In this update Features Editor Sophie Knight and her husband, a lifelong Golf fan, put the GTE through its paces...
With a baby on the way, my husband Steve and I are considering which family car we should invest in – our little Ford Fiesta (three-door) probably won’t hack life with a newborn for long. So we were happy to try out the VW Golf GTE for the weekend.
For generations, the Golf has been seen as the ubiquitous family car – practical, reliable, with a fun edge if you go for a GTI. Steve has been a V-Dubber for many years so the Golf’s many benefits are well known. However, how would a hybrid suit our new lifestage?
In essence, we loved this car. It’s so easy to drive, really comfortable, with a smooth ride that coped with bumps (in the road, and mine) with aplomb.
It’s really spacious on the inside; Steve is 6ft but found that sitting in the rear behind the driver’s seat in his driving position, he still had loads of legroom.
The traditional GTI tartan detail on the seats was attractive, and the blue lighting on the doors was impressive.
Having a hybrid appeals to my environmentally friendly attitude, and charging it up at home was pretty easy. The power from the battery meant the Golf’s acceleration was quick and nimble, and I happily left a 66-plate GTI eating my dust on one journey (much to their chagrin).
However, one major issue meant there’s no way we could consider this to be our new family car – the size of the boot. It’s just tiny. It’s barely any bigger than the boot on my current Fiesta.
It’s naturally taken up by the massive hybrid battery, but it meant that once our pushchair fitted in, there was barely enough room for just a couple of bags of shopping. A real shame.
But the only other negative I could find was that I kept accidentally pressing the cruise control button on the steering wheel instead of the volume button.
So, overall, we loved it. But the teeny tiny boot is a big problem.
By Sophie Knight - who achieved 62mpg!
Second update: GTE or GTE Advance?
Unlike the standard Volkswagen Golf with its myriad engine and trim options, the GTE plug-in hybrid range is relatively easy to navigate.
There’s only one powertrain option – a 1.4-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine combined with an electric motor and six-speed automatic gearbox.
This gives you a total of 204hp and 350Nm of torque, enough for a 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 138mph (or 81mph in all-electric mode).
That means there are two sources of fuel – a 40-litre petrol tank (that’s 15 litres less than a normal Golf) plus an 8.7kWh lithium-ion battery.
How long does it take to charge?
Depends - plug into a domestic socket and it’ll take 3 hours and 45 minutes, or 2 hours and 15 minutes if you have a special wallbox. The GTE comes with a different cable for each.
You’ll want to keep it fully charged if you want to get anywhere near the 156.9mpg and 40g/km of CO2 VW claims is possible. Either way, it’s VED and London Congestion Charge exempt.
The battery also boosts the Golf’s range and performance – you get a theoretical 31 miles on electricity alone or 514 miles combined. Without it the GTE is just a heavier version of the 1.4-litre Golf.
What trim levels are there?
The Golf GTE is five-door only and comes in GTE and GTE Advance trims – we’ve got the latter, which benefits from an uprated nav system, heated front seats, tinted rear windows and 18-inch wheels.
As well as all the usual safety kit like traction control and airbags, the Golf GTE Advance has an XDS electronic differential to help improve grip and handling, plus the following:
- Adaptive cruise control
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Automatic post-collision braking system
- E-sound exterior noise generator
- Front and rear parking sensors
In terms of styling the GTE borrows its C-shaped LED daytime running lights from the e-Golf and aerodynamic fins from the GTI.
Like the latter, the GTE also has a host of coloured highlights, such as across the radiator grille and headlights, except they’re blue rather than red.
It’s the same story inside too, with blue stitching on the wheel, gear lever gaiter and seats, plus blue tartan-patterned sports seats. You also get:
- 18-inch alloys
- GTE styling pack (sporty front and rear bumpers, rear roof spoiler and side sills)
- LED headlights
- LED tinted rear light clusters
Both versions of the GTE get the 12.3-inch Active Info Display (digital dials) but the Advance benefits from the eight-inch Discover Navigation touchscreen infotainment system, plus:
- Two-zone climate control
- Electrically foldable door mirrors with puddle lights
- Heated windscreen washer jets
- Heated front seats
Finally there’s a host of connected tech under the VW Car-Net umbrella:
- Subscription to Car-Net Guide & Inform (traffic, fuel pricing, parking spaces etc) for three years
- Car-Net e-remote (remote battery charging management, departure times and pre-trip interior acclimatisation)
- Car-Net Security & Service (emergency/breakdown call service via integrated SIM-card)
What about options?
