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Monday 9th July 2012


DRIVEN: VOLKSWAGEN POLO BLUE GT

An eco hot hatch that isn't a diesel? Technology could still be the saviour of us all...


The Netherlands is famous for many things - including being very flat and full of straight roads. It's also where the Gatso calls home. Carmakers like to use it as a launch destination when they want us hacks to achieve decent economy on the trip computer. Or when the car is particularly gutless.


The Volkswagen Polo Blue GT certainly isn't Gutless. A brand new 140hp 1.4 TSI turbo petrol, the first of a new family of 'EA211' units, it delivers 184lb ft of torque from 1,500rpm to 3,500rpm. In a small car this means plenty of immediate action.

So what about the economy? Having spotted that 'Blue GT' sounds almost exactly like a cross between Bluemotion and GTI, you won't be surprised to learn that this is almost exactly what it is. Quite literally in parts, as it combines front and rear styling elements from the Polo GTI with Polo Bluemotion side skirts and aero-modified windscreen rain channels.

USP? More like ACT...
The cynical might suggest that a jack of all trades is a master of none, and it's true the Blue GT is neither as fast as the 180hp GTI (0-62mph in 7.9 seconds is a second slower) nor as green as the 80.7mpg Bluemotion (we'll come back to that). But the Blue GT does have a rather snazzy new feature under the bonnet - cylinder deactivation.


The system is called ACT, and it's a world-first on a four-cylinder (albeit one that's also coming to the Audi A1). Using a special pair of camshafts and four actuators it knocks out the middle two cylinders whenever the engine management deems them surplus to requirements. Which is to say any time between 1,400rpm and 4K when you're not really trying.

This means this car will cruise at 70mph on two cylinders.

Two cylinders good, four cylinders even better
Think about this; it's actually brilliant. That a hot hatch - well, warm hatch in this instance, but consider the potential - likes to chug the go-go juice is fine when you're going for it. But what this technology does is calm the consumption right down whenever you haven't got that opportunity.


Together with all the usual add-ons like start-stop and brake energy regeneration, the result is a claimed 61.4mpg for the six-speed manual and 62.7mpg for the optional seven-speed DSG. While you remain unlikely to achieve this exactly, the eagerness with which the Blue GT reverts to two cylinders suggests some real-world savings should be inevitable. If nothing else, CO2 ratings of 107g/km and 105g/km mean taxing either will currently cost you just £20 a year.

Best of all, ACT never impedes your enjoyment of the car's full potential. Switching cylinder modes happens within one-and-a-half turns of the camshafts (13-36 milliseconds), making it basically instantaneous. Modest acceleration is possible without engaging the full complement of pistons; ask for only the merest amount more, however, and the 1.4 comes fully to life without fuss.


Good car, but good value?
Like all the latest TSI Polos - including the 105hp 1.2 - it will try its absolute damnedest to give you satisfaction and to do a decent impression of something with rather more capacity. For the Blue GT, Volkswagen has even retuned the suspension, lowering it 15mm over a natty set of multispoke 17s.

If the outcome isn't the sharpest hatch we've ever driven, the compromise between compliance and bodyroll seems well judged, and the usual XDS electrickery finds stacks of grip. In typical VW fashion it's flattering, and fun, and utterly at home in a wide range of driving situations.

It'll cost you, though. Estimated entry price ahead of the on sale date in September is around £17,500 - that's more than a 180hp vRS Fabia. But no-one ever said it was cheap to be an early adopter...


VOLKSWAGEN POLO BLUE GT
Engine
: 1,395cc four-cylinder with cylinder deactivation, turbocharged
Power: 140hp @ 4,500 - 6,000rpm
Torque: 184lb ft @ 1,500 - 3,500rpm
0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
Top speed: 130mph
Weight: 1,212kg
MPG: 61.4mpg (manual), 62.7mpg (DSG)
CO2: 107g/km (manual), 105g/km (DSG)
Price: from £17,500 (official estimate)



 

Author: cjhubbard