When a VW Golf is adorned with the revered 'GT' badge, potential punters know it signifies stylish looks, awesome performance and the sort of everyday usability one finds in any of the German manufacturer's products.
So, it is an extremely brave move for the marque to glue this iconic badge to its latest green machine, the plug-in hybrid Golf GTE. With just over 200bhp on tap and the ability to silently cruise the streets in all-electric mode, the sporty hybrid certainly sounds enticing, but is it any good?
What lies beneath?
The combination of a turbocharged 148bhp petrol engine and a 100bhp electric motor (which through weird maths actually adds up to a total 204bhp) propels the unassuming Golf GTE, resulting in a machine that can not only cruise at speeds of around 80mph on battery power alone but also tackle longer journeys and more spirited drives when the engine is called into play.
Stick the Golf GTE into 'E'-Mode' and it will happily zip around the city streets for up to 30 miles without so much as supping a drop of petrol, yet depress the 'GTE' button and the petrol engine barks into life, the steering sharpens and a proper hot hatch experience is offered on a plate.
The engine is a little noisy and it's not quite the same as driving a GTI, but it's certainly the most fun we've had in a hybrid for a while.
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Driving Mr Daisy
Unlike the slightly mundane Audi A3 e-tron, Volkswagen's offering is actually a blast to drive. The switch between all-electric motoring and typical internal combustion power is seamless, yet the power offered from the combined drivetrains is a joy to experience.
Engineers at VW have managed to integrate the electric motor into the housing of the six-speed DSG gearbox, meaning drivers get full control of cog swaps via some F1-inspired flappy paddles located behind the steering wheel. This really comes into play when the silent crawling traffic of urban life is left behind and a nice country road presents itself.
Cruise without caution
Purchase a Nissan Leaf or a Renault Zoe and you're limited to a range of around 60 miles before battery drain panic sets in.
Not so with the Golf GTE, as its on- board petrol engine can also act as a generator to top up the lithium ion battery packs. A special mode, dubbed 'Battery Hold', cleverly maintains the charge of the battery packs so the driver can summon them should they enter a zero- emissions zone (many European cities already enforced these) or want to conserve fuel for the remainder of the journey.
Should the batteries drop below the desired level, Battery Charge mode kicks in and the petrol engine will automatically top up the juice on the move. The result is a combined range of 584 miles when batteries are fully topped-up and tank is brimmed. That's Newquay to Glasgow without a pit stop.
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Substance before style
Golf GTI fanatics will notice the obvious styling similarities between VW's best- selling hot hatch and this new fangled hybrid model. Golf GTE customers get the same LED running lights, twin tailpipes and optional enormous alloy wheels as its hot hatch brethren, but are also treated to neat blue highlights on the badging and brake calipers, as well as inside.
In fact, park the GTE in a local dingy NCP and the interior positively glows with Tron-like hues. It's awesome.
Those expecting infotainment innovations may be slightly disappointed as this is pure VW in so much as it's the same 6.5-inch touch-screen display found in many other models. That said, the GTE does get a number of supplementary dials that give range read-outs as well as cool energy flow indicators. A Car-Net e-Remote app can also be downloaded to smartphones that allows users to call up car information and adjust climate control remotely.
Plug-in for savings
Volkswagen had to create a system that automatically turns the engine via the electric motor to ensure it doesn't seize up due to lack of use. That's because the 8.7kW/h battery packs can be charged from a standard plug socket in just over three hours, or two hours if you opt for a wall socket, leading the boffins to conclude that many commuters won't use the combustion engine at all.
It's easy to see why, because the Golf GTE is so mild mannered and comfortable when cruising in 'E-Mode' at low speeds. It comes as a bit of an unwanted intrusion when the rough-sounding petrol engine barks into life and spoils the peace.
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Engine: 1.4-litre direct-injection four-cylinder petrol, plus electric motorPower: 204bhp combinedTorque: 258lb ft0-62mph: 7.6secTop speed: 135mphGearbox: 6-speed dual-clutch automaticFuel economy: 188mpgEmissions: 35g/kmKerb weight: 1524kg
Volkswagen Golf GTE Verdict
The Volkswagen Golf GTE looks great, attacks corners with poise and will save you a fortune at the pumps.