Volkswagen Golf GTE review

Category: Hybrid car

Section: Performance & drive

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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

The Golf GTE shares it’s underpinnings with the Cupra Leon eHybrid, and, surprise surprise, they have exactly the same power – 242bhp from the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine and electric motor combined. Funnily enough, it matches exactly the Cupra Leon’s 0-62mph time of 6.7sec, so it’s perky and much faster than the Kia Xceed PHEV. The thing is, though, rather like that car, the GTE feels like it’s holding back that performance, even when you depress the accelerator pedal quite far. It’s only when you literally stamp it to the floor that you get the full dose of forward thrust. 

That’s fine for general driving, because, even without the full gamut deployed, the acceleration is more than adequate in most situations. But, on those occasions when a quick burst is required to get yourself out of a tricky spot, being so binary at full chat makes the GTE hard to manage.

It’s front-wheel drive, you see, and dumping all that shove suddenly through the front tyres means that they struggle for grip, even in the dry. In the wet, the traction control is cutting in all the time to manage the wheel spin, defeating the point of having such prodigious poke and causing progress to become staccato: power ‘on’ then ‘off’, then ‘on’ then ‘off’ again. And when the wheels do lose grip they have a tendency to cause quite a shudder through the body as they skip, like bouncing bombs, over the Tarmac.

The GTE’s electric-only range of 32 miles (WLTP Combined) is about the same as the Xceed’s (30 miles) but less than you can expect from a Mercedes A250e (44 miles). Using the brakes puts energy back into the battery to maximise the range, and often that creates issues with the feel of the brake pedal in electrified cars. The GTE’s is okay most of the time, but it can be inconsistent if you’re stopping from high speed. 

The six-speed dual-clutch gearbox is, in the main, smooth, as is the transition between petrol and electric modes. There are some unexpected lurches and occasional thuds, though.

If you work the engine hard it’s not as intrusive as the A250e’s or the Seat Leon eHybrid’s, but it does boom in the background at 70mph. You also hear a fair amount of suspension noise, but wind and road noise are pretty well managed on the motorway – better than they are in the Kia Xceed PHEV

The steering feels lighter than the regular Golf’s. That’s great in an urban setting, but for twisty, faster roads, or even motorway driving when you just want to track straight; it’d be nice to have a little more bite to key into just off centre. The steering is direct and accurate once you’ve got a bit more lock on, though, and, considering the GTE is carrying quite a bit of extra weight over the standard Volkswagen Golf, it’s handling remains predictable and capable, if not quite as agile. 

The car we’ve tried came with optional Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), which allows you to vary the suspension’s stiffness in multiple increments via the infotainment screen. In its softer settings, it feels firmer than the standard Golf but not unpleasantly so, with plenty of control to check bounce over bigger bumps. Sharper intrusions, such as expansion joints, can cause a bit of a jolt, mind.

Volkswagen GTE 2020 rear tracking

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