Imagine the lovechild of a Golf GTI with the all-electric e-Golf and you would be right on the money. The VW Golf GTE is exactly that car, offering a plug-in hybrid powertrain and the thrills of a GTI combined, at least on theory.
As a true lovechild of its parents, the Golf GTE combines the C-shaped LED daytime running lights from the e-Golf with the GTI’s horizontal fins at the front with every detail painted blue instead of the GTI’s red, even on the iconic tartan pattern of the seats. A standard set of 18-inch wheels dressed with 225/40 tyres complete the sporty appearance of this tech-infested Golf.
Under the bonnet we find a turbocharged 1.4-litre 148hp (150PS) TSI engine paired to a 101hp (102PS) electric motor integrated into the specially developed for hybrids six-speed DSG transmission. The combined output reaches 201hp (204PS) and 258lb-ft (350Nm) of torque which propel the VW Golf GTE to 62mph in 7.6 seconds and on to 138mph. But the most impressive figures claimed are about the efficiency of it: 166mpg UK (with the use of the battery, naturally) on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of just 39g/km.
The 8,7kWh lithium-ion battery is mounted underneath the rear seat and needs three hours and 45 minutes to be fully charged from a domestic mains outlet or two hours and 15 minutes from an optional fast charge wallbox. Depending on conditions, the all-electric range can reach up to 31 miles with the top speed limited to a more than sufficient 81mph.
The driver can choose from five different modes: E-mode, Hybrid Auto, Battery Hold, Battery Charge and GTE. As you might have guessed, the latter is the most aggressive of them all, tuning the powertrain for the best possible performance, while the Hybrid Auto mode proves to be the golden ratio between efficiency and performance.
Just Like A Tesla (Sort of)
When in E-mode, the Golf GTE feels brisk enough to tackle the usual city driving; put your right foot down and the 101hp electric motor pulls strongly the GTE in total silence, thanks to its instant torque reserves which are rated at a maximum 243lb-ft (330Nm) from a standstill with a continuous 125lb-ft (170Nm) on offer. Combine this with the direct steering and you have a fun zero-emissions car around the city. The real-world electric range is closer between 20 to 25 miles with the petrol engine stepping in when the battery levels are running low.
It’s when you take it outside the city limits that you start to really notice how smooth the driveline and how refined the collaboration between the two motors is, that makes the Golf GTE feel almost conventional, despite the crazy tech that goes under the skin. And that’s a compliment.
During our short drive on a mix of country roads and city driving we managed an average of 74mpg UK (equal to 61.6 mpg US and 3.8l/100km), which is a long way from the 166mpg UK (138mpg US or 1.7l/100km) official figure, but still remains an impressive result.
Does It Drive Like a GTI?
Not quite. Although it gives you the same, great confidence Golfs are known for, the GTE is unfortunately not the hybrid alternative of the GTI, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You can drive it fast and have a good time behind its wheel, especially with the GTE-mode engaged, enjoying the most balanced Golf chassis of the range due to the rear-mounted battery pack but the handling never comes close to that of the GTI’s. And there is one good reason for it: weight.
There is no escape from the inertia created by the GTE’s 1599kg kerb weight (including a 75kg driver). The battery pack alone adds 120kg to the sum, albeit it sits low in the chassis. But for the nature of it, the Golf GTE is a fun car to drive, certainly the most entertaining of the hybrids, with direct steering, solid performance and a nice ride too. You even get a miniature rev-counter for the petrol engine inside that always weird tachometer which shows whether you are draining or charging the batteries, going up and down like crazy during spirited driving.
To Sum Up
If you are looking for the same driving thrills of the Golf GTI, you’d be disappointed, but that’s more the marketing’s fault than the model itself. Because the VW Golf GTE offers one of the most capable hybrid powertrains in this price bracket, coupled with top levels of refinement and solid performance. It makes a great choice for those who want to try an electric vehicle but don’t want to suffer from the inevitable range anxiety and the usual bluntness. The main negative point is the price, with the VW Golf GTE starting at £33,085 in the UK which goes down to £28,035 after the £5,000 UK Government’s grant for plug-in vehicles and comes packed with kit, including adaptive cruise control, a 5.8-inch multimedia system and LED headlights.