VW Golf GTE17 | 09 | 2014Scotcars rating

    Electric cars boring? That's not what you'll say about VW's new 188mpg plug-in Golf

    SO, VOLKSWAGEN HAS built a Golf which is capable of 188mpg: really? Well, that's certainly the headline-grabbing figure which shouts out loud and proud from the information released by VW for the plug-in hybrid.

    More significantly though, and both intriguingly and sensibly, in the blurb handed out by the VW UK crew at the international launch of the Golf GTE, it downplayed the 188mpg claim.

    Instead it focused on the fact the GTE — the sister car to the Audi A3 e-tron, with which it shares its hi-tech driveline — combines the benefits of e-mobility and GTI dynamics.

    And while, yes, in a perfect laboratorially-stringent testing environment the GTE will return 188mpg, in real world driving conditions that figure will be significantly less. But you should still expect 70-80mpg

    Worth highlighting here, perhaps, that VW UK headline the fact the 1.4-litre 150bhp direct injection petrol engine and 102bhp electric motor — which actually produce a combined maximum power of 204bhp due to the different torque curves of both engines — have a combined 'theoretical' range of 580 miles from the 40-litre tank.

    Confused? Well, I'm afraid that's the world of plug-in hybrids. While there's always a headline-grabbing theoretical mpg figure, it's also always accompanied by a less exciting reality.

    But hey, the Golf GTE has a number of very attractive and encouraging redeeming factors.

    The principle factor is, it's a genuinely sporting model in the mould of the Golf GTi and GTD. No, don't laugh: it is.

    Look at the figures: 0-62mph in 7.6sec and 138mph top speed in GTE mode. Possibly even more impressive is, in E-mode, the Golf GTE hits 81mph before a limiter caps your speed.

    And ok, let's deal with the big question which always dominates any car which boasts electric power: range.

    In pure electric form, the Golf GTE has a claimed electric range of 31 miles.

    Related: VW reveals new Touareg details

    Let's be honest, for most people's daily commuting trip, that will be ample. But it's worth highlighting that the range is dependent upon varying factors, including your average speed.

    As I mentioned previously, the combined range extends to 580miles, and that's roughly similar to a conventional petrol engine Golf.

    So, what makes the GTE different, and attractive? First, it's clean, emitting just 35g/km CO2, which means it's exempt from both congestion and road taxes.

    Its other big attraction — oh, did I mention the 188mpg? — is the fact it can be recharged simply by plugging in to your household socket alongside your kettle and toaster.

    Sure a fast charge wallbox is available as an option, but for many people the reality of fuelling their Golf by plugging into a domestic three-pin socket is attractive.

    On a regular 240 volt 10 amp system the GTE takes four hours to recharge the 8.7kWh lithium-ion battery, dropping to just under two hours a more robust 240 volt, 16 amp set-up.

    Cleverly, the socket for the plug is neatly hidden beneath the Volkswagen emblem in the grille. And once out on the road, the petrol engine and kinetic energy is used to top up the battery on the run.

    As you would expect, there's a whole host of electronic wizardry which ensures the GTE maximises the power combination from both the petrol and electric engines.

    Power from both powerplants is channeled to the front wheels via a specially adapted version of Volkswagen’s six-speed dual shift (double clutch) gearbox known as the DQ400.

    The driver is provided with the choice of five modes: E-mode, GTE mode, battery hold, battery charge and hybrid.

    Depending on the mode that is chosen, the gearbox is either decoupled from the engine to provide drag free coasting or recuperates kinetic energy on a trailing throttle, thereby ensuring the maximum possible efficiency.  

    Related: First details of new VW Golf GTE

    VW has had to compromise on storage space with the GTE. While the battery is mounted below the rear seats — the space where the fuel tank traditionally is housed — the petrol tank, reduced in size from a regular 50 litres to 40 litres, is now tucked beneath the slightly raised boot floor.

    Press the start button … and there's silence. The GTE always starts in electric only E-mode when there is sufficient charge in the battery, which means — naturally — there's no engine sound. It's eerily silent, even when you're expecting no sound.

    Once out on the road, it flits seamlessly between electric and petrol engines, aided in no uncertain manner by the silky smooth DSG gearbox.

    While the GTE may be packed to the gunwales with pioneering, complex technology, it's totally conventional to drive: and that's exactly what VW wanted to achieve.

    In town it's a delight, aided by its well-balanced and direct steering. Switch to motorway or A-road driving, and it's again comfortably at ease: it's even got an enjoyable exhaust note when you work it hard.

    There's no denying VW has for almost everything — including the blue accents across the radiator grille and into the headlights, and the blue stripe in the tartan pattern on the sports seats — right with the GTE: everything except the price.

    At £28,000 — which includes the £5000 Government grant — it's not cheap, which is a pity. The GTE deserves to be seen on the road, but I fear it'll be damaged by the price.

    Forty years after VW introduced the first Golf in March 1974, the German giant has produced, without question, the best petrol-hybrid on the market. If only it was priced at £25,000.

    Related: VW Amarok enters the 'Dark' side

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    Jim McGill


    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £28,000 (after £5000 Govt grant)
    Engine / Power: 1.4-litre petrol and electric motor / 201bhp (combined)
    How fast?: 7.6sec; / Max 135mph
    How big/heavy?: L4270mm W1799mm H1457mm / 1524kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: 31 miles (electric-only), 188mpg / 35g/km CO2
    InsGP/Road tax: n/a / n/a
    Alternatives: Audi A3 e-tron, Nissan Leaf

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