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best green car | 2010

The 66TDI Comfortline, priced from $22,350 (over the $19,850 CCOTY-winning petrol 77TSI Comfortline) saw off a strong challenge from Toyota's Camry Hybrid to seal a remarkable double for a brand whose Golf 118TSI won the 2009 CCOTY.

The small South African-made hatchback got home with 31 points over the $36,990 Camry sedan, the first petrol-electric hybrid made in Australia, which scored 28.  The other challengers were both Holdens: the Korean-made Barina Spark city car, and the Commodore E85.

Four of the Best Green Car's nine judges posted the Polo as their first choice, ensuring the narrow win.

Judges were asked to consider the following these criteria:

- Fuel consumption
- Type of fuel and cost/availability
- CO2 emissions
- Impact on gross emissions (i.e. the net reduction in CO2 balanced against the expected sales of the vehicle)
- Value of car
- Safety of car
- Technology of car
- Function (including achievement of intended use, handling, performance)

Aside from being the most frugal car in terms of fuel consumption, the Polo was felt by most to best satisfy all these stiff requirements.  Running VW's newest small capacity turbo diesel, the 1.6 TDI puts out 66kW (as its model name conveys) and an extremely useful 230Nm from 1750-2500 rpm. This low down torque gives the little hatch the assertive punch of a bigger engine and enables economical cruising.

The five speed manual version uses as little as 4.0 litres per 100km in open road conditions and 5.8 in the city for a hybrid-challenging 4.7 litres in combined use.  The optional seven speed DSG adds $2500 to the purchase price, reduces combined fuel use to 4.6 litres while adding the convenience of an automatic transmission.

Equally important in the context of the Best Green Car, the Polo TDI's emissions are a low 124 grams of Co2 per kilometre, 121 with DSG.  While priced above the most cars of its class, the new Polo has greater technical sophistication and badge desirability, while in terms of function it is almost as roomy as a Mark IV Golf of the 1990s.

As a driving experience, it's shaded by its petrol sibling, which also runs only a little less lean at 5.5L/100km, but the TDI runs on diesel rather than comparatively expensive premium unleaded petrol and its 45-litre tank will require less frequent refilling.

Judge Neil Dowling sees it was a "case of proven diesel technology fighting upstarts with hybrid power," noting that the Polo has a "particulate filter to get hydrocarbon emissions right down".

Says Stuart Martin: "Volkswagen's new Polo might not be the cheapest contender in the Best Green Car field but experience says it's a first-rate package - the diesel engine's numbers are tough to ignore."

Karla Pincott goes further: "The little VW shows that you don't have to sacrifice style, safety - or even driving dynamics - on the altar of greener fuel figures."

But it was a near-run thing.  The Camry Hybrid found favour with guest judge, former rally ace and safety advocate, Ed Ordynski, who approves its combination of "remarkable fuel efficiency with strong performance, outstanding refinement and high safety levels and that efficiency gets better, the heavier the heavier the traffic".

Carsguide managing editor Ged Bulmer was: "pleasantly surprised," by the Camry Hybrid, which is "better balanced, more sure-footed and a superior drive to its non-hybrid siblings".

"As the first Australian-built hybrid it also represents an important dawn for local manufacturing of a technology that will only going to become more widespread," Bulmer says.

Not that the others found no favour, Mark Hinchliffe saying the $12,490 Barina Spark is "the right frugal car for our times" and a "complete package with safety features such as six airbags and keen pricing".

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