Driven: 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTE Advance reviewed
I had the chance to drive the new Golf GTE. Here are my thoughts on this iteration of the classic Golf.
What is the 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTE Advance all about?
There’s no way around it, electric power is coming to the world of automobiles. Nowadays, electrical power is assisting more and more cars or else drives them completely. Although, when done well, electric drive can appear to be absolutely magical. Having spades of torque down low is a really attractive proposition, enough to get major manufacturers tinkering with the idea.
Back in the days when the hybrid was still relatively new to the masses, you would always know if a car was hybrid-powered due to the look of the car. Thankfully, manufacturers have become a lot more subtle about those things. To the point that unless you actively look for it, you wouldn’t know that these cars have tricks up their sleeves.
Such is the case with our latest subject, the Volkswagen Golf GTE. It’s an attempt to make the iconic hatchback appeal to an even broader audience. Does it work though?
From the outside, everything looks standard. Other than the GTE badge, nothing is telling you that this is an environmentalist’s car. Of course, it’s the standard Golf GT affair. All of the GTs look quite similar, which is not a bad thing. It’s a handsome look as instead of the red accenting you get with the GTI, you get blue on the Golf GTE.
The wheels are optional 18″ ‘Marseille’ units. In Pure White, the car looks sleek and dynamic. The additional touches, such as the arched daytime running lights, finish off the look of the GTE.
Overall, nothing really tells you that this has motors and batteries inside. It will easily pass as a run-of-the-mill Golf on the streets. Good for those that wish to remain inconspicuous.
What can it do?
The GTE is powered by a transversely mounted 1.4-litre direct injected and turbocharged inline-4, pushing out 148 bhp on its own. Additionally, there is an electric motor assisting the engine that pushes out the equivalent of 100 bhp and, combined, they amount to 201 bhp and 350 Nm of torque.
The engine drives a 6-speed DSG gearbox. While it is a hefty Golf at 1.6 tonnes, it does have enough power to swiftly reach 62 mph in just 7.6 seconds, with a top speed of 138 mph.
In terms of economy, the GTE is phenomenal. Pairing the modern and efficient turbocharged 1.4 TSI inline-4 with a motor means, theoretically, the Golf GTE has a combined mpg of 156.9 mpg. It puts out just 40 g/km of CO2 too, all the perks of a hybrid.
How does it drive?
It’s worth noting that the GTE is not entirely focused on saving the world, as there are still hints of sportiness scattered around the car. It sits lower than a Golf, there are fins at the front, the wheels are big etc. It is still a designated sporty Golf.
While it can drive solely on its motors, it is incredibly refined and muted driving on pure electric power and it will go 31 miles with an 81 mph top speed. However, if you’re driving to work, with access to mains charging less than 30 miles away, technically speaking, you should rarely need to visit the pumps.
The Golf GTE is at its best when you charge it up and let the ECU figure out how to drive the car. It is the work of multiple engineers after all and most of the time it works really well.
If you need to, there is the more interesting GTE mode. This is where the motor and engine drive the car together, and it’s how the Golf GTE manages a pretty brisk sub-8 seconds 62 mph sprint. It will absolutely butcher the economy figures of course, but the performance delivery you get from the car is lots of fun and gives you a nice GTi-like feel.
Whenever you leave from a standstill, the motor will always drive first before the engine cuts in at higher speeds. This provides a bulk of torque down low, allowing you to set off silently, yet quickly.
This whole instant torque thing means overtaking on the motorways is easy. You can just mindlessly press the gas pedal and it will surge past with the engine and motor working in tandem.
All that means the Golf GTE is the ideal daily driver. It is quiet, refined, and lax. There is no range anxiety that comes with pure-electric cars and no brutishness in sporty hot hatchbacks.
In terms of dynamics though, if you have to compare it against its siblings, the GTI and GTD, the weight could be the downside. While the GTE shares the same, sporty and more aggressive suspension, it bears a bigger burden in the form of batteries and motors. It is undoubtedly a disadvantage for the GTE, but it’s the compromise you have to pay for the hybrid tech. I think it is a great balance.
However, a Golf remains a Golf at its core. It shares the renowned Golf steering response. This means it’s quick and precise during performance driving, yet relaxed and easy at low speeds.
The suspension holds up well to the weight. It doesn’t obviously crash and bang on bumps and remains impressive in the corners. The grip is plentiful and you’ll definitely be the one to run out of talent first. I’d imagine the centre of gravity is actually lower in the GTE, as the batteries are placed between the axles. Our car also had optional dynamic control, which means the suspension can be adjusted for sport or comfort.
While the GTE is remarkably planted in the corners, you cannot defy physics. Mass equates to the extra momentum that it will have to manage. Fortunately, the Golf GTE rides on one of the world’s most competent and sorted chassis.
What’s it like inside?
The interior is one of the Golf’s best qualities as a mainstream hatchback and the GTE is not much different to its cousins.
Our interior is coloured in ‘Titan Black’. Everything is very business-like. Our model had optional ‘Vienna’ leather seats, which are heated and have lumbar supports. They were incredibly nice and well padded so it is a good option to consider.
Years of refinement work on the Golf means Volkswagen understands where to put things. The three-spoke steering is great and most of the interior feels pretty premium. I still think it has too many buttons, which may scare away the elderly buyers.
It comes with plenty of kit even as standard. Your usual touch-screen infotainment system at the centre, stainless steel pedals, dual-zone climate control, etc. The Advance improves on the trimmings and creature comfort, though it is up to you to justify the added costs.
If there is one thing that is distinct on the GTE, it’s the instrument cluster. While analogue clusters are still available, the GTE Advance has fully digital clusters. It’s massive and informative. You can customize it to a degree.
The GTE loses a tiny bit of storage capacity due to its EV nature, but it’s still suitably roomy at 272 litres. You can always fold the rear seats if you need more.
Owners will definitely love their Golf GTE. As a daily driver, it’s hard to beat. The Golf has always been the jack-of-all-trades in the world of cars, with the GT models specialising a bit more.
Such is the case with the GTE. Instead of sportiness, it focuses more on the sensible side of things. It is well built and very quiet while being relatively nimble. Ironically, the TSI engine lets it down a little, as it feels a bit lazy compared to the motor.
Being a Golf has its perks. It is a stealthy car, barely anyone gave me a second glance while driving it. While I thought a hybrid might stain the name of the GT, driving it has proved me wrong.
Is the Golf GTE a good buy? Yes. If you’re someone who doesn’t take driving too seriously, little will beat the GTE. In fact, out of all of the Golf GTs, I believe the GTE is probably the most appealing to normal buyers.
This is truly the epitome of an all-rounder, with an extra touch on gentleness. Everything you need it to be, and nothing more. Heck, if you look at it standalone, it is a great handling car. With the GTI dwelling around, the GTE remains in the shadows, but it is a solid car, perfect for the current market.
2017 Volkswagen Golf GTE Advance
- Price: £38,175
- Engine: 1.4-Litre Turbocharged TSI + Electric Motor
- Power: 204 PS (Petrol Engine 150 PS) (102 PS Electric)
- Torque: 350Nm combined
- Transmission: 6 Speed Automatic DSG
- 0-62mph: 7.6 Seconds
- Top speed: 138 mph
- Weight: 1,615kg
- Economy combined: 156 mpg
- CO2: 40 g/km
Author: Paul Hadley