The efforts of the petrol engine and electric motor endow the Golf Plug-in Hybrid with genuinely convincing performance properties despite a 1530kg kerb weight well above any existing Golf model. It is not quite in the same league as the Golf GTI for outright accelerative ability, but with a claimed 0-62mph time of 7.6sec, it is not far away.
Solid reserves of torque from the get-go provide urgent step off qualities away from traffic lights and a flexible nature to the delivery on the run, making the new Volkswagen completely fuss free to drive. Mechanical refinement is excellent, with excellent cruising ability over longer journeys.
It is possible to choose electric-only running by pressing an e-mode button on the dashboard, in which case there is 107bhp and 243lb ft at your disposal. This is also the default mode during step off, although only if the battery is sufficiently charged. The electric range varies depending on the driving conditions and the state of auxiliary systems such as the water pump, air conditioning and seat heaters.
In optimal conditions Volkswagen says the Golf Plug-in Hybrid can whisk along in near silence for up to 31 miles at speeds up to 81mph, making it perfectly suited to a city driving environment with constant stop/start traffic. By comparison, the Jetta Hybrid only provides one mile of electric propulsion.
Backing up its suitability for city driving is light but direct electro-mechanical steering. It provides the latest Golf with highly manoeuvrable qualities, allowing you to take advantage of the low end acceleration to duck in and out of spaces in the traffic. Less satisfactory is the ride, which in the early pre-production version we drove proved quite firm, lacking the overall compliance and fluency of other recent Golf models.
When the energy stores run low, an electronic management system engages the petrol engine as the main form of propulsion and subsequently uses the electric motor as an alternator to generate energy for the battery, ensuring there is always some charge for electric running. The workings of the plug-in hybrid system are displayed on a series of displays that can be called up on a centrally mounted touchscreen monitor.
As its plug-in billing suggests, the Golf Plug-in Hybrid’s battery can be charged on household mains electricity, with the socket hidden behind the badge within the grille. Volkswagen claims a full recharge takes under four hours on a regular 240 volt, 10 amp system and just over two hours on a more robust 240 volt, 16 amp supply. Based on the European test procedure, official consumption is put at nearly 190mpg. But, as our first drive around Wolfsburg revealed, the real word figure is more in the region of 70mpg.