may have more character and may be seen as more desirable. However the main story with this car is that Volkswagen has recognised that diesel isn’t the most sensible engine choice for a supposed ‘eco-car’ that’s primarily likely to be doing short trips, probably in built-up areas. Instead the petrol engine in this BlueMotion has lower levels of NOx and particulate emissions, it’s more responsive than a diesel, and its lighter weight results in the car being increasingly agile and more fun (refer to the GTI to show that a Polo can actually start to approach rally car-levels of interaction). As well as being good to drive, with a real-life average of 50mpg – or mid-50’s on longer runs – the petrol BlueMotion is also reasonably economical. So overall the car gains a highly respectable Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.
But it may not be the car that’s the problem in the eyes of buyers – it may be the Volkswagen brand. Years of building the brand as a ‘trusted car maker’ have been destroyed by what VW management suggests is the actions of a few ‘rogue’ engineers. The issue may be that despite a number of cars that are practical, efficient and good to drive being on offer from Volkswagen, buyers may have lost trust in the car maker and its culture.