First Drive

First Drive: Volkswagen Golf GTE

The story:
The new eighth generation of Golf gets a plug-in addition, and one that gets into the 6% BiK band for this tax year thanks to a 40-mile electric-only range figure.
Category:Lower medium
Key rival:Hyundai Ioniq PiH
VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTE 1.4 TSI 245HP
Price:£35,905
MPG:256.8mpg
Emissions:26g/km
On sale:Now

Volkswagen is filling out its new eighth-generation Golf line-up, and the one that’s of most interest to the company car marketplace has now landed.

The GTE, the plug-in hybrid version, is now part of the sharper-looking new Golf range, becoming one of the few PHEVs that can offer a 40-mile electric-only range (just), triggering a 6% rate of BiK this tax year, rather than the 10% it would have incurred if its range were a single mile less. That’s the headline for anyone paying company car taxation, even more so than the performance figures – which are almost as impressive.

First Drive- January 2021- Volkswagen Gold GTE- Image 3The new GTE matches the equally new GTi hot hatch for power, with 245hp from its combination of 1.4-litre petrol engine and 110hp electric motor, which is powered by a 13kWh battery offering 50% greater capacity than the previous GTE. Hence the increase in range compared with the 31 miles of the previous car, recorded under the more generous old NEDC testing system. The 40-mile range gives the GTE a significant taxation advantage over most of its rivals, with only the likes of the plug-in Mercedes A-Class and the Golf’s Audi A3 sibling able to match its BiK banding. The Golf also seems to perform reasonably well in the real world versus its predicted range.

First Drive- January 2021- Volkswagen Gold GTE- Image 1And it’s a good job the Golf gets a BiK advantage, given it looks expensive next to plug-in rivals, with a P11D price for the sole trim level sitting £1,000 above that of even the PHEV Audi A3 S Line, the Golf’s more prestigious sister car, while the top-spec Seat Leon plug-in is more than £1,600 cheaper and Hyundai’s Ioniq plug-in hybrid – the Company Car Today CCT100 PHEV of the Year (see page 31) – costs nearly £4,000 less, and is a larger and more practical, although less premium, package.

The practicality is worth flagging up, as it is with all plug-in hybrids that suffer reduced luggage capacity as a result of having to house the batteries. The Golf’s drop in boot space is more than 100 litres, taking it down to 273 litres, and it’s a space that both looks small when you open the tailgate, and will easily be regularly filled during run-of-the-mill usage.

Inside and out, there are little blue-coloured signs that this is the PHEV version of the Golf, with blue-tint badges, a blue stripe across the light bar and blue flashes to the seats, steering wheel and other cabin areas. They are noticeable, and help mark out the plug-in.

The GTE gets the same honeycomb-effect fog lights as the GTi model, while other standard kit includes keyless entry, three-zone climate control and lane-change assist, as well as a sports steering wheel.

The infotainment system is the same as in the rest of the Golf line-up, and isn’t the most user-friendly, with too much built into the touchscreen system rather than on separate buttons. It’s a problem for manufacturers trying to cram all the tech buyers expect into a car’s system, but it’s not as easy to use as might be expected.

To drive, the GTE isn’t a direct comparison to the more performance-orientated GTi, despite the two having similar power figures. It could be the extra weight, but the GTE doesn’t feel that honed. It’s undeniably fast, with a combined 245hp when petrol and electric power are combining, but not in a pure hot hatch way. Still, a 6.7-second 0-62mph time is certainly not to be sniffed at from a regular hatchback. However, you need to tread lightly on the accelerator in electric mode; it’s easy to accidentally push a touch too hard and kick the engine into life.

paul barker

The verdict

Performance, range and company car tax are all big plus points, although the GTE does look a touch expensive versus its immediate rival plug-in hatchbacks.