IT'S recently been necessary to re-adjust my mindset. I was brought up with the somewhat stoic approach that if something is good for you, it’s unlikely to be particularly pleasant.
For example, as a kid I hated veg and most fruit but acknowledged they had to be eaten and sure enough I grew up strong (well, reasonably so) and healthy. Chips were heaven but even I admitted they gave me spots.
It was the same with lots of things – pointy shoes looked great but made my feet ache. And it was similar with cars as I got older. The fast ones are too small for your luggage and burned too much petrol...but those were the ones I liked best.
So, it was with something of a ‘hair-shirt’ attitude that I arranged to borrow the new VW Golf BlueMotion, a high economy model that would go a tiny way to helping save the planet.
The version I drove had a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine that whacks out 138bhp – just reading the spec sheet made me think that just, perhaps, I could have both my cake and sixpence, ie performance and economy.
I was already aware how well the latest Golf incarnation handled and drove, and a meagre 114g/km emissions the prospect of ‘cheap thrills’ loomed large.
First, a few statistics – the official combined economy is a staggering 65.7mpg, yet 62mph is reached in 9.3 seconds, top speed is 130mph. A few years ago this pace would have been respectable for a gas-guzzling 3.0-litre sports saloon.
The BlueMotion version looks largely similar to the ordinary Golf, but there are a few tweaks that help it sip fuel more efficiently, such as lower suspension, special alloy wheels, more aerodynamic aids and low rolling resistance tyres.
Less obvious mechanical changes include stop-start ignition and longer gearing for frugal cruising. Even heavy-footed driving will return 55mpg or so.
When you are behind the wheel, you are just aware of how balanced and capable the five door hatchback is. Noise levels are unusually low – partly due to the good aerodynamics – and the 2.0-litre diesel delivers abundant high gear power, so pick-up is even more impressive than outright acceleration.
For keen drivers, the Golf’s overall poise and balance will be a source of everyday pleasure.
The cabin is family-practical but classier than most in its sector with tactile, soft-touch plastics and easy-to-read dials.
Heating and air-con controls are even better arranged than its big brother, Audi. There are also loads of pockets for odds and ends and the hatchback boot swallows up 350 litres of luggage with rear seats in place and 1305 litres with them folded.
So where’s the rub? Well, as they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch and the Match 2.0 TDI BlueMotion clocks in at a not unsubstantial £20,720. Standard kit includes air con, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and onboard computer.
Although it’s hardly cheap, the super-frugal Golf is probably the most complete family hatchback on the market. It also boasts top-notch residuals.
Volkswagen Golf Match BlueMotion 2.0 TDI
Mechanical: 138bhp, 1,998cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 130mph
0-62mph: 9.3 seconds
Combined mpg: 65.7
Insurance group: 24
CO2 emissions: 114g/km
BIK rating: 15%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles