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Volkswagen Golf GTE review: 4.0/5

Volkswagen's Golf GTE is a charged-up hybrid promising GTI-like pace, with super-low emissions.

Kyle Fortune

Words: Kyle Fortune

Published on: September 4, 2014

Words: Kyle Fortune

Published on: September 4, 2014

Tech Specs

Model testedVolkswagen Golf GTE
Pricing€40,035 on-the-road after grants
Powertrain1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and electric motor
Transmissionfront-wheel drive, automatic
Body stylefive-door hatchback
RivalsAudi A3 e-tron, BMW i3 REx, Toyota Prius plug-in
CO2 emissions35g/km (Band A1, €170 per annum)
Combined economy188.0mpg (1.5 litres/100km)
Top speed222km/h (combined) 130km/h (electric only)
0-100km/h 7.6 seconds
Power204hp at 5,000- to 6000rpm
Torque350Nm at 1,600- to 3,500rpm

Bridging the gap between the fully electric Volkswagen e-Golf and the range-topping GTI and GTD sporting models is this new conscience-salving, tax-efficient Golf GTE. It takes any range anxiety compromise out of your planet-saving desires with plug-in electric driving and a petrol engine back-up.

In the Metal:

The Golf GTE's hybrid status isn't at all obvious; it does take styling cues from its GTI and GTD relations, putting an 'E' where the 'I' and 'D' would usually be. So a sportier looking Golf then; the GTI's red pinstriping is changed for blue and Volkswagen even hides its plug-in status by popping the charger socket behind the VW badge up front. If you want to shout about your environmentally friendliness then it's a subtle way of doing so, as the GTE's styling is more sporting than tree-hugging in its looks.

That smart and sporting look outside is carried over to the interior, where you'll find Volkswagen's tartan seats. Again the red stripe of the GTI (or grey of the GTD) has been replaced by a blue highlight, and that's the colour of the contrasting stitching too. Only the instrument pack and occasional additional button by the DSG lever really reveal that this is a Golf with variable drive choices.

Driving it:

Mixing the disparate goals of economy and performance in one car, the Golf GTE aims to be everything to everybody. And in many respects it succeeds. Default driving mode at start-up is E-mode, this allowing electric-only driving for up to 50 kilometres - at speeds of up to 130km/h. If your commute is short then it's easily covered without the 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine cutting in. It'll only do so if the weather's particularly cold, there's no charge in the battery or you ask for full power, though it's easily quick enough in electric-only mode to keep up with traffic.

Response in E-mode is pleasingly fast too, the GTE brisk and silent, the drivetrain's soundless operation only highlighting the Golf's incredible refinement. The GTE driver can choose between five driving modes: E-mode, Battery Hold, Battery Charge, Hybrid Auto and GTE mode. Add D and B modes via the automatic transmission and those can be tailored further, D allowing coasting to maximise gained momentum and B upping the regenerative braking effect, scavenging back energy when you lift off the accelerator.

Selecting all those various modes to maximise economy takes some planning and management, and if you want Hybrid Auto or the Battery Charge settings you need to scroll through various sub menus in the infotainment system. E-mode, GTE and Battery Hold are all selectable via a pair of buttons, while D and B choices require a simple knock of the DSG's lever backwards to shift between modes.

Leave it in E-mode, as most owners will, and it's a credible electric car, the GT element of its make-up underpinned by its hybrid modes, giving the GTE real-world usability that's way beyond its e-Golf relation. In hybrid guise it's similarly brisk and effortless, though the sporting leaning the GTE badge promises is rather ambitious in a car where economy is at its core. Sure it's quick, just 0.1 seconds slower to 100km/h from rest than its GTD relation at 7.6 seconds, and its 350Nm of torque is the same as the GTI's, but the additional weight, the hybrid's sometimes tardy response when you ask more from it and lack of feel from the steering and brakes do limit its outright appeal to enthusiasts.

That's unlikely to bother any of its potential buyers though, and it's unquestionably more enjoyable on a challenging road than its Audi A3 e-tron relation with which it shares its powertrain. It grips harder, rides with greater composure and is more resistant to understeer. Indeed, it feels far more resolved than its Audi cousin. Amusingly, Volkswagen's engineers made the Golf both infinitesimally quicker and more economical than its upmarket Audi relation.

What you get for your Money:

Irish pricing for the Golf GTE has not been confirmed, but we believe it'll cost in the same region as a five-door DSG-equipped Golf GTI once grants and VRT rebates are taken into consideration. That means a price of about €39,000. If the range structure from the rest of Europe is adopted then it'll be available in one, fully-loaded specification in five-door format only. You'll not want for anything other than the optional navigation, which adds some bespoke EV features including electric-only range and charging points. Dynamic Chassis Control is also an option if you want variable dampers. We wouldn't bother.

Worth Noting

Charging the GTE's battery is quick and easy; a full charge from a conventional domestic plug socket is possible in 3.5 hours, while a wallbox charger drops that to 2.5 hours. Thanks to the hybrid powertrain the GTE has an official combined economy figure of 188mpg, though in the real world over longer distances it's likely to be a third of that at best, while a 35g/km emissions rating puts road tax in one of the cheapest brackets.

Summary

Taking the idea of a hybrid and injecting it with some sporting appeal might be odd, but in many ways it works in the Volkswagen Golf GTE. A GTI or GTD driver will have more fun behind the wheel if measured by conventional means, but the GTE has the ability to captivate in an entirely different way. And for customers drawn to it for its tax-reducing stats, the sporting looks and no-compromise drivetrain are incredibly appealing. We'd have it for the blue-striped tartan seats alone, those and the E-mode, which is hugely entertaining with its instantaneous and stealthy response.



Tech Specs

Model testedVolkswagen Golf GTE
Pricing€40,035 on-the-road after grants
Powertrain1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and electric motor
Transmissionfront-wheel drive, automatic
Body stylefive-door hatchback
RivalsAudi A3 e-tron, BMW i3 REx, Toyota Prius plug-in
CO2 emissions35g/km (Band A1, €170 per annum)
Combined economy188.0mpg (1.5 litres/100km)
Top speed222km/h (combined) 130km/h (electric only)
0-100km/h 7.6 seconds
Power204hp at 5,000- to 6000rpm
Torque350Nm at 1,600- to 3,500rpm