Saturday, 23 February 2013

Car of the Day - VW XL1

Every so often a car comes along that just seems "right".  The Volkswagen XL1 is one of those cars; mainly because it is low, sleek and compact - a perfect antidote to most of today's bloated machines.  What's not to like about a low, light, wind cheating, mid-engine coup√©?  I don't necessarily go along with the use of complex machinery to chase fuel saving and cut trivial emissions but I hope driver enjoyment hasn't been forgotten in the pursuit of 314mpg.  It would be a terrible waste to build a low, light, mid-engine car that wasn't fun to drive.

When I first saw it the XL1 seemed familiar, the shape reminded me of the Pininfarina Ethos II concept car.  Perhaps it is not surprising, the dimensions are similar and both had low-drag, mid-engine bodywork.  Under the smooth skin both had two-cylinder engines although the Ethos II was two-stroke, the XL1 is a diesel hybrid.

The diesel engine in the XL1 worries me.  How responsive can a two-cylinder turbodiesel be?  VW's forced-induction diesel engines can punch hard once they get going.  Frustratingly they also suffer from a noticeable time delay between calling for power and the engine delivering the goods.  Maybe the car's low weight and the presence of an electric motor will mask the effect.

The other thing that worries me is the choice of tall, slender tyres.  Yes, a 145/55-16 tyre will cause very little aerodynamic drag and minimal rolling resistance in a straight line, but in the real world I think drivers would be better served by something wider, lower profile and on smaller diameter wheels.  Will the XL1 end up with an over-nannying electronic stability system to compensate for the poor choice of footwear?

I know, I know, I want the XL1 to be something that it was never intended to be.  But why can't we have cars that are frugal, fleet footed and fun?

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