This is the new Golf GTE, the first mass-produced plug-in hybrid Volkswagen.
When it goes on sale in the UK in August it will join a suite of Golfs with alternative power sources. Alongside the traditional petrol and diesel engines, you’ll also be able to buy a full electric version, and models powered by compressed natural gas or ethanol.
The GTE is the most complex, however. Like every other plug-in hybrid it’s powered by two engines: there's the familiar VW 148bhp 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine, combined with a battery-powered electric motor, all going through a six-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox. This alliance is good for 201bhp; by comparison the standard Golf GTI produces 217bhp.
The GTE can travel 31 miles on electric power alone and has a theoretical total range of 583 miles. According to official fuel consumption figures it can also achieve 188mpg, but in reality it’s likely to be a lot lower. Company car drivers should be more interested in the official 35g/km CO2 emissions that will equate to low tax bills.
As the name suggests, VW is billing the GTE as a hot hatch, and the 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds and 135mph top speed suggest fruity performance.
The styling is also heavily modelled on the five-door GTI's, albeit with a mildly different front-end treatment and unique 16-inch alloy wheels.
What is the 2014 VW Golf GTE like to drive?
You can run the Golf GTE in three modes. If you hold it in pure electric mode it behaves just like the e-Golf, so there's a seamless, swift and silent power delivery that's perfectly good for zipping through cities and suburbs.
However, the fun will last for a maximum of only 31 miles before the battery runs out of juice. For most of the time, then, you end up running it in normal hybrid mode with the 1.4-litre petrol engine being assisted by the electric motor.
Like all the best plug-in hybrids, there’s a seamless transition between petrol and electric power, and you barely detect when either is doing the bulk of the work.
It’s fast, too. Despite the extra weight of the batteries, it feels almost as urgent as a standard GTI. It also feels like it'll have the same confidence-inspiring and agile handling. In fact, it can be made to feel even more urgent by depressing the ‘GTE’ button, which sharpens the throttle responses and gives you a more conventional GTI-style exhaust note.
What is the 2014 VW Golf GTE like inside?
Think standard GTI and you won’t go far wrong. There are several distinctions, though. Where there are red trim flashes on the GTI, these are coloured blue for the GTE. You also get a unique display and functions in the central screen which shows battery range and which of the two power sources is providing the power.
The rest is up to the standards set by every other Golf, so you get the same levels of space and comfort, plus admirable quality and attention to detail.
Should I buy one?
The Golf GTE makes far more sense for most people than the pure electric e-Golf. Plus, with a predicted price of around £28,000 (after the £5000 Government grant), it doesn’t cost much more to buy. Nor does it cost a lot more than a standard Golf GTI.
It also makes a lot of financial sense if you're determined to keep your company car tax bills to a minimum or are in a position to benefit from free central London congestion charging.
There’s an undeniable appeal to a hybrid that has been dressed to look like a hot hatch and, near as dammit, drives like one, too. The Golf GTE is also undeniably far more practical, if less avantgarde, than a BMW i3.
So if you are attracted to the technology and it can fit into your life and financial situation, the GTE will be worth serious consideration when it goes on sale in August.
What Car? says
Engines 1.4-litre petrol and electric motor
Price £28,000 (est) (after £5000 Govt grant)
Power 201bhp (combined)
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 7.6 seconds
Top speed 135mph
Maximum electric-only range 31 miles