Review: Volkswagen Golf GTE (2015)
Refined hybrid set-up. Comfortable and practical interior. Congestion Charge exempt.
No match for a petrol-powered hot hatch. Stodgy handling. Expensive, even after the government grant. Runs out of battery after about 35 miles then uses more fuel than a conventional car.
Volkswagen Golf GTE (2015): At A Glance
- New prices start from £31,100
- Contract hire deals from £300.68 per month
- Insurance Groups are between 17–27
- On average it achieves 46% of the official MPG figure
As the GTE branding suggests, this is no ordinary Golf. On the contrary, it's ranked alongside the performance focused GTI and GTD models, which means Volkswagen pitches the GTE as a hot hatch with a difference - it's a hybrid. A plug-in hybrid to be precise.
On paper the Golf GTE lives up to its sports car billing with 204PS and a GTI rivalling 350Nm of torque. As a result it will go from zero to 62mph in 7.6 seconds, which isn't bad when you consider that claimed economy is 166mpg and emissions are a London Congestion Charge busting 35g/km of CO2.
Being a plug-in hybrid, the GTE has a lithium-ion battery fitted beneath the foot floor. This can be charged in around three-and-a-half hours from a domestic mains outlet, or two-and-a-half hours from a wall box, giving the GTE an all-electric range of 31 miles. The battery can also be replenished while on the move, although this impacts fuel economy as the Golf uses the engine to power the car and recharge at the same time.
The hybrid system is excellent for everyday use, with the 1.4-litre petrol engine working seamlessly with the 102PS electric motor at low and high-speeds. As a result parking and city driving is easy, with the GTE handling like any other electric vehicle. When the petrol engine does kick in, there's no jolts or breaks in the power.
There are some problems though and they mostly relate to the Volkswagen's hot hatch claims. The Golf GTE is roughly the same kerb weight as an Audi Q3 which leaves it with a huge handicap when it comes to cornering. For sure, it's zips along with gusto, but it doesn't corner with the same light-footed agility of a standard petrol-powered powered hot hatch. Even performance diesels will leave the GTE trailing.
The Golf GTE is also expensive, even when factoring in the government grant. But we cannot deny its everyday usability. Indeed, if you ignore the hot hatch connotations, then the Golf GTE stands out as one of the best plug-in hybrid hatchbacks money can buy, with a user friendly system, impressive economy and excellent all-round refinement.
What does a Volkswagen Golf GTE (2015) cost?
Volkswagen Golf GTE (2015): What's It Like Inside?
The interior of the Golf GTE is almost identical to the GTI and GTD, although there are a few subtle changes. The traditional GTI tartan has been given a blue finish and the standard instrument binnacle has been updated to display driving mode, a power meter and the battery charge level.
Like the standard Golf GTI, the interior is comfortable, stylish and solid. Everything feels like it has been fitted with attention to detail and both of the front sports seats are supportive for long journeys. It's also easy to find a good driving position, thanks to the range of adjustments that are available with the flat-bottomed steering wheel and comfortable seat.
In-depth hybrid information is displayed on the clear 5.8-inch colour touchscreen that's located in the centre console. Simply push a button on the large screen and it displays the electric range, energy flow indicator and driving data. A Volkswagen smartphone app is available, which lets you set the air conditioning before a journey or program the charging from your living room.
The touchscreen also acts as the media system, which means the driver just pushes a button to access the DAB radio and in-car settings. Again, like the hybrid control screen, the touchscreen makes it easy to plot the optional navigation or select radio stations.
Based on the five-door model, the GTE is suitable for carrying up to five adults, with plenty of head, shoulder and leg room in the rear. However, boot space is limited to 272 litres - 100 less than the standard Golf - with the battery taking up valuable storage space under the boot floor.
18-inch ‘Serron’ alloy wheels, 5.8-inch touchscreen with e-Manager, DAB radio, Bluetooth, climate control, electric mirrors, GTI body kit, sports seats, LED headlights, three year subscription to Volkswagen Car-Net app and plug-in charging leads.
Child seats that fit a Volkswagen Golf GTE (2015)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Volkswagen Golf GTE (2015) like to drive?
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 57–88 mpg
The plug-in hybrid electric drivetrain in the Golf GTE is designed specifically for the car, according to Volkswagen. But, in reality it's almost identical to the set-up found in the Audi A3 e-Tron. So it combines a 150PS 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with a 102PS electric motor to create a mathematically anomalous 204PS total output.
The electric motor is situated at the front, placed between the engine and a six-speed DSG gearbox, while the battery pack lies beneath the boot floor at the rear. In pure electric mode the Golf GTE can travel up to 31 miles at speeds of up to 81mph. However, it can also be driven as a standard hybrid, with the electric motor powering the car at low speeds, while the petrol engine takes over at 30mph.
At sub-30mph, the Golf GTE is impressive and refined, with silent performance from the electric motor and seamless transitions between electric, hybrid and petrol power. Sometimes hybrids have a habit of juddering along as the system switches from its empty battery to conventional fuel, but Volkswagen has managed to eliminate this completely.
The hybrid system is fed through an equally slick six-speed DSG transmission, with a triple-clutch system that has little hesitation in selecting the correct gear. There are five driving modes - E-mode, Battery Save, Hybrid Auto, Battery Charge and GTE – with Hybrid offering the best balance for daily use.
GTE mode optimises the petrol engine and electric motor for high performance, offering 204PS and a Golf GTI rivalling 350Nm of torque. As a result the GTE will rasp along with gusto and cover 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds, which makes it surprisingly potent in a straight line.
Yet, for all of its hot hatch billing, the Golf GTE is no match for a petrol or performance diesel, with its considerable 1520kg kerb weight working against it in the corners. The GTE is quite simply too heavy, wallowing in tight bends as it struggles to carry any considerable speed through tight corners.
However, despite its high performance shortcomings, the Golf GTE is still an excellent all-rounder. The plug-in system is incredibly refined and it excels in town and over short journeys. It's also excellent on the motorway, with quiet running and decent straight-line acceleration.
|GTE 1.4 TSI||166 mpg||7.6 s||39–40 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Volkswagen Golf GTE (2015)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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