My wife bought a Golf TDI BlueMotion last summer, so I’m well used to seeing the Mk7’s restrained but attractive form. Giving the GTE an extra dollop of allure out on the road, Volkswagen has incorporated the e-Golf’s gorgeous C-shaped LED daytime running lights, along with the GTI’s aerodynamic fins and coloured (blue, in the GTE’s case) accents that exquisitely bleed into the lights.
Reducing the risk of befuddlement by options list, the GTE is only available as a 5-door, which would always be my pick anyway. Buyers are stuck with 18-inch Serron alloys but needn’t cry as they’re rather attractive, and nine paint jobs can be chosen from, in case anyone’s blue averse. Volkswagen has continuously ameliorated the Golf throughout the course of time and the latest LCI tweaks look fantastic, so Golf loyalists seeking to jump on the plug-in hybrid bandwagon can rest assured that it looks as simultaneously ordinary yet attractive as any other Golf.
On the inside, leather can be specified, but the test car I was given the keys to was upholstered in blue Tartan cloth, in a nod to GTIs of old. The gear selector, steering wheel and various other components were also given the blue treatment, resulting in a smart interior, one that predictably treads the path of Teutonic tactility rather than attempt any Gallic gaiety, thank goodness. Golf interiors have always been understated and built to very high standards, the GTE duly following suit. The only real clues as to the “best of both worlds” slogan were two plain-looking buttons discretely positioned next to the gear selector – GTE and E-Mode.
The Golf GTE sees a 102PS (75kw, 10kw less than the e-Golf) electric motor team up with a 150PS, 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, producing the aforementioned 204PS when working together at their peak. There are five driving modes, Battery Hold and Battery Charge being self-explanatory, Hybrid Auto optimally managing the innards for you, GTE mode giving it full welly and E-Mode running purely on electricity. Typically, a swathe of different screens only a touch of a button away provided seemingly endless data on battery health, range, usage, emissions, power flow, combined fuel economy and other vehicle statistics. Inevitably, regular fiddling ensued, which I guess most hybrid owners quickly slip into the habit of.
On the move, Hybrid Auto felt more or less like a regular car, albeit slightly quieter owing to the Golf GTE running on electricity some of the time. The 1.4-litre TSI engine was characteristically refined and smooth, too, but curiously the Golf seemed to be affected by road, tyre and wind noise a tad more at around 30mph than the Lexus GS300h and Volvo V60 PHEV I tested for a week each in recent months. Crawling in slow-moving traffic at around 20mph in the VW was sublime, though, as expected from electric power. Feeling noticeably heavier than the GTI because of the extra 120kg from the battery, GTE mode wasn’t quite as exhilarating as I’d hoped, although it wasn’t exactly a wet weekend and would still be enough to crack a smile on even the dourest of faces. The mode I particularly gelled with was E-Mode, which dished up tranquillity or, depending on your mood, immediate urge, thanks to the instant torque on tap. This is one area in which electric cars excel. Hybrid virgins may not believe the start button has done its job, as no engine sound can be heard. Setting off and building up speed were nothing but smooth, courtesy of the DSG transmission, a 6-speed affair developed specially for VW’s hybrid models. I must also note that the ride quality of the Golf GTE was very good, soaking up poor surfaces and conquering speed bumps and potholes with composed ease. Although it marginally falls short of the GTI and even the GTD in terms of ultimate dynamics, the GTE did a noble job in the corners, too.
The battery is an 8.7kWh Lithium-ion job, which Volkswagen says will charge in just under 4 hours if plugged into your home mains, or just over 2 hours if you use a public charging point or have a wall box installed at home. At my place, our electricity tariff means we pay Scottish Power 16.73p/kWh day or night, including the standing charge. Therefore, 16.73p x 8.7kWh battery capacity equals a crudely calculated electricity cost of £1.45 to charge the Golf GTE at home. This is assuming 100% battery usability and efficiency, seldom achieved from PHEVs, which typically work to 75-80% usable battery capacity, depending on how each manufacturer publishes its figures. Power consumption from the electric motor is 11.4kWh/100km (62 miles). It’s pretty much the same setup as Audi’s A3 Sportback e-tron, which costs a couple of grand more, at £30,340 after the PICG.
Volkswagen claims the Golf GTE is capable of upto 166mpg, but as with all plug-in hybrid figures, this is only theoretical, as is the 31-mile range on electricity. In real-life driving in Hybrid Auto mode, I saw 78mpg and an electric range of 22 miles. Just the same as I experienced in the Lexus and Volvo hybrids, combined fuel economy and electric range didn’t match the published figures, which is partly because climate control, outside temperature, steep hills, driving style and other factors have an impact. I think most PHEV owners go into it with their eyes open these days, though, and a combined MPG of nearly 80 from the Golf GTE is generally pretty good. CO2 emissions are attractive, too, at 39g/km, which lets the Golf GTE escape the gaze of Boris Johnson and his noble London Congestion Charge. As with most PHEVs, it depends what you use your car for. The Golf GTE doesn’t make as much sense as a diesel BlueMotion if you commute more than around 70 miles or so each day. However, if your office is say 20 miles away and you’ve got access to a rapid charger or normal mains socket, you could conceivably drive to work and back on electricity costing you £1.45 (and your employer around £1.45, too – so a real cost of around £3) and never fill up with petrol. As food for thought, if you bought a 150PS Golf GT 1.4 TSI ACT with a DSG gearbox, claiming 60.1mpg combined, it’d cost you around £4 in petrol to commute 20 miles and back, based on petrol at 115.23p/litre – but the car itself costs less at £26,000. A Golf BlueMotion 2.0 TDI 150PS DSG at roughly the same purchase price would also cost £4 in diesel to commute 40 miles per day. This means the Golf GTE, which is slightly more expensive to buy, even after the grant, would be cheaper to use for your office journey, providing your employer is nice enough to let you charge it at work. For those who cover higher mileages each day, it starts to make less sense, so people contemplating a Golf GTE better get their abacuses out.
The Golf GTE is, therefore, a desirable, premium hatchback with a great image and revered perceived build quality. It’s spacious, well-equipped, refined and worthy of consideration if CO2 emissions, range anxiety, congestion charge exemption and green motoring free from any NOx and DPF concerns are key criteria. It isn’t quite a GTI but handles fairly sportily, offers tranquil city motoring which would be great for those with stressful lifestyles and could make financial sense depending on daily usage. PHEVs are generally still a little expensive at the moment, but efforts like this from Volkswagen will help them become more popular and hence affordable, so I tentatively doff my cap.