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VW big on small engines

Many carmakers talk about cutting body sizes to boost efficiency, but VW is turning to the engine room. It has plans for a new family of high-efficiency engines with smaller capacities, starting with its twin-charge 1.4-litre four which boosts outputs with both a turbocharger and supercharger.

The 1.4 twin-charge is fitted to the Golf GT in Australia and for 2009 it will be slotted into a version of the Jetta at the expense of the car's regular 2-litre four. Other engines will follow in everything from the baby Polo to the Passat.

“We are downsizing engines as there are lots of requirements in Europe to go down in CO2 and that is easier with small engines. But we also find we can have good performance with low emissions in smaller engines,” says Volkswagen Group Australia head Jutta Dierks.

“We don't start downsizing. But Volkswagen, as a manufacturer, thinks that downsizing engines is a good strategy. We can achieve these tougher CO2 requirements and achieve good economy and still have performance.”

The new move on downsizing comes, ironically, as Volkswagen begins a stronger push for its high-performance R series cars in Australia. It now has a full-three model line-up with the R32Golf, R50 Touareg and the latest R36 Passat.

The 2009 Jetta will pick up the TSI twin-charge engine from the Golf in a logical next step, although it will lose the GT badge from the hatch.

“We want to try to get people familiar with that sort of engine,” Dierks says.

“A lot of people are interested in that technology. I can think of Polo, Golf, Jetta, and it could also be Passat.”

Meanwhile, the Volkswagen efficiency drive has already given it an important win over GM Holden.

It has picked up a big fleet deal thanks to the diesel models in its range, beating out Holden and Peugeot to a contract with Woolworths.

Peugeot revealed the outcome of the tender, which ended a 25-year run link between Woolworths and Holden.

“We think it came down to the Jetta,” says Peugeot national sales manager Ken Thomas.

“They had a conventional sedan and we didn't, and a lot of fleet drivers coming out of Commodores would want a conventional sedan.

Volkswagen refuses to discuss the finer details of the deal, which it only says is for a “lot of cars”.

“It's big for us and it's over a couple of years. The pleasure is that Golf, Jetta and Passat are all involved,” Dierks says.