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World’s most fuel efficient production car takes to Dublin

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VW XL1 achieves nearly 300mpg and draws more public attention on Irish streets than any supercar



The VW XL1 - the world’s most fuel efficient production car - in Dublin this morning. Photos: Paddy McGrath



It’s the world’s most fuel efficient production car and it’s on the streets of Dublin this week.

The Volkswagen XL1 achieves nearly 300mpg in old money or under 1 litre/100km. It looks like a futuristic sports car, sets new standards in aerodynamics. And it stops traffic, literally.


Perhaps it’s a sign of the times but the eco-friendly XL1 draws the sort of audience and public interest normally reserved for high performance - and incredibly thirsty - supercars. The big difference however is that there is none of the envy, spite or bitterness that can often be evoked by flash supercars. The XL1 brings out the best in people, their interest in the design and the engineering feat that brought this car to reality. Its quirky looks - in particular those gullwing doors - brings a smile to faces, while the fuel economy stats provoke looks of disbelief and the odd expletive. It attracts more thumbs-up than a bus full of All-Ireland winners returning to their county with Sam Maguire on the dashboard.


At times like these it’s always handy to have a typecast German engineer on hand quoting the stats: 300mpg always sounds more believable when stated in a matter-of-fact Teutonic accent. Thankfully during my brief drive in the XL1 around Dublin this morning I had just such an affable VW engineer to hand, Patrick Mank, who enthusiastically answered the same questions about fuel, price and performance about 50 times while we were together.


So let’s set the scene with a few of those all-important figures.


It’s powered by a two-cylinder 800cc diesel engine in the back and a litium-ion battery pack up front, both driving the rear wheels with a total output of 77bhp. The battery pack can power the car on full electric for up to 50km and up to speeds of 120km/h before the little diesel engine kicks in to lend a hand. It’s a plug-in hybrid diesel so that means you can recharge the battery pack from the mains electric in roughly 2 hours 30 minutes on the Irish electric system, but it also charges from braking and the like as with a regular hybrid production car.


It weighs in at just 795kgs, just over half the weight of the average family car. And let’s just remember that fuel economy figure again: 300mpg compared to 75mpg or so for the most frugal diesel engines on the market at present.


So what’s it like to drive? Well getting in and out of cars with gullwing doors is always a little bit of a yoga feat and the XL1 is surprisingly low to the ground. Inside and your basically lying on the floor, a small steering wheel in hand and a speedometer display that’s largely taken from the current VW Up! city car. The rest is pretty basic fare, though the rearview camera screens fitted to the door take a little time to get used to. It’s all about saving weight and fuel so despite all the modern tech, the windows have manual winders. The battery pack is housed in front of the passenger, so that seat is pushed slightly further back than the driver.


As with most hybrids, starting it is merely the push of a button followed by the flash of a few lights. There’s no accompanying sound. The first thing you notice is the heavy steering. Power steering went into the engineering bin as part of the effort to lose weight and reduce energy usage.

As a result it’s a bit of a workout at low speeds, but then older motorists will remember a time when this was the norm, before we were all mollycoddled with technology.



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