2017 Volkswagen Golf GTE Advance

First drive: 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTE Advance

The Golf GTE was the first plug-in hybrid version of Volkswagen’s evergreen family hatchback. Now there’s an updated version: Richard Gooding finds out what has changed

What is it?

Over its 43-year heritage, the Volkswagen Golf has become the default choice when it comes to family hatchbacks. Ubiquitous it may be, but that’s for good reason – understated but classless looks, a high quality finish and refinement afforded to larger cars have long been key Golf strengths.

An updated seventh-generation model with new engines, refreshed technology options and mild styling revisions was launched in November last year and went on UK sale in February.

As before, the refreshed Golf is still available in petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and all-electric flavours, but when the added technology and styling updates are taken into account, the new car offers more value than the previous model.

With the exception of the all-electric e-Golf with a 50 per cent longer range, the Golf GTE is the cleanest version of Volkswagen’s family hatch. Now in two versions, we have the higher-specification GTE Advance model on test here.

How does it drive?

With more convenience and communications/entertainment features as well as larger 18-inch wheels, the GTE Advance is the most advanced plug-in hybrid Golf yet.

As before, blue highlights differentiate the plug-in Golfs from their relatives: brake calipers, blue ‘GTE’ badges, and a blue grille stripe that bleeds into the LED headlights are the obvious signifiers. The 18-inch ‘Marseille’ alloy wheels hint at the GTE Advance’s more technological potential and are one inch up on the standard car’s.

‘C’-shaped LED daytime running lights in the GTI-style bumpers carry on where the outgoing car’s left off, and it it all looks familiar, there’s a reason for that – with 72,762 Golfs sold in the UK during 2016, Volkswagen is keen to continue the success of its most popular car.

Over 33 million Golfs have been made over the past four decades, so the car is firmly entrenched in car buyers’ minds all over the world.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the updated Golf GTE is that the petrol-electric powertrain of the new car has been carried over unchanged from its predecessor. That means a 147bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, a 100bhp electric motor, and an 8.7kWh lithium-ion battery. Combined system output is 201bhp, with torque of 258lb ft/350Nm.

Just as when we first tested the car (GreenFleet issue 87), the 0-62mph sprint takes 7.6 seconds, while the top speed is 138mph (GTI: 6.5 seconds and 155mph).

The performance still gives the GTE an almost GTI-like turn of speed, while the six-speed DSG semi-automatic gearbox – the only transmission choice – shifts through the gears seamlessly. Hustled along an open road, the GTE feels a little blunted in its responses when compared to the GTI, thanks to its 221kg weight penalty (120kg of that being the lithium-ion battery), but it offers wholly safe, if predictable fun.

As befits a sporting car, the ride is on the acceptable side of firm, and the standard sports seats are comfortable with enveloping bolsters which help keep you in place when more is demanded of the petrol-electric Golf in the corners.

As before, the ‘GTE’ button uses both the petrol engine and electric motor for maximum performance, as well as enhancing braking and steering responses. A press of the ‘E’ mode button sees the car glide into all-electric mode, which can be used up to speeds of 81mph, and for a quoted distance of 31 miles.

Other modes from the previous model remain, too: ‘Battery Hold’ maintains a battery charge, topping it up by intermittently using the petrol engine, while ‘Battery Charge’ will fully replenish the lithium-ion battery by way of the TSI unit, but this comes at a fuel consumption cost. ‘Hybrid Auto’ meanwhile is the default setting and lets the car judge which means of propulsion suits the current driving situation.

The biggest changes to the Golf GTE are to be found inside. All versions of the ‘Performance Golfs’ get Volkswagen’s crisply clear ‘Active Info Display’ digital instrument display ahead of the driver. A massive 12.3 inches in size, the TFT high-resolution screen has a range of customisable menus and information, and is a welcome boost to the GTE’s kit list.

As standard, the GTE Advance comes with the 8.0-inch full colour ‘Discover Navigation’ touchscreen infotainment system, but our test car featured the impressive 9.2-inch ‘Discover Navigation Pro’ system, with gesture control and pinch and zoom capabilities. At £1,325, it’s pricey, but is standard on the all-electric e-Golf.

