New plug-in hybrid promises hot hatch driver engagement with eco-friendly credentials. We see how it fares in the UK
The second generation of the electrified Volkswagen Golf GTE, driven here in the UK for the first time.The brief for this front-driven plug-in hybrid hatch remains as seemingly contradictory as it’s ever been: deliver an elevated level of performance and driver engagement while simultaneously offering lower running costs and a wallet-friendly benefit-in-kind tax rating. That sounds like a fairly appealing – if challenging – recipe on paper, doesn’t it?The thing is, the previous GTE was a refined and slick-operating plug-in hybrid by the standards of the day, but as an electrified take on the excellent Mk7 GTI, it felt a bit, well, tepid. Its powertrain lacked the endearing effervescence you’d normally expect from a fast family hatch; and although it handled competently, the additional weight of its battery and electric motor dulled its agility and left it feeling a bit sedate.So hopefully, this new one will be a more convincing take on an eco-friendly GTI – even if its general blueprint hasn’t really changed all that dramatically. Up front, you’ll still find a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor that’s integrated into the same housing as the six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Individually, those power sources develop outputs of 148bhp (petrol) and 107bhp (electric, a 9bhp uplift) but they combine for a system output of 242bhp. Not only is that a match for the current GTI, but it’s a 41bhp improvement over the previous GTE, too. Torque, meanwhile, stands at a combined 295lb ft – 37lb ft more than last time. Brake-based torque vectoring should help through corners, as should the optional adaptive dampers that were fitted to our test car.There’s also a bigger, 13kWh (gross capacity) battery, which gives the GTE a WLTP zero-emissions range of 39.7 miles and helps slot it into the 10% benefit-in-kind tax bracket. Of course, in the real-world, you’d be lucky to get that much, but for what it’s worth, the GTE quoted us a range of 24 miles with the battery at about 80%. So you can probably expect 30 miles or so between charging sessions, depending on how you use it, which is par for the course with rivals.