So, fatherhood has definitely kicked in… I’ve just bought my first ever sensible, economical family car in 20+ years of car ownership!
Welcome to Project Ecowagon: A 2010 Mk6 VW Golf Estate 1.6 TDi BlueMotion Technology Sportline, to give it it’s full, rather wordy title – aka Ralph, as I christened it when my gorgeous daughter promptly projectile vomited in it within five minutes of it being home on the drive, bless.
The 1495-litre-monster-estate-booted Ralph is hell’s practical – which I’ve long been an advocate of with cars, which are primarily designed to take people and stuff places when all is said and done, ideally, in comfort and style with plenty of space: And Project Ecowagon does all that very nicely.
But I usually buy practical performance cars, not eco-warriors: In recent years, I’ve had Subaru Impreza Turbo Wagons, a 4.6-litre Range Rover V8 (Project P38) and we still own the fabulous Project S4, a tuned four-door V6 saloon that just happens to pack 320bhp, twin turbos, trick handling tuning and be an awesome track day slag to boot. That stays for big boost, four-wheel-drift fun.
So why this VW Golf then? Well, for one… I can no longer ignore the fact that fuel is so bloody expensive, and I thought it would make a refreshing change to own not just an economical car, but one famed for its frankly insane fuel economy and dirt cheap road tax.
Enter the range-topping (was £23K in 2010), Mk6 VW Golf Estate 1.6 TDi BlueMotion Technology Sportline model – a car capable of a ludicrous and previously unimaginable 78.5mpg extra urban, and that costs just £20 a year VED. And as my fab wife so eloquently put it “you’re never going to get bored of that!”
There are plenty of economical estate cars out there, and ones I like too. I considered a quirky SUV Lexus RX400h – petrol V6 with hybrid technology and Toyota reliability, but being a ‘4×4’ the road tax is still a killer, and they look a bit odd. The road tax also killed off the idea of an excellent Subaru Legacy Boxer Diesel, and the fact so few are available. The Chrysler 300C Estate was ruled out for being too massive, a bit cheaply finished inside and way too gansta! And a smart, if dated, top-of-the-range Jaguar X-Type Sport was ruled out for being too small inside and far too pricy to tax/insure, for what it offers back. But the final straw was the eco angle: The Lexus hybrid can only muster 35mpg, while the other contenders might manage mid-40’s at best, and they all had hefty road taxes. The Golf BlueMotion’s 67.3mpg combined mpg (& 650+mile range), £20 VED and reduced London Congestion Charge suddenly made a lot of sense. What it lacks in power (it only has 105bhp), it makes up for in grunt (185lb ft torque), so it’s no slouch… and it’ll wipe the floor with most cars globally on mpg, whilst looking good and driving nice and ‘Golfy’ = Eco diesel sold to the reformed petrol head!
So, with decision on car made, I just had to find one, locally (I hate traveling to buy cars and I trust folk around here). And, as luck would have it, I found a bobby dazzler, in Candy White (my preferred colour), with the Sportline top-spec (see on) and best of all, from an outstanding car dealer – the B4 Car Network in Watton, Norfolk, run by ex-main-dealer-experienced, all-round good guy, Paul Boddy.
I hate buying cars. It’s stressful. And, ultimately, it all comes down to one word for me – trust. And I got an instant warm, fuzzy feeling doing business with Paul at B 4 Car Network. Like any good relationship: It felt right from the off. No BS. No spin. Just open honesty and clarity. Having been a manager for Volvo and BMW dealership for 25 years, Paul decided to go solo a decade ago. And his small, but perfectly formed forecourt of quality used cars next to the Esso petrol station in Watton is a great set-up.
The VW Golf was a no-brainer from the off: Full VW service history, one owner who’d obviously cared for it, 11 months still on the no advisory MOT, 11 months tax and in really immaculate condition. Paul had said to me before I came up to test it “you’ll not be disappointed” – and I wasn’t.
A quick test drive revealed all was as it should be – bar the tracking being very slightly out – and I was reminded of a trip to Cornwall I did in the then new Mk6 Golf BlueMotion at launch. Norfolk-Cornwall and 850 miles on virtually one tank of diesel. It impressed me then for being economical, refined, comfortable and practical… and this was just the same, only better, as this was an estate, with Sportline spec… and soon to be my own, not a press car.
The only issues were the tracking being marginally off, a missing parcel shelf and a cracked front nearside fog lamp – all of which Paul said he’d sort… so, after a slight haggle on the price (I am from Liverpool!), a deal was done and deposit paid.
Two days later me, the missus and the baba were back to pick Project Ecowagon up. All promised jobs were done and Paul had laid out all the paperwork, invoice, service history, two sets of keys and set the six-month warranty up… sorted! Quick flash of the debit card, pleasant chat and with Paul’s best wishes, we were on our way again. Perfection! Why can’t all car deals be the B4 Car Network way? No wonder he has such glowing testimonials and repeat business. I know I’ll be back… but not for a while, as it’s time to enjoy Ralph.
I know it’s not the most exciting car. I know many people would rather watch paint dry than own one, let alone read about one. And I never thought I’d see the day I bought a car based on factors like fuel economy and VED tax bands… but more fool me!
The Golf is so smooth, so comfortable, it looks good, it’s well-specced, it’s insanely frugal (which is actually bloody appealing, and smug-inducing) and best of all – thanks to its stiff chassis and double lowered BlueMotion/Sportline suspension – handles really, really well… making it a fun, enjoyable drive.
The Sportline spec also adds some nice touches:
- Chrome trimmed front air intake surround
- Rear tinted windows from B-pillar back
- Front fog lights, including static cornering function with chrome trimmed surround
- Sports suspension, lowered by approx. 15 mm
- Tyre pressure indicator
- Leather trimmed steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake grip
- Front sports seats with height and lumbar adjustment
- Multifunction steering wheel (with paddle shift if DSG specified)
- 7J x 16 ‘Porto’ alloy wheels with 225/45 R16 tyres and anti-theft bolts
And the low drag, aerodynamic bodywork, tall five-speed manual, start/stop technology, low rolling resistance tyres, re-mapped 1.6-litre turbo diesel engine, trick regenerative braking system, multi-function computer display with gear change indicator and other BlueMotion Tech touches really add something special, ney unique, to this car. It’s given me good, old fashioned, boring, geeky, man pub talk – just like the bhp, top speed, 0-60 Top Trumps stuff of old – only for dads!
I bought this car with my head, not necessarily my heart. But, actually, I’m sort of falling for it. And that’s before we embark on a few subtle changes to hopefully enhance the driving and ownership experience further… not to mention some LONG (cheap!) road trips. Do please stay tuned.
Paul Boddy of B 4 Car Network
Tel: 01953 884500
Camilla Scenes of VW Press Office