The Volkswagen BlueSport's enthusiastic project leader let the secret out early. At a drive event around Germany's picturesque lake district, Marco Fabiano lets slip that the concept car originally revealed at the Detroit auto show in January has already been granted a development codename, or Entwicklungsauftrag, as the Germans call it. It is not a case of if Volkswagen will build this neat-looking two-seater, but when.
Fabiano's frank admission of Volkswagen boss Martin Winterkorn's recent decision to grant the BlueSport a production green light comes as little surprise. Although it has been built by hand, the compact car already drives with all the mechanical proficiency you'd expect from a pre-production prototype.
In fact, it seems to have skipped all the usual early development processes Volkswagen models normally undergo and headed straight into the testing phase, such is its inherent togetherness. I'll be ridiculed for saying it, but it already feels like a junior Porsche Boxster. No really, it does.
That's because the BlueSport was conceived from the outset as a production car, right on down to the intricacies of its mid-engined platform architecture, which draws heavily on components from the new, fifth-generation Polo.
"We had a very firm idea of what we wanted: a low but wide roadster that not only looks fresh and appeals to all age groups but is also class-leading in terms of dynamics and, most importantly given that it is a Volkswagen, is reasonably affordable," explains Fabiano.
Although it is not clear when the production car will arrive, it is no secret that Volkswagen intends using the BlueSport to spearhead a renewed attack on the North American market, just as Mazda did in the 1990s with the Miata. It's likely we'll see showroom versions by 2013.
Still, there's more to this car than outright speed. Displaying a level of response and composure well beyond what you might expect from a one-off concept car, the chassis flows in concert with the camber of the smooth-surfaced German country roads, and there's proper feel to the pedals, enough to allow you to provide measured increases in throttle and confidence-inspiring dabs of the brakes, which have been taken from the Golf R32.
The steering - an electro-mechanical setup borrowed from the Polo - is typically light in feel but terrifically direct at the same time. Perhaps it's the lack of mass over the front axle, but there's an eagerness upon turn-in that you just don't find in any existing Volkswagen model.
It all adds up to a wonderfully deft cornering feel, and with 19-inch aluminum wheels shod with 235/35 (front) and 245/35 (rear) Pirelli P Zero Nero tires underneath, you can be sure of plenty of grip.
The BlueSport sits low to the road to accentuate its stance. But even without any meaningful tuning of its suspension, the ride is sufficiently controlled and possesses enough composure to allow you to attack pockmarked roads, rather than simply tootling over them as you would in most concept cars. The underpinnings combine the front MacPherson strut setup from the latest Polo with the rear multi-link arrangement from upcoming four-wheel-drive 4Motion versions of the sixth-gen Golf – all in the interests of cost saving, apparently, but when it all works this well, there's really no reason to hide the fact.
The best Volkswagens have always been those conceived to capture broad appeal. But while the BlueSport is never going to sell in the same sort of numbers as the Golf, it proves beyond any reasonable doubt that even in an increasingly environmentally conscious world, driving fun will remain well within reach, even for those on a moderate budget.
If anything, this car is even better to drive than it looks. But even with all the basics seemingly already in place, it is going to take some time before the BlueSport reaches showrooms. By then, the likeable roadster promises to be a much sought-after car. Suddenly 2013 can't arrive soon enough.Words: Greg Kable/Autocar
Photos: Ulli Sonntag/Autocar