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
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).
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
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.