You may well have come across BlueMotion Volkswagens if you’re shopping for a used VW – but what is BlueMotion, and should you buy a BlueMotion car?
Introduced in 2006, BlueMotion refers to a series of technologies fitted to Volkswagen cars to improve fuel efficiency, and reduce emissions. By making changes to vehicles’ engines, gearboxes, tyres and aerodynamics, VW engineers were able to bring about significant reductions in fuel efficiency, while also lessening the levels of pollutants emitted by their cars.
Volkswagen no longer uses the BlueMotion name, but if you’re shopping on the used market you may well come across is. This guide will set out what the technology is, how it works, and if a BlueMotion Volkswagen is the right car for you.
Despite the similar name, it’s worth mentioning that BlueMotion is different from AdBlue, which is a system used by all car makers that squirts a urea-based liquid into the exhausts of modern diesel cars to reduce harmful pollutants. Some newer BlueMotion Volkswagens do use AdBlue, but this is not implied by their name, despite how it may appear.
What is BlueMotion
As highlighted above, BlueMotion is not one specific thing, but rather a series of technologies designed to maximise the number of miles a car can travel on a gallon of fuel, while also making exhaust emissions better. Different cars with BlueMotion received changes to different aspects (see below for the full list), while both petrol and diesel VWs received the BlueMotion treatment.
It’s also worth highlighting that there were two ways BlueMotion could be deployed on a Volkswagen: it was either offered as a specific variant within a car’s range, or it was offered as an optional extra, sometimes known as BlueMotion Tech (BMT).
You could have, for example, a VW Golf BlueMotion, which was solely designed around BlueMotion tech, and had the full suite of BlueMotion features, or you could have the Golf Match BlueMotion Tech, which was based around Match trim but had some BlueMotion extras – albeit not as many as the fat-free Golf BlueMotion. We’ll go into more details about full BlueMotion cars below.
Look at the back of any Volkswagen built in the last 10 years or so. Chances are that, under the badge indicating what engine the car has, there may be a little plaque that reads BlueMotion Technology (BMT). This tells you that the car is fitted with the BMT package.
The contents of the BlueMotion Technology package differed slightly depending on model and engine, while BlueMotion cars had more fuel-sipping tech than BMT cars. But, in general, the following aspects received attention from VW’s BlueMotion engineers:
1) Engine Stop/Start
A stop/start system automatically shuts down the engine when the car is stationary and then automatically restarts it when pulling away. Switching off the engine while stationary reduces fuel use, emissions and noise. Modern cars now come with stop/start by default, but it was a relatively new technology when VW started using it under the BlueMotion name.
2) Energy recuperation
An energy recuperation system boosts the output of the alternator when you press the brake, effectively recharging the battery. As a result, less power is needed from the alternator when you accelerate, reducing the load on the engine and therefore increasing efficiency. In theory, it also means the battery is less likely to run flat and leave you stranded at the side of the road.
3) Low rolling resistance tyres
These are made of a special type of rubber that generates less friction with the road surface. A significant amount of the energy used by a car’s engine is spent in overcoming the friction between tyre and road. The less friction there is, the less work the engine has to do, which improves fuel economy. If you’re looking at buying a used BMT car, make sure it’s fitted with the correct tyres; without them, fuel economy will suffer.
BlueMotion Technology cars have a number of small but significant aerodynamic improvements that help them cut through the air more easily. Tighter panel gaps, lower ride height and reprofiled bumpers, side skirts and rear spoilers are barely noticeable, but reduce the work the engine has to do in overcoming air resistance, improving fuel economy. As a side benefit, they also reduce wind noise which makes the cabin quieter.
5) Engine and gearbox changes
BlueMotion cars would often be fitted with improved catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters for lower emissions, while using turbochargers for the engines could also reduce fuel use. Having ‘taller’ ratios for the top two gears of the gearbox also reduced fuel use by reducing the revs the engine would sit at when cruising.
Which VW models have BlueMotion?
The BlueMotion badge was first seen on the 2006 Polo BlueMotion, a hyper-efficient version of the small hatchback car. Many of the technologies used in that car were subsequently applied to most other Volkswagen models, usually as an extra-cost option package.
It gets far too complicated to unpack exactly which versions of which models were available with the BlueMotion Technology pack. In practice, though, by the second half of the 2010s, the vast majority of VWs sold in the UK were fitted with BMT. There are a few exceptions, as the particular model’s engine/transmission combination isn’t compatible with BMT.
Besides the original Polo BlueMotion, there were a number of a stand-alone BlueMotion models, but we’ll return to those later.
Cars fitted with the BMT pack are identified by a plaque under the engine designation badge on the back. If you’re not sure, the easiest way to find out if the car you want has BMT is to ring a VW dealer. They’ll be able to find out the car’s exact specification from the registration number.
True BlueMotion models
As discussed previously, alongside the BlueMotion Technology package, Volkswagen also sold a number of standalone BlueMotion models. These are easily identifiable by their aerodynamic bodykits featuring blanked off grilles, deeper side skirts and flat-faced wheels. They have flat trays under the floor, too. These changes significantly improve the car’s aerodynamic efficiency, and the cars will typically be marketed as, for example, Golf BlueMotion – there will be no other trim level listed.
Other changes include the items already discussed that are found in the BMT pack, plus longer gear ratios that reduce engine revs when travelling at higher speeds; different engine management software that optimises engine efficiency and a better diesel particulate filter that emits fewer noxious particulates and puts less strain on the engine.
Several generations of Polo, Golf and Passat BlueMotion were sold in the UK. VW no longer produces such cars, but many of the lessons learned have informed the design and engineering of its latest models.
Is BlueMotion worth it?
The stand-alone BlueMotion models carried a hefty price premium over the equivalent, standard car when new. Despite achieving significantly better fuel economy – up to 88.3mpg in the Golf BlueMotion – it took a lot of miles for the savings on fuel to even out the extra purchase cost. As such, they didn’t sell particularly well in the UK.
By contrast, the optional BlueMotion Technology package only cost a few hundred pounds and produced some useful savings. In the case of the VW Up, BMT reduced Co2 emissions from 105g/km to 98g/km, neatly dropping it below the threshold for free road tax. Indeed, across the board, BMT usually dropped a given model down a tax band. For company car drivers, the savings could easily amount to several hundred pounds a year. Noticeably better fuel economy is an added bonus.
Used BlueMotion cars carry a small price premium over the equivalent standard car, while cars fitted with the BMT pack don’t particularly cost more. They’re arguably more desirable but, as already mentioned, there are so many out there that they’re easy to find, and you could end up with a BlueMotion car whether or not you’re really looking for one.
It’s also worth highlighting that the changes made in the name of BlueMotion aren’t always without cost: using longer ratios on the top two gears, for example, reduces fuel consumption at high speed, but also reduces the amount of acceleration on offer unless you change down a gear; check you’re happy with this aspect on any test drive,
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