Armed with halo, clerical buckteeth and a holier-than-thou attitude, Iain P W Robertson is determined to adopt a truly cynical approach to environmentally friendly motoring, thanks to Volkswagen’s novel newcomer.
We have been under the observation of ‘them in the know’ for so long now that we can scarcely remember when ‘Big Brother’ (emphatically NOT the Channel 5 relegated, cheap and nasty, fly-on-the-wall docu-soap) started the ball rolling. Personally, I blame literature, which is as good a reason as any to flood the consumer market with iPads, Kindles and tablets aimed at people of all ages, who do not want to read anything of any depth, yet, for whom, that tremendous George Orwell novel, ‘1984’, might have some resonance.
‘They’, for it is ‘them’, hold the social and moral compass that determines our future senses of direction, because ‘they’ feel that without the input, we shall surely destroy ourselves. ‘They’, the nameless, faceless wonders in grey suits, inform us of our responsibilities towards social medicine, immigration, defence, flooding (now that’s topical), education, welfare issues and environmental protection. ‘They’ insisted that we recycle envelopes and place our discarded rubbish in green, black, red, blue and all colours of the rainbow, petrochemical plastic boxes, which must have placed a major dent in the ozone layer, while they were being mixed, moulded and then distributed to the ‘great unwashed’.
To be fair, it has taken some time to get a message across that we need to take care of our environment. Naturally, economic circumstances, certainly since the ‘crash’ of 2008, have put paid to wasteful amounts of wanton squandering by most of us. Therefore, we look at the costs of items more closely. We check out the annual charges related to vehicle excise duty (which reduces on vehicles possessing a lower carbon dioxide emissions rating). We want better MPG. In the meantime, organic vegetables and fruit still cost more and, judging by their appearance, look like World War Three must have occurred in their places of origin.
There has invariably been an on-cost to shoulder with anything that promises to be remotely ‘clean and green’, as if it either possesses a premium value (not always the case), or ensures that we make pay-back for some of our prior existence nastiness. Naturally, that creates a barrier of sorts. If manufacturers were so concerned about us adopting their latest eco-wheezes, why do they not go for broke and keep prices within reasonable bounds, so that we are given half a chance to do so? The answer is abundantly clear. Why should they, when they can make a fast buck by hopping onto a bandwagon.
Apart from the out-of-bounds Tesla, which is so flaming expensive it makes a BMW, or Audi, look like good value for money, other electric and hybrid vehicles that offer a notional ‘green’ value (just do not peer too deeply) have not exactly set the heather alight with their performance. Now, I have to admit to having been a bit of a petrol-head. I love high performance, although I have found myself complying with the ‘clean and green’ brigade recently, for the simple sake of trying to save a few shekels that would otherwise over-inflate the back pockets of insurance men, carmakers, the taxman and fuel company bosses. However, I miss grunt and verve, which is a pretty good reason to feel moderately excited about VW’s latest version of the evergreen Golf, although in this case it can actually live up to the ‘green’ part of the soubriquet.
Up to now, your popular VW model could have been powered by a choice of diesel, petrol, electricity, or hybrid technology, although the Germans also have an extra choice of natural gas. However, by applying plug-in elements to the hybrid version, an electric-only range of 31 miles results, with the Golf capable of peaking at 81mph in EV mode. Yet, hybrid technology also means that an internal combustion engine is parked alongside the 102bhp electric one beneath the bonnet. In this case, a 1.4-litre, 147bhp, direct-injection petrol unit. The combined horsepower (less power-train losses) equates to about 204bhp, which is enough to top-out at around 140mph, despatching the 0-60mph benchmark sprint in a moderate 7.3 seconds.
However, the best bit is the projected overall fuel consumption figure of approximately 188mpg and CO2 exhaust emissions of just 35g/km. The ‘plug-in’ aspect is what enhances the proposition, which means that you can punt around town, with zero emissions, using electric power alone. Of course, once it reaches around 30 miles, the advantage will be lost, although the hybrid element will ensure that some potential remains. Once you escape the city, it can be foot down to oblivion…or at least until your rear licence-plate is snapped by one of the government’s grey suits and Big Brother sends you a reminder that you are always being watched, with the opportunity to pay the speeding fine, or contest it in a court of law.
Could I live with a Golf GTE, as that is its new and thoroughly original denomination? Well, yes, I could, probably. It would be a darned sight zestier than a Prius, or an Insight. It would make several other eco-cars look determinedly dowdy, thanks to its employment of big GTI-type alloy wheels and tyres and the timeless elegance of the Golf hatchback shape. VW assures us that it will be sold in the UK before the end of the year. However, I am not so sure that I would be able to justify its hefty price tag. While VW is being coy about it, I reckon that you can expect it to be no less than £34,000, which might make the regular BMW, or Audi, take their second bargain bow of this piece.
Conclusion: On its way to becoming the world’s biggest carmaker, Volkswagen is determined to stick with old, albeit much-modified technology, for which it will charge, if you can pardon the pun, an electrifying sum of money, when this version (yet another) of the Golf becomes available for public consumption. Will it sell? Of course it will. It is a VeeDub.