What is it?
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.