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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

The first and most pertinent thing to say about the GTE’s performance is that you need to charge the battery from the mains in order to get the best from it.

That might sound obvious, but once you learn how adept the car is at recharging its electrical supply from the engine in range-extension mode, there’s a temptation to simply park it on the driveway and let the petrol engine pick up the slack next time out.

The Golf GTE tends to be at its most economical when you leave it to make the decisions about how and when to mingle its power sources

This, however, is a mistake. The extent to which Peter is robbing Paul while using this mode is evidenced by the fact that, unlike the A3 e-tron, Volkswagen conceals the rolling battery recharge function in a sub-menu on the touchscreen, not among the centre console buttons. Interestingly, only by pushing these can you access the all-electric mode, battery hold (essentially petrol engine only) and the all-action GTE mode, which we’ll come to in a minute.

This is not unreasonable; in many ways the GTE is at its most likeable when solely troubling its electric motor. But, like the Audi, the Golf tends to be at its most economical (in varied, longer-distance use) when you leave it to make the decisions about how and when to mingle its power sources.

This it does well enough to be noticeably better than the e-tron we drove last year – most likely the result of an additional few months’ worth of software updates.

Whichever mode you choose, the initial pull-away is handled electrically before the petrol engine cuts in (almost immediately if the battery is drained, not until 30-40mph if it isn’t). The result, when driven modestly, is very quiet, brisk and sleekly aloof.

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The problem – if we can call it that – is that there’s very little incentive to trigger the quicker GTE mode because (a) it drains the battery you’ve been conscientiously trying to preserve, and (b) the claimed sub-8.0sec 0-62mph time comes with none of the deeper thrill implied by the ‘GT’ element of the badge when you do finally experience it.

What you get instead when you flatten the GTE’s accelerator pedal is a lot of frothy torque as the motor and engine combine quite vigorously low down. But at full throttle you also get the slightly dreary, disconnected feel of the TSI lump revving like it’s connected to a 20-year-old CVT – which simply doesn’t suit a machine with sporting ambitions.

More often than not, we let the car do its own thing, or scooted silently about on battery power alone. Which is fine. It suggests that the GTE works rather well as an easy-going daily driver, in fact.

But it isn’t, perhaps, as effective when it’s trying to step into energetic hot hatch mode and be the well-rounded sporting hybrid that its marketing suggests it is.