Volkswagen e-Golf versus Golf GTE

Volkwagen’s attempt to take on electric car rivals comes in the form of the e-Golf and Golf GTE

Electric cars remain a hot topic, so the chance to drive VW’s battery-electric e-Golf and its plug-in petrol/electric hybrid, the Golf GTE hot hatch, was interesting on several fronts.

There’s a crushing logic behind both of these eco cars, which is that the Volkswagen Golf has been Europe’s best selling car for the last two years. In 2013 the Golf’s 470,229 sales beat the second-placed Ford Fiesta by more than 60 per cent. So why fiddle with a winning formula for an electric future, when you can just pop in an alternative hybrid or battery electric driveline?

So the e-Golf and Golf GTE look like a standard Golf and mostly drive like one too. In the e-Golf you climb into a remarkably standard-looking cabin, engage Drive on a familiar looking gearstick, and stare at a standard-looking instrument binnacle, with a circular battery-usage meter in place of a rev counter. There’s a bit of creep built into the drivetrain to help when parking, but VW claims creep reduces overall range by between 1.2–3.1 miles, so it cuts out for prolonged brake stops or at speeds over 6.2mph.

Regenerative braking is not handled by the steering-column paddles as it was on the prototype we drove last year, but instead on the gearlever, which is neither as responsive nor as “special” as those paddles, which were dropped for cost reasons. So regen braking is shifted in four stages, with the ultimate, “B”, making the car drive like BMW’s i3 with full brake regeneration when you lift off the throttle – the brake lights go on in all but the mildest regen setting.

There are three main modes of travel: standard Drive, Eco and Eco+, which progressively limit the engine’s power, dull the throttle response and limit the air-conditioning. In standard mode and in the city, the e-Golf feels brisk enough (although the GTE is a lot faster). The ride on Berlin’s streets is mostly supple although the low rolling resistance tyres smash through potholes and there’s a bounding eagerness about the chassis over bumps. The steering is light and inert and the air-con is perfectly adequate although it eats into the range.

The GTE rides a little more harshly, but that fits its sporting credentials since this petrol/electric plug-in hybrid makes a combined 201bhp/258lb ft, which makes for a pretty quick car – 0-62mph in 7.6sec and a top speed of 138mph. Fuel consumption is quoted at 188mpg, but think 150mpg in urban use where the braking energy is saved in the battery; less on a long run.

The six-speed DSG transmission feels responsive, the steering is better weighted and the ride is more consistent than the e-Golf, but you do feel the 1.5 tons kerb weight of both cars as you turn into corners.

The interior is pretty much as the standard Golf GTI with blue instead of red flashes. Electric-only operation has a range of just 31 miles, the standard petrol/electric mode has a quoted range of 580 miles and there’s also a GTE setting on the dash, which sharpens throttle response and gives a more fruity exhaust note.

As well as its electric motor, the Golf GTE uses a petrol engine

It’s a pretty straight forward choice if you only have one car in the household: go for the hybrid GTE. It has good real-world performance and economy and a quoted range of 580 miles. It takes just 3.5 hours to recharge and your fleet manager and benefit-in-kind tax bill will enjoy its 35g/km CO2 emissions. And, since this driveline is already used by Audi and will be by Seat and Skoda, it should be reasonably reliable and economical to maintain.

Where the battery e-Golf scores is if you need a second or third car for mainly urban use and have access to charge facilities at home and at work. Recharge times are long off a household supply and the range is limited, but as an urban runaround it’s convincing, if not overwhelming.

Source: Telegraph (April 2014)

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