Volkswagen Golf GTE (2013-2020) review
The VW Golf GTE is a cheap-to-run hybrid alternative to the Golf GTI. It’s full of features but expensive for a car this size and has a much smaller boot than the standard Golf
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The Volkswagen Golf GTE is a hybrid version of the popular Golf family car. It’s perky and frugal thanks to its turbocharged petrol engine and compact electric motor.
It’s slightly cheaper than the Audi A3 e-tron but shares the same parts. Inside you get a pair of high-definition screens – one in the centre console and a second in place of conventional dials – along with bundles of glossy blue trims and soft plastics.
Everything feels just as solid as in the standard Golf and there’s plenty of seat adjustment to help you get comfortable. You even get lumbar support to help reduce back ache on long journeys.
Things are just as comfy in the back. There’s plenty of head and leg room for two adults and all GTEs come with four doors and clearly marked Isofix anchor points so fitting a child seat’s a breeze.
Unfortunately, the GTE’s batteries and motors cut into boot space – its 272-litre loadbay is more than 100 litres down on the standard Golf’s. There’s still enough space to carry a baby buggy and some soft bags though.
The GTE tries to combine the cheap running costs of the electric e-Golf with the fun of the GTI but doesn’t quite manage to do either
All GTEs come with a 1.4-litre petrol engine paired with a small electric motor which work together to give you almost as much performance as a Golf GTI. This combination also means the GTE can trundle along quite happily in electric-only mode for around 20 miles – so short commutes cost pennies not pounds so long as you have somewhere to charge the car. If you do lots of long journeys you’ll end up relying mostly on the relatively thirsty petrol engine, so it’s worth picking a diesel Golf GTD if that sounds like you.
That said, the GTE is easy to drive – you get a six-speed automatic gearbox and adaptive cruise control as standard. It’s not quite as comfortable as the standard Golf on bumpy roads but it’s quieter around town and just as smooth once you head onto the motorway.
It’s safe, too. Automatic emergency braking comes as standard and the Golf earned an impressive five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP in 2012.
Less reassuring is the fact you’ll need somewhere to regularly charge the GTE to reap the benefits from its batteries and electric motor. If this isn’t the case, you’ll be better off with a Golf GTD diesel that’s much cheaper to run over long distances.
You can read more in-depth info on the VW Golf GTE in our following interior, driving and specification reviews sections.
The GTE feels most at home in the city where its electric motor wafts it along almost silently but its heavy batteries mean it isn’t as comfy over large bumps as a regular Golf
Driving the GTE in electric-only mode is super relaxing – it’s a shame you can only enjoy it for around 20 miles before the batteries run out of puff
Under the GTE’s skin sits a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, a compact electric motor and a small battery pack. This combination allows it to drive along using either just the petrol engine, solely the electric motor or a combination of the two.
The GTE’s electric motor will do most of the work at slow speeds or in heavy traffic. It’s nippy enough when you accelerate and its batteries can hold enough juice for a 20-mile journey between charges (VW claims a 31-mile range).
When you’re nearing the end of the GTE’s electric range the petrol engine fires up to drive the wheels and charge the batteries as you drive along. It’ll also leap into action if you accelerate hard, helping this eco-friendly Golf sprint from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds – only a second or so slower than the sporty GTI model.
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to get close to VW’s claimed 157mpg figure. Go easy on the accelerator and 60mpg will be a more achievable real-world number. Let the batteries go completely flat, however, and this Greenpeace GTI will return around 40mpg.
All GTEs come with a six-speed DSG automatic gearbox that’s responsive, easy to use and really helps take the stress out of long journeys. Thankfully, It doesn’t lurch at slow speeds like other automatic Golfs because the electric motor is happy to punt the GTE back and forth on its own. This is especially handy when you’re parking or in heavy stop-start traffic.
The GTE is just as easy to drive as the standard Golf. It’s a breeze to see out of and manoeuvrable enough to make light work of tight city streets. The pillar between the front door and the windscreen isn’t particularly thick so you get a fairly unobstructed view out at junctions.
The GTE’s square side windows and large rear windscreen make it easy to park and you even get front and rear parking sensors as standard. You can get a reversing camera for £295 or go the whole hog and fork out £845 for a system that’ll automatically steer you into parallel and parking spaces.
In town, you’ll feel bumps through your seat a little more than you do in the standard Golf but in electric-only mode it is extremely quiet.
The downside of the GTE’s batteries is that it’s considerably heavier than both the standard car and the sporty GTI models so it doesn’t feel quite as agile on a twisty country road and is less fun as a result, even though it has plenty of reassuring grip and doesn’t lean too much in tight corners.
Head out onto a motorway and the GTE settles down into a quiet, relaxing cruise. The 1.4-litre petrol engine doesn’t produce any particularly unpleasant droning as you drive along and there isn’t too much wind or tyre noise to worry about either.
Adaptive cruise control comes as standard to help make long journeys as relaxing as possible. It’ll hold the car at a constant speed for you but can slow down to maintain a safe distance to other vehicles ahead.
Combine it with the standard automatic emergency braking feature that’ll try to stop the car if it detects an obstacle ahead, and the GTE is one of the safest small family cars on sale. This is backed up by the five-star safety rating awarded to the standard Golf by Euro NCAP back in 2012.
A sporty steering wheel, some tartan seats and loads of blue details help you tell the GTE’s cabin apart from more basic Golf’s – but so does its much smaller boot…