Creating a hot hatch used to be simple. Shoehorn the most powerful engine you can find into a small hatchback. Add some stiffer suspension, garnish with bigger brakes, flavour with large alloys and finally sprinkle with ‘GTI’ badges. This tried-and-tested formula has worked ever since the Golf GTI first appeared back in 1976.
However, Volkswagen didn’t stop there. Over the years the German firm has constantly pushed the boundaries of what a hot hatch is. From a turbo-diesel to four-wheel drive, fast V6 engines and even a small petrol with both a turbo and a supercharger, there has been no end to their hot-hatch tweaking. But nothing yet, has been as ambitious as this new Golf GTE plug-in hybrid.
Looking like a pumped-up GTI, the plug-in hybrid Golf doesn’t look all that different in the metal, but make no mistake this car is out to rewrite the hot hatch rulebook. Under the VW’s skin is the same hybrid powerplant as the Audi A3 e-tron that we tested on these pages back in July. That means it packs the same 150bhp 1.4-litre turbo petrol as well as a 75kw electric motor that pumps the overall output up to an impressive 204bhp.
That’s enough to give it a brisk 0 to 60mph time of just 7.6 seconds and onto a 137mph top speed while returning an 188mpg average fuel economy and just 35g/km emissions. Anyone lucky enough to run one as a company car will face an ultra-low 5 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax bill – the kind of level that even company car drivers of conventional frugal cars can only dream of. Perhaps the most impressive aspects of this high-tech hybrid are its 31-mile electric-only range and the fact it takes just three and a half hours to charge from flat using a domestic plug socket. It can also travel at up to 81mph in electric mode alone.
All that means you could commute in the GTE without using a single drop of petrol all week, says Volkswagen. Which is why engineers had to use a petrol engine that could go for weeks without turning over. But if you do need to venture out of town at the weekend, the petrol engine will kick in and extend your range to a very reasonable 580 miles. So far, so revolutionary.
But what’s it actually like behind the wheel? Unsurprisingly, it feels like a Golf. Aside from an extra gauge where you’d normally find the rev counter (that shrinks and sits below it), the fit, finish and layout is just like the regular hatch. The only drawback we could find is that the battery cells have shrunk the boot capacity by almost a third and the rear seats no longer fold completely flat – but if you can live with that, you’re in for a treat once you’re on the move.
Read more: Sunday Express