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Used test: Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in vs Volkswagen Golf GTE

If you want to maximise fuel economy and minimise CO2 emissions, you'll love these two plug-in hybrid cars – but which one is the better used buy?...

Used test: Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in vs Volkswagen Golf GTE

The Contenders

Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Premium SE

List price when new £29,295
Price today £18,000*
Available from 2016-present

Well-built and versatile, the Ioniq looks great value as a plug-in version.

Volkswagen Golf GTE Advance

List price when new £32,135
Price today £19,000*
Available from 2014-2019

In GTE form, the Mk7 Golf combines sporty flair with economical, affordable motoring. 

*Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are enticing propositions. In a world moving towards electric vehicles (EVs), they allow buyers to dip a toe into electrified car ownership while still having a familiar safety net – aka an internal combustion engine.

Want to know one of our used favourites? May we introduce the previous-generation Volkswagen Golf GTE. The GTE is based on the familiar VW Golf family hatchback and has a 1.4-litre petrol engine plus an electric motor. Its purpose was to provide low CO2 emissions, good fuel economy and affordable overall running costs, but it also had a sporty edge. VW didn't give it a name similar to that of its Golf GTI hot hatch for nothing.

New Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In vs New Volkswagen Golf GTE

The Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in is another praiseworthy PHEV. The Ioniq model range features electrification throughout – it's only available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully electric car. In PHEV form, it gets a 1.6-litre engine and, of course, that all-important electric motor.

They both make for temptingly priced used cars, but which is better – the sporty Golf GTE or the sensible (though still desirable) Ioniq Plug-in? We've brought the two together to find out.

New Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In vs New Volkswagen Golf GTE


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

The Ioniq is more than 60bhp down on the Golf when their petrol engines and electric motors are running in unison. So, even though it’s the lighter car, the Ioniq is still 2.2sec slower in a sprint from 0-60mph, and that gap widens when you floor the throttle on the move to accelerate from 30-70mph.

New Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In vs New Volkswagen Golf GTE

Switching to EV driving mode in both cars turns off their petrol engines, leaving them to drive solely on battery power. Progress is punchy from a standstill and, as you’d imagine, near silent. The Golf managed 15 miles in EV mode on our test route – less than half its claimed 31 mile electric range.

Disappointingly, the Ioniq, which is also claimed to do 31 miles on electricity alone, wasn’t able to climb anything other than gentle inclines without firing up its engine, so we weren’t able to complete our test route and get a comparable pure electric range. It’s also annoying that the Ioniq’s petrol engine makes more of a din than the Golf’s when you ask for a quick burst of acceleration.

New Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In vs New Volkswagen Golf GTE

The Golf pairs its stronger performance with keener handling. The steering is more naturally weighted than the Ioniq’s and also has more feel, while the car itself corners more precisely, with less body lean. In contrast, the Ioniq’s front tyres give up grip surprisingly early through tight twists and turns. Refinement is good, though, with little wind or road noise to trouble your ears.

The Golf rides pleasantly too. In town it smoothes broken roads well and sponges away potholes with minimal fuss. The Ioniq’s softer suspension makes for an even more relaxing waft over undulations on faster roads, but it struggles to stay composed over ruts and potholes at lower speeds. At least it doesn’t create as much road noise as the Golf on the motorway.

Next: What are they like inside? >>

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