Volkswagen Golf GTE Review

Plug-in hybrid performance Golf that promises the best of both worlds

volkswagen golf gte irish review
The Volkswagen Golf GTE

Here’s an interesting one – the new Volkswagen Golf GTE. The Golf GTE is Volkswagen’s new plug-in hybrid and it promises the best of both worlds – GTI-like performance but with less fuel consumption and low emissions.  Could it be possible?

Scroll down to read a review or watch my Golf GTE video:

The Golf GTE certainly looks the part of a hot hatch and it is branded as an equal to the GTI – GTI badges are replaced by GTE ones and where red is the accent colour for the GTI, blue is used to highlight the GTE’s electric mobility.

The GTE sits on low profile, five spoke 18” ‘Nogaro’ alloy wheels with lovely blue brake callipers poking through the spokes. A twin exhaust and LED lights front and rear mark it out as a performance Golf. From a distance however, the most distinguishing features are the C shaped LED daytime running lights below the front headlamps.

The Golf GTE’s cabin takes the simple, classy layout of its sister cars but adds a touch of uniqueness with the blue theme continued inside – the famous GTI tartan is checked with blue not red, there’s blue stitching on the steering  wheel and around the gear stick, and some really cool blue ambient lighting at night.  It does feel a bit special and like all Golfs, the quality is really good throughout. Interior space is good for the class, however because the Golf GTE has a battery on board, the boot is significantly smaller than in a standard Golf – down from 380 litres to 272 litres, which is more supermini territory.

volkswagen golf gte irish review
Volkswagen Golf GTE: Blue theme continues inside

The Golf GTE gets its performance credentials from an electric motor and a 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine paired to a 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox. The maximum power output of those two sources combined is 204hp, compared to 220hp from the GTI’s 2.0-litre TSI. The GTE will hit 100km/h from a standstill in 7.6 seconds (6.5 seconds in a GTI) and go on to a maximum speed of 222km/h.

Though slightly down on power compared to the GTI, the GTE has the same 350Nm of torque and can keep up with its fellow GT cars while emitting just 39g CO2 per km.  To buy a GTE over the GTI those economy figures have to be strong. Motor tax for the GTE is just €170. An amazing 166mpg was returned in official tests but don’t get carried away – fuel economy will vary a lot depending on your driving style, the distance travelled and how often you drive on electric power only. And considering how much fun this car is to drive when it’s in full on attack mode, you might find yourself at the pumps more than you wished if you don’t practice some restraint. I did.

So how are you going to get the best from this car? The GTE is a plug-in hybrid so you can operate this car as an electric vehicle. This will be the most economical way. The GTE can be charged at home via a three point plug (approx. 3 hours 45 minutes for a full charge) or from a special car charging wall box (2 hours 15 minutes).

The snag is that on a full charge there is a limited range of up to 50km. But if you have a short commute or tend to drive mostly around town, you could charge this car every night, drive on electric power only and very rarely visit the pumps. The battery can be replenished somewhat while driving because every time you brake or lift off the accelerator some energy is restored into the battery.

Volkswagen Golf GTE Irish Review
Volkswagen Golf GTE: GTI-like performance but with low emissions and less fuel consumption

But should you want to head out of town, the great thing is that you can operate this car as a hybrid drawing power from the petrol engine and the electric motor so there’s no such thing as range anxiety when driving the GTE. You can move between electric and hybrid mode in the Golf GTE with just the press of a button and the Golf GTE is to be commended for how seamless the power change is. This car is so smooth but if you would like more information about the cool stuff that’s going on underneath, there are a number of driver information screens and gauges to keep you informed.

Put your foot down hard on the accelerator in hybrid mode and the GTE takes off swiftly, but there’s no particular drama about it in this mode – it just feels like a quick hybrid. There has to be more of an element of performance to the GTE and there is. That’s what the magic GTE button is for. In this mode the electric motor and petrol engine work together, but with a bias towards performance rather than economy. You will drink fuel in this mode like any good old fashioned fossil fuel burning hot hatch.

The throttle response gets sharper, the steering gets a bit heavier, the ride firms up, the DSG gearbox changes gear quicker and stays in lower gears ready to accelerate on demand, and you also get a more sporty soundtrack. It’s artificial but as fake engine noises go, it does sound good.  The biggest surprise is just the boost of power you get when you put your foot to the floor in GTE mode. It is brilliant fun.

Volkswagen Golf GTE Irish Review
Volkswagen Golf GTE: Can be driven in pure electric mode or as a hybrid

Ok, so the GTE is a heavier car than the GTI because of the extra weight of the battery and it’s got a bit less power, but this is still a fine car to drive: there’s a lovely natural feedback to the steering, there’s that instant torque hit and it’s got the same XDS electronic differential lock as the GTI and GTD to improve traction and reduce understeer during fast cornering. You can confidently carry speed into a corner in the GTE – it feels flat, balanced, and there’s great traction out of the bends.

So how can we sum up the GTE? It’s an interesting prospect – a car that can be ran virtually cost free in EV mode but let loose for bursts of noisy, fuel gulping fun at the touch of a button.  Yet aside from those bursts of acceleration in GTE mode and that bit of extra noise, there’s nothing particularly menacing about the Golf GTE – so if you want your hot hatchback to scare you look elsewhere. But this is a fantastic piece of machinery and the real beauty of this car is the options it gives you, its different personalities and the ease of which it moves between them.

Volkswagen Golf GTE Irish Review

Model tested: Volkswagen Golf GTE 1.4TSI PHEV 5-door DSG
Price: 
€38,930 including grant and VRT rebate
Engine: 
1.4-litre turbo petrol & electric motor
Power: 
204hp
0-100km/h:  
7.6 seconds
Economy: 
166mpg
CO2 emissions:  
39g/km
Motor tax: 
€170 per year

Caroline Kidd

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