This is the VW Golf GTE. As the name suggests, the idea is to mix GTI and e-Golf: teaming GTI levels of performance with e-motor hybrid propulsion. You’ll be able to snap one up from your regular VW dealer from autumn 2014, for around £28,000.
VW Golf GTE: she’s (partly) electric
The Golf GTE uses a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, developing 148bhp. It’s a turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder, and is supplemented by a 101bhp electric motor.
Together, both power sources provide a combined peak power output of 201bhp – only 16bhp behind a basic Golf GTI. However, the combined torque is 258lb ft – identical to that of a 2.0-litre turbo Mk7 Golf GTI.
Driving the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the hybrid powertrain pushes the Golf GTE to 62mph in 7.6sec, and 134mph flat out. That’s warm rather than hot hatch pace (it’s only a 1.4, remember), with acceleration blunted by the 124kg liquid-cooled battery pack nestled low in the chassis. The Golf GTE weighs 1524kg – 154kg more than a five-door, DSG-equipped Golf GTI, which hits 62mph in 6.5sec, and can touch 151mph.
Liquid-cooling a battery might sound like overkill – old hat, even, but it’s critical to get the best performance from a lithium-ion cell-powered vehicle. In warm weather, cars without battery cooling like the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe can suffer reduced potential range. Liquid cooling is employed in Tesla’s Model S, and BMW use it in its i3 and i8 models: now it’s filtering into more affordable eco-cars.
Does the EV-only mode equate to a preposterous economy figure?
Yup. According to the Euro-driving cycle test, the Golf GTE emits 35g/km of CO2, and achieves 188mpg. The top speed in EV mode is 80mph, so if you’re only out on a short trip, you could top the UK national limit without burning a drop of petrol. It’s the future, like it or lump it! Meanwhile, the GTE will join cars such as the Porsche 918 Spyder and Panamera S E-hybrid in the London congestion charge exemption group.
How does the VW Golf GTE differ from the Audi A3 E-tron?
Fair point: both are plug-in hybrid hatches sitting on the MQB platform. Both cars have a 31-mile electric-only range, more than 550 miles of overall range, and the same 1.4-litre engine/101bhp electric motor powertrain.
According to VW’s head of cross-brand R&D, Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi’s plug-in hybrid challenger will be bought be a different sort of customer to VW’s GTE. The Audi will require a wealthier customer: it’s expected to cost over £32,000-£4000 more than the GTE’s likely price tag.
>> Click here to read the Audi A3 E-tron CAR verdict
It looks like a Golf GTI – but bluer…
Blue is the colour for VW’s economy-minded models, hence ‘Bluemotion’ badges on everything from Ups to Touaregs, and the blue detailing smattered across the Golf GTE.
The GTI’s red eyelid strip has been replaced with a blue one, you get blue-trimmed tartan seats inside, and a few styling tweaks. The front bumper teams the GTI’s plastic side strakes with the C-shaped LEDs from the e-Golf and e-Up models. Bespoke alloy wheels prioritise hot hatch looks over blanked-off, aero-friendly faces, but add some much-needed aggression to the GTE’s demeanour.
The arrival of the Golf GTE means there are now five (yes, five) powertrain options available in the Mk7 Golf. You can have petrol or diesel power, electricity (e-Golf), hybrid (GTE) and in some markets, a compressed natural gas version too. VW says that the ability to integrate multiple powertrain choices was a key design feature of the modular MQB chassis.
In 2013, Hackenberg told CAR that VW cannot commit to a single fuel or power type, because no-one in the automotive industry is quite sure which will be the proliferate choice in the future. Battery tech is still playing catch-up with internal combustion, as is charging infrastructure, but with hydrogen still in its infancy, e-power needs to wake up and smell the dwindling fossil fuels.
By shoehorning everything from a 296bhp petrol four-pot to a battery-powered e-motor into the Golf, VW reckons it’s future-proofed its family hatch icon. Do you agree? Add your thoughts in the comments below.