After its victory in the Green category of the 2015 BusinessCar Techies exactly a year ago, it felt right that we should spend a few months getting better acquainted with the VW Golf GTE.

The plug-in hybrid, eligible for a £2500 Government grant off the £34,000 price, combines a 150hp 1.4 petrol engine with a 102hp electric motor, offering an official battery range of 31 miles. In our real-world experience, it’s actually closer to the 20-mile mark, with the battery level readout [1] diminishing more rapidly than the miles tick off.

Helpfully, though, the car does recoup energy during journeys through regenerative braking, which can then be deployed, and the 40-litre fuel tank is good for an additional 275 miles or so on petrol power.

Plug-in hybrids make the most sense if you drive regular short trips, minimising the amount of petrol use between charges. The ideal is 10-mile commutes charged at home, or 20-mile journeys where it can be plugged-in before the return leg.

Early journeys around south London, where the patchy public recharging network meant too much time was spent on petrol rather than electric power, returned mid-30s mpg for a fuel economy figure, which would have been immeasurably improved by being in a position to home-charge.

A change of scenery for the Golf meant I took control of the keys to see what my 35-mile commute would do to the figures. Charging points at home and work mean the battery got top-ups at both ends, and my best average economy over an entire tank was 59.4mpg over 386 miles.

That was hampered by a couple of longer trips where the battery quickly gave way to petrol power, and our average over the 3500 miles the Golf was in our care landed on a 41.6mpg figure. More time in an optimum environment would no doubt have moved that figure to at least 60mpg.

Among the more general points discovered during the eight months we ran the GTE include the fact that the front parking sensors are very oversensitive and tend to flag up things that aren’t necessarily there [2], while the silent running is beneficial for early morning starts where a diesel would be clattering away, waking up the neighbours.

The satnav – a pricey but handy £1325 option – is slick and user-friendly, complete with its party trick of sensing an approaching finger and bringing up the menus only when they’re required [3].

Luggage space is impacted by the battery packaging, and drops by over 100 litres on the regular model to 272 litres. It’s a nice, flat load area, but a bit small to be convenient for everything family life throws at a car, especially by the time the charging cable has been stashed.  

But the GTE uses sensible technology to make a big dent in consumption and CO2, as long as it’s applied to the right journey patterns. The tax advantages, while eroding, are still huge, and if that combines with a genuine application where the majority of travel is via electric power, then there’s much to recommend.

Volkswagen Golf GTE

Mileage 11,279
Official consumption 166.0mpg
Our average consumption 41.6mpg
Forecast/actual CPM 61.9p/69.1p
P11D price £34,000*
Model price range £17,570-£33,825
Residual value 32.4%
Depreciation cost £23,000
Fuel £1824
Service, maintenance and repair £2534
Vehicle Excise Duty £0
National Insurance £1361
CO2 (BIK band) 39g/km (7%)
BIK 20/40% per month £40/£