New Volkswagen Golf GTE Review

A quick family car that’s cheap to run if you have somewhere to charge it

7/10
wowscore
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • Cheap to run
  • Quite quick
  • Upmarket interior
  • A diesel’s better for long journeys
  • Expensive for a Golf
  • Needs charging for optimum performance

£31,985 - £33,785 Price range

5 Seats

156 - 166 MPG

Review

The Volkswagen Golf GTE is a petrol-electric hybrid that is practical and cheap to run. The main rivals of the GTE come in varying shapes and sizes and include the Nissan Leaf, Audi e-tron and the less conventional BMW i3.

The car is eligible for a government grant that knocks up to £2,500 off the list price. But that grant ends on 9 November 2018.

Remember that price can go even lower when you sign in, configure your ideal Golf GTE and get VW dealers to give you their best price.

Inside, it’s almost impossible to differentiate it from a regular Golf with easy-to-use controls that are positioned exactly where you expect and impeccable build quality. Aside from some small differences such as the charge dial (instead of a rev-counter) and blue highlights dotted around the cabin, it’s the same interior you’d find in a Golf GTI and that’s a good thing.

The GTI badge, however, comes with a certain aura around it which the GTE simply can’t deliver. The extra weight of the GTE’s electric motor and batteries is always noticeable. What was neutral and confident handling in the GTI, is a different story, here – the car rolls more and you can feel the suspension and brakes having to work harder with the extra weight.

In terms of power you get a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol and an electric motor incorporated inside the gearbox. The combined power of 201hp sounds a lot on paper, but in the real world, the GTE never feels that fast. Real world fuel economy of around 60mpg is commendable, though. As an added bonus you can travel around 30 miles on electric power alone after a full charge at a cost of 2p a mile.

The high asking price inevitably translates to generous equipment levels with all cars getting adaptive cruise control, climate control, a 8.0-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system and sports seats.

Read our Volkswagen Golf GTE colour guide too to see which shade of paint is right for you and if you aren’t sure if it offers enough interior space, have a look at our Volkswagen Golf GTE dimensions guide.

Upon sitting inside the GTE, one of the most pleasant realisations is just how similar it feels to any other Golf. While some EVs and hybrids are too quirky for some, the only differences inside the GTE’s cabin is that where flashes of trim are red in the GTI, they are blue here.

The telltale signs of the cleverness that lies beneath are most apparent in the redesigned instrument cluster, which gains a power readout for the hybrid system, and a remaining-charge gauge for the batteries. Other features exclusive to the GTE include custom navigation data to locate charging stations, as well as an e-manager that lets you control systems (such as the car’s heater) from your smartphone. The new eight-inch infotainment screen, which was introduced when the car was facelifted, looks good and is easy to use. The optional Discovery Pro infotainment system operates via a 9.2-inch screen with clearer graphics, gesture controls, and a proximity sensor that means you can flick through menus without actually having to touch the screen. It’s a fad that works inconsistently, though – we would prefer a proper volume knob instead of the tricky-to-use, touch-sensitive buttons.

VW Golf GTE passenger space

GTE occupants will have no complaints about comfort, either. Interior space is the same as in any other Golf, which means there’s more than enough space for four adults, with room for one more squeezed in the back.

VW Golf GTE boot space

In order to accommodate the hybrid gubbins under the rear seats, the fuel tank now eats into the car’s boot space. As a result, its capacity has shrunk to 272 litres, while the seats can’t fold completely flat as in other Golfs. It isn’t a disaster, but don’t expect it to be as versatile as pretty much any other family hatch – even the Focus’ surprisingly small boot is bigger.

The driving experience of the GTE can be either quite pleasant or rather a let-down, depending on your point of view. As an everyday proposition, it is hard to fault: as with any other Golf, it feels safe, comfortable and easy to drive.

To manage both power sources, the driver has a choice of five modes. E mode rests the 1.4-litre petrol engine and relies solely on the electric motor’s 31-mile range, something that could come in handy in city centres with tight emissions restrictions. Once you’ve cleared the city, prodding the GTE button gives you full power from both the engine and the electric motor, while pushing Hold preserves the battery’s charge, and (as clever people can doubtless guess) Battery Charge recharges it as quickly as is physically possible. Finally, Auto adapts to your driving and primes the car automatically to suit.

The near silence of E mode results in excellent refinement. The petrol engine isn’t too intrusive once it kicks in either, though with GTE selected extra noise is piped into the cabin for a less-than-convincing sporty feel.

The hybrid system is heavy, with the GTE weighing 130kg more than the diesel-powered Golf GTD, which in turn is 26kg heavier than the petrol-powered GTI. It’s for this reason, the GTE lacks the magic of the GTI – it’s reasonably quick, and entirely competent but not a car you would take out on a run simply for the fun of it.

The Golf GTE makes use of the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol found across the VW range. In this instance, however, it’s mated to a 101hp electric motor. Peak power is 201hp and it also has 258lb ft of torque – delivering almost-GTI levels of performance.

The sprint to 62mph from rest takes just 7.6 seconds – the GTI is about a second quicker – and doesn’t run out of puff until 138mph. Despite this, it’ll return a claimed combined fuel economy of 188mpg and emit just 35g/km of CO2 making it London Congestion Charge exempt. On electric power alone, the GTE is able to travel for 31 miles, and at speeds of up to 81mph. In theory, if you live less than 15 miles from work, your weekly commute can be run purely on electric power, which is by far and away the GTE’s biggest selling point.

The 8.8 kWh li-ion battery can be fully charged in under four hours from a regular plug or just over two from a wall charger. Total range is theoretically 580 miles, though you’d be going some to actually achieve this.

Despite the technology on offer, the GTE isn’t as horrendously expensive to buy as you might expect. Indeed, after the Government’s £2,500 grant (for plug in hybrids) you’re looking at a purchase price of around £28,000 – pretty close to what you’d be paying for the Golf GTD, which isn’t as refined and is more expensive to run if your commute is short.

Conclusion

The GTE’s biggest selling point is the savings you’ll make on a short commute, while still having the range of a petrol engine to fall back on.

It is less convincing as a true alternative to a sporty hot hatchback. If that’s a priority, we’d take a look at Volkswagen’s Golf R, Golf GTI and Golf GTD before you commit to the GTE, but if you need a refined and potentially incredibly frugal family hatch, it could be the smartest choice of all.

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