There’s plenty of choice here. We’ve selected the following:
- Atlantic Blue metallic paint (£570)
- Dynamic Chassis Control – choice of Sport or Comfort suspension (£830)
- Lane Assist, Dynamic Light Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition (£630)
- LED headlights (£310)
- Discover Navigation Pro (9.2-inch) with voice control, European mapping, Speed Limit Display, and gesture control (£1,325)
How much does a VW Golf GTE Advance cost?
That’s not so easy to answer – the base price is £32,135 but then you have to take away the Government’s £2,500 plug-in grant, leaving you with £29,635.
If you’re a company car driver the P11D value of £32,080 and 9% BiK band means a tax bill of £48 a month (if you’re on the 20% band).
Our car with options costs £35,810, or £33,310 after the plug-in grant. We’ll attack the various private financing options in a later update because this one already has far too many numbers in it.
By Adam Binnie
First update: Welcome
Let’s deal with some awkward opinions early on – I don’t like hybrids because they’re boring to drive, and I think a hot hatch powered by anything other than a massive petrol engine is a cop out.
You may think that makes me the worst person in the world to take ownership of a long term Golf GTE; a plug-in electric version of the iconic tartan-seated GTI that has come to define its genre.
But actually I’m exactly the type of person the GTE has been designed to convince. By 2040 all new cars sold in the UK will have some degree of electrification – cars like this will become the norm whether you like it or not.
So while the Toyota Prius was responsible for introducing hybrid technology to mainstream car buyers, the Golf GTE, with its bodykit and big wheels, is without doubt the car tasked with making it cool.
What the heck is a Golf GTE anyway?
First there was the iconic Golf GTI - a superbly judged balance between outright power and everyday usability - a sports car you could use on your commute.
Then the company car came along, and suddenly there was a market for something that looked like a GTI but produced less CO2. The diesel-powered GTD was born, which annoyed me very much (as explained above).
Fast forward to the present day and the diesel engine’s star is fading – sure it produces less CO2, but also pumps out harmful NOx gasses.
Simultaneously, technology was emerging that could make a small, low CO2-emitting petrol engine a viable alternative – namely better turbocharging, and electric motors driven by power-dense lithium-ion batteries. And so we arrive at the Golf GTE.
So it’s another GTI company car alternative?
If you want to be cynical then yes, it’s a low CO2, lower-NOx alternative to the Golf GTD you’ll see ploughing down the outside lane of the motorway every day at 8.30am.
It can be run on battery power alone for 31 miles of zero-tailpipe emission driving (says VW), or using a combination of electric and petrol power from the 1.4-litre, four cylinder combustion engine.
Best of all, there’s a special GTE mode which uses the most amount of power from both, giving you faux hot hatch thrills without the plummeting mpg figure that normally follows.
That sounds interesting…
It is – particularly the combination of a promised 156mpg, 40g/km of CO2 and 204hp - if you’re not bothered about the two former numbers then the latter means 0-62mph can be achieved in 7.6 seconds.
That’s a way off the pure-petrol GTI (this boasts a 6.2 seconds benchmark sprint) but it’s an admirable effort, plus 350Nm of torque means it feels stronger on the move than those figures suggest.
The biggest contributor to that smaller punch off the line is the GTE’s kerbweight – two powerplants and a slab of battery means this GTE weighs in at 1,615kg, some 300kg more than the GTI. That’ll no doubt affect the handling, which we’ll explore later on.
Is it as good as a GTI?
Only time will tell, we suspect. Being really sceptical, it feels like the GTE is really just an eco-focussed hybrid trading on the inherent coolness of the faster GTI, rather than a direct replacement.
That said, the fact there’s a market for a racier plug-in like this suggests there may be hope for petrol heads after all.
It certainly makes the GTE worthy of a proper investigation, not least to see if it can get under our skin the same way as a GTI.