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

Plug-in hybrids seem to have taken a back seat recently, but are two used examples of the Hyundai Ioniq and Volkswagen Golf good enough to persuade us to open our green wallets?...

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  £19,500

Available from 2016-present

The plug-in hybrid version of the Ioniq has ultra-low CO2 emissions.


Volkswagen Golf  GTE Advance

List price when new  £32,135

Price today £25,000

Available from  2014-present

The Golf GTE is one of the more performance-focused plug-in hybrids on the market.


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


The year 2040 is admittedly still some way off, but the Government’s planned ban on cars powered only by petrol or diesel has caused quite a stir. Sales of hybrid and pure electric-only cars have rocketed since the announcement was made a couple of years ago, even if they still form a fairly tiny proportion of overall new car sales in this country. However, the recent removal of the new-car grant for plug-in hybrids in the UK has meant a dramatic drop in sales for this particular category of green car; there’s seemingly less incentive for people to stump up their hard-earned cash to buy one.

That makes buying a used one an interesting prospect. It could be that used prices for plug-in cars take a slight dip, or it could be that they remain steady as future buyers seek out a limited supply of these second-hand cars.

Here, we’re testing two-year-old examples of a couple of the most popular. The Hyundai Ioniq was the first car to be offered with three different electrified powertrains: a regular petrol-electric hybrid, an electric vehicle (EV) and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The Plug-in was the last of the three Ioniqs to go on sale. It offers a low CO2 output and the promise of a driving range of 31 miles on electric power alone.

Its challenger here is the Volkswagen Golf GTE, which makes similar claims for electric-only mileage. It’s been around a little longer than the Ioniq, and consequently there are more of them on the used car market. The Golf has always been synonymous with family-car quality and all-round ability, but how does it compare with this Korean challenger, and which one makes the most sense when bought used? We’re about to find out.


What are they like to drive?

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 flooring the throttle on the move to accelerate from 30-70mph.

Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi Hybrid - interior

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. Disappointingly, the Ioniq 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.

Used Volkswagen Golf GTE 2015-present

The Golf pairs its stronger performance with keener handling. Its steering is more naturally weighted than the Ioniq’s and has more feel, while the car itself also corners more precisely, with less body lean. Contrastingly, the Ioniq’s front tyres give up grip surprisingly early through tight twists and turns.

The Golf rides well, 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.

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