Shaken, not Stirred
As the anti-diesel rhetoric grows ever stronger, we at Company Car & van have seen an increasing interest from our readers & web site users, in Hybrid vehicles. Toyota & Lexus have been the leaders in this sector for quite some time & over they past three years Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV has also sold in large numbers both into fleet & retail. Despite being around for almost three years, the Volkswagen Golf GTE, the plug-in hybrid version of the Golf GTI & GTD, has only recently started to sell well in the hybrid sector. Judging by the number of enquiries from our readers wanting to know more about the GTE, this sis set to continue.
The Volkswagen Golf GTE features a 1.4-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol unit, offering the driver 148bhp. The gearbox is a six-speed DSG with a 75kW (101bhp) electric motor located between these.The hybrid drivetrain delivers a peak output of 204PS rather than the combined maximum of 249PS because the power doesn’t converge between petrol & hybrid at quite the same time.
Adding an electric motor adds 173kg to the GTE’s weight compared to the GTI. This extra weight means that it’s slower than the GTI, taking 7.6 seconds to reach 62mph & although unquestionably fun to drive, it’s no where near as exhilarating as either the GTI or GTD. Of course, that’s the point, because in its electric-only mode, it has a range of 31 miles on a full charge, offers business users a current BIK of just 9% coupled to emissions of just 40g/km & a claimed combined fuel economy of 156.9 mpg. What’s for certain though are two things. One. it’s the most fun you can have in a plug-in-hybrid. Two. Achieving the claimed mpg figure is highly unlikely.
Just to confuse things further, company car drivers can now look at another Golf that’s tax-friendly, the e-Golf. New car tax bands are pretty confusing, especially when the new e-Golf will actually cost you more per month in tax than the Golf GTE, because it has a higher cost, around £2000 more to be precise. But, both have a BIK of 9% so the GTE would actually work out cheaper.
Volkswagen Golf GTE: BIK: 20% £46. 40% £92.
Volkswagen e-Golf: BIK: 20% £48. 40%. £96.
What is apparent from these figures, is that either will save you money over a conventional petrol or diesel engine.
Back to the GTE. For those of us lucky enough to have driven a number of hybrid & EV cars, one of the gripes we have, is the number of these, especially EV’s , which look like a Gerry Anderson car from Space 1999. Toyota & Lexus hybrids & the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV don’t look any different to the average car we know & love & the GTE benefits from looking like a conventional Golf.
My white test car, the GTE Advance, really shows off the neat touches that Volkswagen have added to the GTE to differentiate it from the GTI & GTD. The main difference is that the GTE is finished with a selection of blue trim. This can be found on the inside doors & dash,. There’s blue brake callipers & a blue trim on the front grille of the car. Even the tartan seats are in a blue check. Otherwise, the dashboard & interior are straight out of a normal Golf, so soft touch plastics coupled with excellent build quality across the board.
The controls are standard too. All are well-placed & intuitive to use. There’s an 8” composition media system, with active info display. Easy to use & set up Bluetooth, as well as your choice of Apple Car Play, Android Auto & MirrorLink which are standard on there GTE. These features also let you make calls as well as stream music through the GTE’s standard eight-speaker stereo. The real gem though, is the GTE’s 12.3” digital drivers display, the perfect place to use the SatNav, which is located between the rev counter & speedo dials, right in front of the driver.
The GTE also features heated front seats, 18” Marseille alloys, Car-Net security & service, a rear black diffuser with twin exhaust pipes, GTE badging, LED headlights with blue stripes, black rear tinted glass, a blue stitched 3-spoke multifunction leather steering wheel with GTE logo.
Both of the GTE’s front seats can be adjusted for height & the seat’s are really supportive as well as comfortable. There’s plenty of leg & headroom up front too. In the rear, there’s adequate space for those under six foot. You will be able to squeeze five adults in at a push, but the centre rear passenger will struggle for somewhere to put their feet, thanks to the large bump in the centre of the rear floor.
Cabin storage is above average. Two decent sized door pockets will both hold a 1.5 litre bottle. Two cup holders are also on offer in the centre console. There’s also a useful sized glovebox & a hidden storage tray where you can charge your phone. The centre armrest also lifts to give even more storage. plus there’s an additional USB connection in there as well. Rear passengers also get door pocket’s & there’s a folding armrest which contains two further cup holders.
Being hybrid, the GTE’s boot is smaller than the standard Golf’s and you can’t adjust the height of its boot floor like in non-hybridmodels. Overall capacity is just 272 litres, when the standard Golf offers 380 litres. The boot contains both a 12v socket, plus two black bags which hang from hooks in the boot. These contain the home charger & lead, as well as the charger & lead for fast charging away from the home. Fold the rear 60:40 seats down & the boot grows to a useful 1,162 litres of space.
Driving the GTE is very enjoyable. The operating modes are; E-Mode; GTE mode; Battery Charge & Hybrid Auto. I tried them all. You’ll need a charged battery to try the E Mode. This can be charged with the power leads plugged in overnight at home for example, or you can re-charge the battery in Battery Charge Mode as you drive using the petrol engine. A fully charged battery will, as we found out in town, allow you to drive for about 20 miles before the battery runs out. This is really useful in slow traffic. Select GTE Mode & you get a sportier drive. Despite the options on offer, you are most likely to drive in Hybrid Auto, which gives you the best of both world’s.
The six-sped DSG gearbox is one of the best out there. It’s quiet, simple to use & makes getting stuck in traffic jams, far more relaxing than in a manual model. The electric motor really comes into it’s own when your moving under 10mph. Even the 1.4 petrol engine is quiet & on the motorway driving using adaptive cruise control, the GTE makes for extremely relaxing driving. The only drawback with the GTE, is the vehicles weight, which does make the handling on smaller B roads a bit stodgy. Still, it will hit 62mph from a standing start in just 7.6 seconds.
I spent a week driving the GTE & without thinking about how I was driving, managed in Hybrid-Auto mode, to average 39.8mpg. Utilising the EV mode with it’s 20 mile range, means that it could be argued, that almost 60mpg is achievable in the GTE. Impressive. Our opinion is that the GTE will work best, for those company car drivers who only have a 60 mile daily round trip, or for those who can recharge their GTE whilst at work, to take advantage of the electric motor & battery. Anyone travelling longer distances, will benefit from choosing the diesel GTD & that’s despite it’s higher tax cost.
Overall, I really liked the GTE. It looks great, feels well built, drives well & is also practical. Mrs Walker even commented that she enjoyed driving it, which trust me, is a rare occurrence. As I’ve already stated, the GTE will work for some but not for others. Low mileage company car drivers will get all of the benefits from the electric range, especially if they re-charge their GTE every day. From a tax perspective, ALL company car drivers will want to drive one, but fleet managers have already worked out, that if their employees do a lot of motorway miles, then their company will be hit with a very large petrol bill. They’ll want to push their staff to take the personal tax hit of the diesel GTD.
A food for thought 4/5.