MOTORING / Auto Biography / The Volkswagen Golf CL Ecomatic IN 0-60 Seconds

I'VE DRIVEN plenty of cars that cut out every time they stop at a traffic light. Since none of them cost more than pounds 500, the cacophony of hooting and abuse from drivers behind almost seemed worth it.

The last car I drove was different. It cut out not just at every traffic light and roundabout, but even when going downhill - and it cost pounds 11,500, which could have bought 20 or 30 of my old bangers.

The car in question was the Volkswagen Golf Ecomatic, an attempt at a green car that goes a good deal further ecologically than most other vehicles on the road. It cuts out at all stops longer than one-and-a-half seconds, and on the downhill overrun, but restarts at the gentlest touch of the throttle. Until you get used to it, this can be disconcerting. All those miserable moments stalled in a jam come flooding back, and hearing the starter churn while cornering or advancing across a frantic roundabout goes against every driver's instinct. For most, being in control means having power at all times.

The Ecomatic's engine is an adapted Golf diesel, connected to the gearbox by a clutchless drive: when the revs drop as the accelerator is released, the gears are automatically disengaged. The cut-out mechanism is disabled in reverse to make slow manoeuvring easier, and can be over-ridden by a button on the wiper stalk - so the car can be driven more urgently, with more conventional use of the gearbox, if needed. Moreover, everything works - lights, brakes, power steering and heating - even when the engine is dead. There's even an auxiliary battery to stop the lights flickering when the starter turns.

So what are the drawbacks? To begin with, ecological driving and enjoyable driving are not the same thing. Quickish A-road spins are limited in appeal by the lack of engine braking, and the difficulty in keeping the revs up for gear changes. There's also an admonishing orange light when you're in a higher, unecological rev band.

The Ecomatic is a fascinating innovation, a sharp reminder of how much of the time engines are burning up fuel when going nowhere. But buying one is a symbolic act, aimed at saving the world's resources rather than the owner's. Though the fuel benefits are good, they must be weighed against the premium you pay for this unusual car in the first place.

GOING PLACES: Unique fuel- saving adaptation of standard 1.9 Golf diesel engine. Limited power from 64bhp unit, 0-60mph in 17 seconds, 50-70mph in 18 seconds. Conventional gearshift but clutchless changes, easy to get used to.

STAYING ALIVE: Heavy bodyweight and no front anti-roll bar make cornering ponderous, though OK at these performance levels. Golf construction excellent, with class-leading rigidity and passive safety features. Ride very good, steering weighty and positive, brakes good, though pedal-feel poor, height-adjustable seat belts.

CREATURE COMFORTS: Driving position adjustment good, passenger accommodation and legroom good, elbow-room at the rear even better. Flat, uncluttered boot-space, drab but clear and practical instrumentation and

sensibly placed controls.

BANGS PER BUCK: No electric mirrors or windows standard, but power steering, rear wash/wipe, removable Sony sound system all included. Fuel economy approximate average 45mpg in town, 55mpg on open roads. Price: pounds 11,495.

STAR QUALITY: Unusual concept car that tries hard to reverse automobile unsociability and do its bit for the planet. Also rarity value.

TURKEY QUOTIENT: Expensive, lack of refinements, slow.

AND ON MY RIGHT: Very little, actually - it's unique - but comparable on fuel economy, if not emissions grounds, with these: Citroen AX Echo D ( pounds 8,195) - lighter, tinnier, much cheaper, but sharper on the road and capable of 57mpg too; Peugeot 106 XRD ( pounds 8,435) - slow but quiet, very good handling, stylish, reasonably priced; VW Golf D ( pounds 9,600) - all the same Golf virtues, not so economical - but much cheaper.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?