Plug-in VW Golf GTE debuts with identical power to GTI

Published: 26 February 2020

► Gap shrinks between all-petrol GTI and plug-in sibling
► Promises impressive performance and super-low costs
► On display at 2020 Geneva motor show

Rounding off its trio of GT models, Volkswagen has introduced this – the new 2020 Golf GTE. It’s the brand’s plug-in hybrid hot hatch, aiming to blend characterful driving dynamics and impressive performance with ultra-low running costs.

Staying on the right side of the hybrid revolution can often come at a cost, though, so the GTE will need plenty of tricks up its sleeve to ensure it can overcome its complexity and weight to offer what GTI customers crave – engagement.

What does the hybrid drivetrain consist of?

No surprises here – it’s the same combination of 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine and electric motor with six-speed DSG that we’ve seen on almost every plug-in VW so far. However, power is now identical to the GTI, at 242bhp for the total system (separately you get 148bhp from the engine and 114bhp from the electric motor, but peak power comes differently for each).

A bigger battery than its predecessor – now 13kWh in capacity – means the GTE can run for up to 37 miles in all-electric mode, at speeds of up to 81mph. That’s more than enough pace and range to cover the vast majority of journeys in the UK, so if you’re able to juice up at home or at work, you could get through the week without using a drop of petrol whatsoever.

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What’s more, the nav will calculate when electric power would be most welcome and reserve it for that point in the journey – for example, if you’re driving into a city centre, it’ll start the petrol engine up earlier in the trip so that you have enough charge to complete the city portion on battery alone.

It’s also possible to charge the battery solely via the petrol engine, though this will no doubt negatively impact (read: ruin) overall fuel economy. No numbers official mpg figures have been revealed yet, though.

The charging socket has, somewhat disappointingly, moved from the front badge to the front wing. A sad consequence of radar sensors for active safety systems – there’s simply too much going on at the front of the car to stick the charging port in there now.

Will it drive as well as the GTI?

Jury’s out on that one, and will remain so until we get to test the car – whatever VW says about it. The previous GTE never felt totally deserving of its ‘electric GTI’ positioning, due mainly to its weight. It simply didn’t have the agility or dynamic capability of its lighter, petrol-only sibling – and the slightly awkward response of its twin power sources was less intuitive and snappy than we liked, too.

Volkswagen will no doubt have worked hard to eliminate these issues, and though the GTI is still likely to have the edge on the GTE in terms of outright driving pleasure, it’s fair to expect the new plug-in model to be a huge improvement over its predecessor.

Any other unique touches?

Volkswagen’s differentiating the GTE from its petrol-powered sibling by altering the colour of its accents. Where the GTI gets red pinstriping, tartan and interior trim, the GTE will get blue. 

GTE models will also come more highly specified than the GTI and GTD, gaining VW’s top-tier Innovision cockpit as standard. This essentially links up the driver’s 10.25-inch digital dials with a 10.0-inch infotainment display for a seamless and cohesive look across the dashboard – itself sleek and virtually button-free. 

The rest of the styling will be identical to its sister cars, as will suspension and chassis components – though a bespoke tune will surely be needed to cope with the weight of that hefty battery pack.

When’s the hybrid on sale?

Soon, with deliveries set for autumn 2020. More prices and specs to come when we get them, as well as details from the car’s launch at the 2020 Geneva motor show – which we’ll be covering live.

By Tom Wiltshire

Bauer Automotive staff writer; enjoys Peugeots, naturally-aspirated diesels, column shifts and steel wheels