Like the zero-emission car, though, the GTE does feature an e-manager which allows for preset vehicle charging and interior pre-conditioning. Controlled through Volkswagen’s ‘Car-Net’ e-remote smartphone app, a three-year subscription is included with both GTE and GTE Advance models.

What range does it have?

While it can't hold a candle to the new longer-range e-Golf (see below) which now has the same range as the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, the Golf GTE has an electric range of 31 miles on the NEDC driving cycle. When both petrol and electric power sources are in use, Volkswagen quotes a total driving range of 580 miles, on a par with many diesel cars of the same size.

How long does it take to charge?

Charging the Golf GTE’s battery takes three hours and 45 minutes from a domestic power supply, or two hours and 15 minutes from a wallbox. Both 16A AC (for wallboxes and charge points) and 10A (domestic supply) charging cables are included.

How economical is it?

Volkswagen quotes a combined cycle 156.9mpg for the Golf GTE Advance, while the GTE betters this on paper with a quoted 166.2mpg. Costings will have to be considered if the GTE’s dual-running ability is likely to be used rarely, though: a diesel or petrol car might offer a better solution.

What does it cost?

Just as with its Passat sibling, the updated Golf GTE comes in two trim levels: the entry-level GTE and the plusher and more technologically-focused GTE Advance. With the Government’s current Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) of £2,500 deducted, the plug-in hybrid Golf range starts at £28,135 for the GTE, rising to £29,635 for the GTE Advance on test here, again minus the PiCG deduction.

How much does it cost to tax?

With emissions of just 40g/km and zero-emission capability when in electric mode, the Volkswagen Golf GTE Advance falls into the lowest VED band group of £0 for the first year.

As a note, while both Golf GTE models have the same powertrain, the smaller 17-wheels on the standard model mean emissions fall to 38g/km. When it comes to company car taxation, the plug-in Golf attracts a Benefit in Kind rating of 9 per cent.

Why does my fleet need one?

Gentle finessing of Volkswagen’s most popular model has resulted in a car which is more accomplished, more advanced technologically, and better value than before.

With petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric powertrain options, Golf choice is wider than ever before, too, and the classless German car’s appeal should be equally broadened. The latest revisions enhance what was already a class-leading package, and the GTE model is a nicely-balanced compromise between performance and economy.

With significantly reduced prices – the new car is around £3,500 less than the outgoing pre-update model – the Golf GTE has now been embraced as a fully paid-up member of the ‘Performance Golf’ family, and offers a genuine high-class plug-in hybrid alternative.

While its performance is still a little short of the scintillating pace wrought from its more traditionally-fuelled brothers, it commands something they don’t – an eco conscience.

On the pace when you want it to be and a silent-running but still swift car when you’re not, its dual personality is, unsurprisingly, the updated Golf GTE’s most revered quality.

Low company car taxation costs and an eight-year/99,360-mile battery warranty just add more weight to the equation that is the buying conundrum. On this outing, and for all the reasons mentioned, if you desire a more spritely plug-in model, it shouldn’t be a difficult sum to solve.

DRIVING RANGE OF NEW E-GOLF INCREASED

The all-electric e-Golf has received the same visual and interior updates as the rest of the range, but, has also enjoyed a significant 50 per cent boost in range.

The updated version of Volkswagen’s battery electric Golf now boasts an official range of 186 miles on the NEDC cycle, which Volkswagen states is around 124 miles in ‘real-world’ driving conditions, depending on driving style, charge level and ambient conditions.

The set-up is the same as before: the 264-cell lithium-ion battery is mounted in the floor of the car, but now has a larger capacity of 35.8kWh. This is mated to a 100kW/133bhp AC electric motor to give performance of 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds.

The battery can be recharged in as little as 45 minutes at levels of up to 40kW, although on a 2.3kW household socket, this rises to 17 hours. A 3.6kW wallbox refills the e-Golf in 10 hours and 50 minutes. As before, there are five models of regenerative braking, while an optional heat pump can help deliver maximum range in colder conditions.

Inside, the updated e-Golf gets the biggest 9.2-inch ‘Discover Navigation Pro’ colour touchscreen infotainment system with gesture control, while the full colour Active Info Display digital instrument pack is a £495 option.

Outside, there are ‘C’-shaped LED daytime running lights, as well as LED headlamps and rear lights. Prices for the updated e-Golf start at £27,690 including the Government’s PiCG.

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