It looks like a supercar but the Volkswagen XL1 which has gone on show for summer visitors to the is one of the world’s most fuel efficient production cars.
Representing the cutting-edge of low emissions, this is a sheep in wolf’s clothing which can achieve more than 300 miles per gallon and is one of the most environmentally friendly cars on the road.
The 2015 model has joined the museum’s display which tells the story of motoring innovations and technology. Its futuristic aerodynamic bodywork, with sports car wing doors, may look more suited to a science fiction film but the XL1 uses ingenious plug-in hybrid technology beneath its skin.
As a Super Efficiency Vehicle, it is fitted with both an electric motor and compact 800cc two-cylinder diesel engine, linked by a dual-clutch seven-speed transmission driving the rear wheels. It can be driven purely on electric power for up to 30 miles on one charge, staying in electric mode until greater power is required, or until the lithium ion battery charge drops below 14%. Then both motors start to work together to achieve as many as 340 miles on one gallon of diesel, with low emissions.
The sleek bodywork isn’t just for show. Constructed from carbon fibre reinforced polymer, the body shell and panels are strong yet weigh a fraction of steel equivalents. With polycarbonate windows, the XL1 tips the scales at just 795kg, which is less than a modern supermini. Light weight means that acceleration from rest to 62mph is a respectable 11.9 seconds, with the top speed electronically limited to 99mph.
Billed by Volkswagen as ‘a car of the future, built today’, the XL1 was made in small numbers as the third generation of the German manufacturer’s fuel-efficient 1-litre car project, exploring efficient and environmentally friendly motoring. The first concept car of 2002 and the second version of 2009 had tandem seating but the production-ready XL1 was unveiled in 2011 with staggered side-by-side seats.
The new exhibit can be seen in the National Motor Museum as part of a visit to the Beaulieu attraction, which includes On Screen Cars, World of Top Gear, the ancestral Montagu family home of Palace House, 13th century Beaulieu Abbey and the grounds and gardens. Tickets can be bought in advance online. For tickets or information see or call 01590 612345.