The Golf GTE is something of a victim of its own hype. With 242bhp, and all the style trappings of a GTI, you expect something with a bit of vim to it. And in a straight line rush, it does. The electric motor and 1.4-litre turbocharged engine move the Golf up the road with a proper shove, but the engine gets quite coarse at high revs and it never feels as happy to be worked hard as you might hope.
It’s actually a car that feels happiest at a steady, brisk but smooth pace, when the six-speed dual-clutch automatic is smooth and easy to ignore. Even in pure electric mode, the Golf accelerates with plenty of gumption for a quick leap into traffic, and it’ll carry on very easily up to motorway speeds using the 108bhp electric motor alone.
The brake regeneration in the GTE is mild, and doesn’t really intrude at all – it just feels like normal engine braking, or on a clear road the car will coast freely. A heavier brake regen’ mode is offered, which is still fairly mild by full EV standards, although it’s much more noticeable. It also kicks in automatically in Sport mode, which can feel perversely like the car is trying to slow you down just as you hit the button to make it go faster.
As with the performance of the plug-in hybrid Golf, the way it steers and rides encourages swift but steady progress. Our car was fitted with optional adaptive dampers, which use gizmos to vary the feel of the suspension. They give a fairly supple ride comfort and we’d say that it’s worth adding the option.
The GTE is a fairly heavy car, and that does show in handling that’s unflappable and grippy but never that involving. Everything gels nicely and you can enjoy the suave feel of the Golf GTE at a fair lick on a good road, but it’s not a car that you relish driving. It is, however, a consummate commuter car; precise yet relaxing, fast yet comfortable.