Bespoke tyres, lightweight alloys, trick aerodynamics, optimised gear ratios and a variable geometry turbo. No, this isn’t a run-down of technical highlights from a new, driver-focussed sports car; rather it’s a list of some of the juicier aspects of VW’s Polo Blue Motion, one of the most frugal and, as I’ve recently discovered, most entertaining cars you can buy.
Until this week the joys of the Blue Motion had passed me by, yet over the course of the last seven days I’ve derived as much pleasure from maximising my mpg figures in this unassuming 80bhp supermini as I have minimising my lap times in a 300bhp Ariel Atom at Anglesey’s Ty Croes circuit.
In these dark days when you regularly wave goodbye to £50 with every visit to the forecourt, the rosy sense of satisfaction gained from driving a car that can comfortably cover 600-miles without needing to stop for fuel is immense. Less expected was the way the Polo made me analyse my driving to an almost forensic level of detail in an effort to identify areas of improvement. Lewis Hamilton spends less time in a post-qualifying debrief.
It’s a tremendously addictive discipline, and one that – bizarrely – seems to share many parallels with race driving. Where speed comes from smoothness and accuracy on a racetrack, so economy comes from a similarly precise and single-minded style on the road. Short-shift through the gears to build speed with torque rather than top-end power, scribe the sweetest line through a series of corners, judge traffic to perfection, preserve momentum at all costs. Every journey is a battle, every mile an opportunity to eek out a bit more from each precious litre of diesel.
Let your concentration slip or let yourself get sucked into some meaningless tussle for supremacy at the traffic lights and your punishment is immediate and painfully graphic: the fleeting euphoria at seeing 68mpg turning to desperation as the readout plummets to a shameful 61.2mpg.
My last drive in the Polo Blue Motion was the best: a sublime combination of a blatant disregard for speed limits (I never exceeded one at any stage in the journey) and some world-class slipstreaming behind a milk tanker that saw me break the elusive 70mpg average for the 25-mile commute from home to DR HQ. I’m sure NASCAR-style bump drafting would have yielded another 0.5mpg, but I reckoned that to be a bit extreme. But only a bit.
Living with the Polo brought two things home to me: The first is that I’m not about to spurn my love wantonly burning fossil fuels in a really fast car just yet. The second, unlikely though it may sound, is that deploying every driving skill you possess in an effort to average 70mpg on your way to work can be just as entertaining trying to average 70mph on a deserted country road. While we may not know what the future holds for the car, it’s clear that so long as getting the best from even the most frugal car requires thought, skill and effort, driving will remain our collective obsession for many years to come.