Under the bonnet sits a 1.4-litre, 150PS (110kW) turbocharged petrol engine, paired to a 110PS (81kW) electric motor and 48V, 13kWh battery system for a combined total output of 245PS (185kW). Golf aficionados will notice that is the same power figure as the GTI, which wasn’t the case for the Mk7 GTE. Power runs to the front wheels via a six-speed double-clutch gearbox (the automatic GTI has a seven-speed), and Volkswagen say the GTE will manage 37 miles on electric power alone.
Turn the car on and pull away and, unlike the similarly styled GTI, there is no noise whatsoever, as by default the GTE starts off in ‘E-Mode’. Push beyond 81mph and the system will jump over to Hybrid mode, or you can move between E and Hybrid mode yourself. In Hybrid mode you can instruct the GTE to maintain or top up the battery with a little help from the engine, or just cruise around as normal depleting the battery as you go. It’s a simple, smart system, and gives you the benefits of EV motoring, silence being chief among them, knowing full well there’s a petrol engine there if you need to go a little further than the office or the shops. Thirty-seven miles is plenty for a relatively normal, local day, and the GTE feels as if it really would get close enough to the quoted EV mileage.
In a straight line performance is decent, hitting 62mph in 6.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 140mph. As for how the GTE fares when it comes to driving fun, sadly it isn’t quite the sporty hybrid I’d hoped it might be.
There are four drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual, which, as they do in other VW Group products, tweak the steering weight, throttle response and gearbox (Dynamic Chassis Control ties electronically controlled dampers into the system, a £785 option on the GTE our car wasn’t fitted with). In Eco the GTE is as relaxed as you’d hope it to be, in Comfort mode the throttle and gearbox ever-so-slightly sharper and more enjoyable. But in Sport, and when you start to drive a bit quicker, the GTE doesn’t hit the mark. The steering is heavier, which is nice, there’s plenty of grip and the ride quality a little choppy but perfectly decent, but accelerate in lower gears and there’s more than a hint of torque steer. The gearbox is quick enough but there’s very little incentive to actually change gears yourself, and the brakes, thanks to the regenerative braking system, are difficult to judge. The brakes frustrate in everyday driving, too, as you’ll be slowing to a stop with constant pressure on the brake pedal but the car won’t decelerate the way you want it too. It’s just not an overly satisfying package.