Everything to everybody; a sporting family car with tax-dodging emissions and sensational 188mpg fuel economy. That’s what Volkswagen claims with the new VW Golf GTE – a plug-in hybrid that slots into the performance range alongside the GTI and GTD.
Combining a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with an electric motor and plug-in battery system gives a total output of 201bhp and 350Nm of torque. That’s almost enough to allow the GTE to keep up with the GTD from 0-62mph – it takes 7.6 seconds, which is just one-tenth down on the diesel Golf. And while the GTD offers excellent efficiency, it’s completely overshadowed by the GTE, which claims 35g/km emissions and quotes official economy of 188mpg.
In the real world it’ll be more like a third of that, but that’s when driving without caring about fuel efficiency. The GTE defaults to E-mode on start-up, and will run entirely emissions free for up to 31 miles. Plus, if your morning commute allows, it’ll do so at up to 81mph.
It’s an impressively integrated hybrid system, offering five drive modes: E-mode, Battery Save, Hybrid Auto, Battery Charge and GTE. Efficient E-mode is swift and silent, building on the Golf’s impressive refinement by eliminating engine noise when running on battery power. When the TSI petrol cuts in, it does so smoothly.
In fact, at normal speeds, it’s all very cleverly managed, and the GTE only struggles when asked to live up to its sporting billing. Push a bit harder and the hybrid has trouble keeping up, with the automatic box trying to second guess the set-up, the steering proving not particularly informative and the brakes lacking initial bite. Even so, it’s more resistant to understeer and rides better than its Audi A3 e-tron sister car.
So take the GT badge as a high-spec trim, rather than a GTI or GTD chaser, and this car makes more sense. The GTE offers range-anxious potential EV buyers a credible, usable and – crucially – desirable hybrid alternative with few compromises. And all this at a price (including £5,000 Government grant) that’s equally attractive.