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Volkswagen Golf GTE Test Drive Review

Date: 08 September 2014   |   Author: John Mahoney

Volkswagen's Golf GTE has been 38 years in the making.

That's how long it's taken for the original 1976 Golf GTI to evolve into the new plug-in hybrid hot hatch. It's been some journey, with VW experimenting with the likes of diesel, four-wheel drives, big V6s and even curious turbo- and super-charged hot hatches over the years.

Has it been worth the wait? If you consider the numbers, then yes, and we're not even talking about the 0-62mph time of 7.6secs or the 204hp its hybrid powerplant generates - it's the 188mpg fuel consumption and the ultra-low 35g/km of CO2 that charts the incredible rate of progress. That means the Golf GTE is road tax-free, while business users will pay just 5% BIK in company car tax.

To achieve these figures the Golf GTE pinches the recent Audi A3 E-tron's hardware. Powered by a 150hp 1.4-litre turbo petrol and a 102hp electric motor, VW says it's created a hybrid you'll actually want to drive.
Headline news is the GTE's 31-mile electric-only range.

Charging from a domestic plug socket overnight takes 3.5 hours and could mean most commutes could be done without using a single drop of petrol, especially since you can travel in e-mode at up to 81mph.

Run out of charge and the petrol engine boosts the range to 580 miles. To get the best out of the Golf hybrid there are plenty of different modes to lengthen the amount of time spent in electric power, while 'GTE' mode offers maximum power from both petrol and electric motors, and stiffens up the adaptive dampers, sharpens the throttle response, and adds extra steering weight.

It makes the GTE the sportiest hybrid ever made, says VW, and behind the wheel the Golf is fun. It's grippy and competent, but ultimately the Golf GTI still offers more involvement and pace.

Meanwhile, in traffic or down steep hills you might also want to consider increasing brake regeneration by selecting 'B' on the gearlever to help charge the batteries quicker.

It's also worth noting that the GTE's batteries reduce boot capacity by a third.

There's good and bad news regarding running costs. The cynics among us doubt users will come anywhere near 188mpg over long journeys (we averaged over 50mpg in our drive), and with its high P11D you might be better off with the regular Golf GTD, but for many, the GTE's low monthly tax bill, smooth, powerful delivery, and decent electric range will more than make up for a few cost-per-mile fibs.


Tax-efficient alternative to a sporty diesel hatch