Review: Volkswagen Passat GTE (2015)


30 mile electric range. Strong performance and good refinement. Low company car tax bracket.

Expensive at more than £37,000. Official economy figure is unrealistic.

Volkswagen Passat GTE (2015): At A Glance

The plug-in hybrid Volkswagen Passat GTE attempts to combine cheap, pure electric commuting with comfort, strong performance and long distance capability. For the most part it succeeds, but temper your expectations for fuel economy – you won't be surprised to find that most drivers won’t manage anywhere near the official 166mpg.

It's powered by 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine linked to an electric motor, providing a total of 218PS. Thanks to an almost seamless six-speed DSG automatic transmission, the GTE is extremely smooth, quiet and impressively swift when both the engine and electric motor are working together.

When the battery is fully-charged, which takes just over four hours from a three-pin socket or two and a half from a dedicated charger, the Passat GTE has a pure electric range of around 30 miles in ‘e-mode’. That’s according to official figures – the reality is a little less, but still enough for the average short commute.

The rest of the time the Passat GTE is like any other automatic Passat. It’s extremely comfortable and easy to drive, plus it comes with handy convenience features including adaptive cruise control as standard. It’s great whether covering distance on the motorway or in nose-to-tail urban jams.

However, if you’re hoping for more than 100mpg prepare to be disappointed. If the battery is kept topped up, expect to see around 70mpg over a mixed route, or 30-40mpg on the motorway over a long journey. Not bad for a large petrol car, but a long way short of the official figures.

The GTE is as practical as any other Passat. Both saloon and estate variants are offered and boot space isn’t affected by the battery pack or electric motor. The saloon is obviously less practical, with a smaller boot opening, while the estate is huge, providing masses of space for luggage, pushchairs or flat pack furniture.

The Passat GTE is at its best if used for short commutes with occasional long distance journeys. For those who tend to spend a lot of time on the motorway a diesel is still a better bet – and they’re cheaper to buy too. There’s still a lot to like though, especially for thrifty company car drivers, since the GTE's emissions of 39g/km place it in a very low company car tax bracket.

Volkswagen Passat GTE 2015 Road Test

Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate 2019 Road Test

What does a Volkswagen Passat GTE (2015) cost?

List Price from £36,600
Buy new from £33,369
Contract hire from £411.36 per month

Volkswagen Passat GTE (2015): What's It Like Inside?

Inside, the Passat GTE is as impeccably well-finished as you would expect from a Volkswagen. High quality materials make everything feel plush and sturdy plus the cabin is extremely well-insulated, meaning little noise of any kind makes its way inside, whether from the tyres, wind or engine.

There are a few details unique to the GTE model, including blue stitching and piping, plus an aluminium dashboard inlay. A fully-digital dashboard, like the Audi Virtual Cockpit, is optional (or standard on the Advance variant) and it really makes the GTE feel high-tech, with different layouts for each of the drive modes and plenty of clearly presented information, including music info and navigation. 

The back row of seats is more than spacious enough to seat adults but the middle seat is slightly cramped, however the estate provides a little more headroom for taller occupants  Those with children will have no issues, though – access to the back seats is good and there are two Isofix mounting points.

Boot space is unaffected by the battery pack and electric motor, so saloon versions have 586 litres of capacity and the rear seats fold down. The estate has 650 litres of carrying capacity - that's considerably more than a BMW 5 Series Touring. That means plenty of space to stow pushchairs alongside shopping and bags, helped by a low, flat load area. 

The GTE comes with a touchscreen system as standard, which includes navigation, DAB and Bluetooth. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity isn’t standard but is an affordable option, so it is worth it for streaming audio via services like Spotify and using Google Maps to navigate.

Standard equipment includes three-zone climate control, auto lights, auto wipers, keyless start, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and alloy wheels. There are lots of options too including advanced electric seats with massage, keyless entry and driver assistance features like lane assist.

Standard equipment:

GTE comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, DAB Radio, Bluetooth, driver alert system, post collision brake system, adaptive cruise control, auto lights, auto wipers, front and rear parking sensors, touchscreen system with navigation, heated seats, three-zone climate control, charging port, 16 Amp AC charge cable, 10 Amp mains charge cable, LED headlights and Car-Net subscription.

GTE Advance gains LED premium exterior lighting, Pro navigation with larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, panoramic sunroof, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connection, 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster, 360-degree around-view parking camera and Nappa leather upholstery. 

Child seats that fit a Volkswagen Passat GTE (2015)

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What's the Volkswagen Passat GTE (2015) like to drive?

The Passat GTE’s plug-in hybrid system is ideal for short commutes, since on a full charge the car can cover around 30 miles without using any petrol, reaching speeds up to 61mph. Once the battery is low, or whenever the system needs some extra acceleration or speed, the petrol engine kicks in - so there’s no range anxiety like in a pure EV.

Charging the battery takes four hours and 15 minutes from a three-pin socket, or two and a half hours from a high output, dedicated charger. Charging functions can be monitored remotely via a smartphone app linked to the car, so the charge can be scheduled to start at night, which can be cheaper on some energy tariffs.

Because the official economy test is based on a short run from a full charge, the official figure of 166mpg isn’t realistic in everyday, real-world driving. A long motorway run will see economy drop to between 30-40mpg, while mixed driving with a full charge will give economy of 60-70mpg. So for high-mileage drivers a diesel is still a better bet.

On the plus side, the combination of 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, electric motor and six-speed DSG transmission works really well. It’s very smooth, extremely quiet and it provides impressive performance. Peak torque is 400Nm and maximum power is 218PS, so there’s plenty of overtaking capability on tap.

There are four drive modes to choose between. The standard hybrid mode chooses between electric and petrol power automatically, plus there is a pure electric mode. Charge mode keeps the batteries topped up, which is useful on a stretch of motorway - meaning the electric charge can be saved for urban driving.

There’s also a GTE mode that combines both the electric and petrol power sources to provide the best possible performance. In this mode the Passat GTE can manage a 0-62mph sprint in 7.4 seconds as a saloon or 7.6 seconds as an estate. Obviously this isn’t ideal for fuel efficiency.  

Through corners the extra weight of the battery pack and motor can be felt – the GTE doesn’t feel particularly nimble or agile – but it is surefooted and predictable. Ride quality is good on the whole but ripples and potholes can be felt, especially at lower speeds.

Standard equipment includes adaptive cruise control, which is excellent on the motorway, taking the stress out of busy stretches. It can even detect traffic in the overtaking lane and will avoid undertaking unless the throttle is applied. The Passat GTE also has autonomous emergency braking as standard, while more advanced tech like lane keep assistance is optional. 

What have we been asked about the Volkswagen Passat GTE (2015)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

What hybrid car should I buy for commuting long trips?

I'm looking for a new company car and l'm interested in hybrid vehicles due to the lower BiK rates in comparison with diesels. I will be doing regular 100-mile journeys, so need to factor in real world mileage rates. I'd like a hybrid that can do reasonable electric-only miles with a decent real world figure when it comes to long runs. I do about 20,000 miles per year and I have around £35,000 to spend. Any thoughts?
A normal hybrid only does 5-10 miles on the electric motor alone. A PHEV does 20-30 miles on the electric motor alone. Both of them regeneratively recharge on a run. How much they regenerate is influenced by the way you drive and the terrain over which you drive. Toyota says that over big distances a plain hybrid Prius works out more economical than a Prius PHEV. But on a run of 100 miles or so we averaged more than 80mpg. It's worth noting that the current Prius steers and handles exceptionally well.
Answered by Honest John
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