Volkswagen Golf GTE first drive: Hotting up the hybrid

You’ve heard of the Golf GTi. Now say hello to the Golf GTE. That’s E for electric, in case you were curious.

To readers of a certain age, GTE in the context of a performance car might be associated with another brand. When Pocket-lint was still in baby grows, it was Vauxhall that owned the GTE moniker, as seen stuck on the back of cars like its hot Astras.

But Vauxhall’s loss is clearly Volkswagen’s gain, as it gives the German maker a neat and easy-to-understand badge strategy for its range of performance cars. So in Golf world, it’s GTi for (injection) petrol, GTD for diesel, and GTE for plug-in hybrid electric – although this isn’t a purely battery powered Golf (you’ll need an e-Golf for that).

The Golf GTE mates together a chunky battery pack that you can plug in and recharge (unlike a regular hybrid like, say, a Toyota Prius) with a 1.4 TSi petrol engine. This engine sometimes keeps itself quiet and lets the battery do all the work, sometimes works together with the battery and (if the battery’s drained) can propel the car on its own. It depends on what mode you put the car in, state of charge and so on.

The benefit to you of all this? Well, 31 miles of range on the battery alone – which VW figure is enough to get most of us to work and back each day. But then the sort of performance you get from the regular GTi when the battery and petrol motor are working together and producing their combined total power output of 204hp. In between times – and depending how often you charge the battery up, the GTE promises much greater economy than its petrol equivalent – officially, 166mpg and 39g/km of CO2.

We could bore you at length about the GTE’s numerous modes (pure electric, GTE, charge battery etc) and various degrees of super cleverness. Instead we’ll simply talk about how it drives.

Set off with e-mode pressed, and the Golf travels under the power of just its battery, so long as you keep the speed below 81mph. It’s quiet, serene and nippy without feeling outright fast in a way that so many electric cars do. Both the electric motor and engine drive through the standard 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox, but in electric mode it’s very difficult to discern any real kind of stepping, gear-changing feel. And that’s all part of the appeal. It’s a fuss-free experience.

Read more: Pocket Lint

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