VW on a charge
12:55 28 July 2015
Volkswagen has entered the hybrid market with its eco hot-hatch Golf GTE - just in the nick of time, says motoring editor Andy Russell
Volkswagen is a late-comer into the electric and plug-in hybrid market but, with green cars taking off, it couldn’t have come at a better time. With the benefit of seeing how other manufacturers have fared it’s made sure its products live up to the VW badge. Volkswagen took the all-electric route with the e-up! city car and e-Golf hatchback but it’s the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid that’s on a charge.
Joining a sporty line
The GTE dispels the image in some quarters that green cars are worthy but dull – this lines up with the petrol GTI (I for injection) and GTD (D for diesel) and no prizes what the E stands for – electric. Available only as an eco hot-hatch, it would be easy to mistake it for the GTI, with its 18in alloys, sports styling and eye-catching LED lights, were it not for the badges and blue accents instead of the GTI’s red ones.
Under the bonnet
There’s a 150PS 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine and a 102PS electric motor, driving through a specially-developed six-speed quick-shifting, twin-clutch automatic gearbox with paddle-shifts behind the steering wheel for when you want to take charge and really have fun.
How does it work?
It’s horses for courses with five operating modes: E-mode – pure electric motoring for up to 31 miles and 81mph. Hybrid auto – efficient use of electric power for urban driving and traffic jams, and the engine for faster driving. Battery hold – maintains battery charge at a certain level, some use of electric but it’s engine to the fore for strong acceleration and higher-speed driving. Battery charge – engine running the car and charging the battery. GTE – unleashes the full 204 horses with both power sources working together.
How does it drive?
It drives like a normal Golf and is easy to select power sources. Press a button for full e-mode or in hybrid auto it seamlessly switches between engine and electric power. While you may not get the official 166mpg, with a light foot and forward vision I was seeing 100 to 120 mpg in real-world urban and country A-road driving.
Put it into GTE mode and it’s E for exciting with a squirt of a throttle producing instant, energetic response for swift acceleration and safe overtaking.
Plug-in charging, via a port under the front VW badge, takes under four hours from a domestic socket and just over two hours with a wall box.
It looks no different from a sporty Golf and, apart from silent electric running and a power gauge in place of the normal rev counter (a smaller one is inset), it feels no different to drive, despite the 120kg battery taking the GTE’s weight to 1,599kg.
Sports suspension – lowered by 10mm – makes the ride firm, not unpleasantly so, but the upside is great body control as the GTE flows through corners.
It will still carry five people with no loss of cabin space but the batteries mean the 272-litre boot is just over 100 litres less than the GTI and GTD but it’s still broad and shapely. Folding the rear seat backs takes load space up to 1,162 litres.
The Golf GTE has a feel-good factor, not just because it’s kinder to the environment on emissions and economy but because it’s such fun to drive. Taking in account the government’s £5,000 plug-in car grant and an automatic gearbox as standard, it costs slightly less than the equivalent GTI or GTD. And that makes it an even more convincing package.
Price: Volkswagen Golf GTE £28,755 (after £5,000 plug-in car grant)
Performance: 0-62mph 7.6 seconds; top speed 138mph (81mph in electric mode)
MPG: 166 combined
Range: 580 miles (31 miles in electric mode)
CO2 emissions: 39g/km