£34,055 - £35,820 Price range
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.
Prices start from £34,055 and if you buy your new Golf GTE using carwow you can save £8,850 on average.
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. Critics say the extra weight of the 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 which 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 5.8-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 now 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.
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, it 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. Sadly, most testers suggest it sounds rather artificial.
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. Despite this, testers commend the GTE for feeling “confidence inspiring and assured”, though everybody stops well short of suggesting it is exciting – not ideal for a car which is marketed as a green alternative to a conventional hot hatchback. Despite it’s flaws, it both rides and corners better than the Audi A3 e-tron.
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 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 road tax and 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 of course means big savings on fuel. If the petrol engine is needed (say, if the batteries are running low or you need more poke) testers say that the switch between electric and petrol power is”seamless”.
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.
Its decent range means the GTE makes more sense to most than the electric e-Golf, but perhaps its biggest strength is how conventional it feels to drive. As one tester puts it, the Golf GTE is “entirely conventional to operate”, which is exactly what some customers want.
Critics are impressed with the hybrid system, but the GTE 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.