The Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrid has an electric range of 40 miles, an official combined fuel economy figure of 246mpg, and Golf GTI-rivalling power.
We liked the last Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrid that we tested. You could drive it around town on electric power, and it was also fun to drive on country roads. So is the latest Golf GTE better than the last model…? Read on to find out…
The Volkswagen Golf GTE has a 4-cylinder, 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine and a 110 PS electric motor powered by a 13 kWh lithium-ion battery. There’s a 6-speed DSG automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.
It still looks like a Golf on the outside, and space inside is what you’d expect from this class of car, with a 273-litre boot.
The good news on the driving experience front is that the Golf GTE isn’t an SUV; it’s compact, relatively light, sits close to the road and goes round corners nicely. You can even get a good driving position.
The Golf is front-wheel drive so you’ll get some torque steer and wheelspin, especially with all the torque from the electric motor.
It’s refined when driving in electric mode, and you can drive for many hundreds of miles on the petrol engine.
The ride quality is decent on smooth road surfaces, but if you hit a pothole then be prepared for the impact (and noise) to transmit through the car. The culprit here is likely to be the low profile 225/40 R18 tyres (there’s also a fair amount of road noise from the tyres).
There are drive modes of Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual. Even in Sport mode you don’t always get instant reactions.
You can select to drive on electric power (Emode), or to use Hybrid mode. In our experience the GTE often went from Electric into Hybrid mode by itself, when it was then difficult to get it back in Electric mode.
You can also choose to save (or charge) the battery – but this function is hidden in the touchscreen, and our guess is that many drivers will never know it’s there, so they won’t be able to use the hybrid system in the most efficient way. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has clear buttons on the dashboard for all these controls, which is unfashionable but much better.
There’s also a real lack of any clear indication in the instrument display to show you whether you’re in electric mode or if you’re using the petrol engine, or if you’re in Save mode or in Charge mode.
There’s not even a traditional petrol gauge (or battery gauge) – these do exist but they’re just not very clear. A big battery percentage read-out in the instrument panel would be really helpful.
As is increasingly the case these days, there’s a small stumpy gear selector, and steering-wheel mounted paddles to change gear manually.
There’s also a minimalistic interior: virtually all of the controls are on the touchscreen. Good points about the infotainment system are the clear mapping – on the touchscreen and in the instrument display – and the fact that there’s a reversing camera rather than a diagram (although this is a £300 option). There’s also a head-up display (a £625 option).
There are four buttons under the screen: Assist, Clima, P Menu, Mode. That means that some key buttons aren’t there, such as Navigation, Radio/Media etc.
What you do get is a blue ‘home’ button on the right of the screen. You’ll find that you’re pressing this a lot. Then you’ll be pressing the next button that you need. Then the next button. So even through the designers have taken away virtually all of the traditional buttons, the driver is left with too much button-pressing in the touchscreen. What is really desperately needed is a useful range of shortcut buttons.
Even the slider controls to change the temperature and the volume don’t give you any feedback; a traditional rotary dial for both is so much better.
And, predictably, switching off the intrusive lane departure control system isn’t a straightforward process.
The Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrid has an official combined fuel economy figure of 246mpg and an electric range of 40 miles. In the real-world we averaged 25-31 miles of electric range in winter, and 420 miles from the petrol engine. Over a week of mixed driving we averaged 57.2mpg overall, which is well short of the official figure, but is still good.
The Golf GTE takes around 3 hours 40 minutes to charge using a 3.6kW charger, or around 5 hours from a standard domestic socket.
The Volkswagen Golf GTE 1.4-litre TSI 245 PS plug-in hybrid 6-speed DSG (MY ’21) costs £36,010. Our test car had the following options: alternative alloy wheels (£600), rear-view camera (£300), head-up display (£625), Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) (£785), Winter pack (£270), Digital key (£215) and Dolphin Grey metallic paint (£625), taking the total price to £39,430.
Somewhere in the Golf GTE there’s a good car trying to get out. It’s compact and sporty, and has a decent electric driving range. However the driving experience is spoilt by a tendency for the car to crash into potholes and by too much button-pressing in the touchscreen to control basic car functions. Perhaps most importantly, if Volkswagen wants plug-in hybrids to be allowed to exist for as long as possible, it needs to ensure the operating system for the hybrid powertrain is as user-friendly as possible; burying half of the hybrid system controls in the touchscreen isn’t helpful for drivers trying to achieve maximum efficiency from the car. You’re left with the feeling that rather than the driver being in control of the car, the car is seeking to control the driver. The Volkswagen Golf GTE 1.4-litre TSI 245 PS plug-in hybrid 6-speed DSG (MY ’21) gains a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.