VW Golf GTE review (2015): Volkswagen’s hybrid hatchback puts in a big tech performance

Price when reviewed

We’re kicking off our series of high-tech car reviews with the plug-in hybrid Volkswagen Golf GTE. First launched in the middle of last year, it’s a car that’s packed to the gunnels with gadgetry, from the drivetrain to in-cockpit tech, so it’s the ideal starting point.

We’ve put the Golf GTE’s in-car tech through its paces, analysing audio, satnav, self-parking, display, performance, connectivity and more. And because the Golf GTE is a hybrid, we’ll also be looking at the systems it uses to help the driver manage its power.

Note that these won’t be car reviews in the more traditional sense, focusing on aspects such as drivability, performance and boot space; instead we’re focusing on what makes these vehicles tick, from a tech perspective. Find out more about our car reviews here: Car-tech reviews, the Alphr way

Volkswagen Golf GTE: Hybrid systems 4/5volkswagen_golf_gte_erange_monitor

Hybrid cars use a complex combination of electric and fossil fuel to deliver the best of both worlds, but they need to make things simple for the driver. The Golf GTE does exactly that, clearly displaying the nearest car-charging stations on its map, and also showing a useful “range-ring”, which displays the maximum distance you can drive on electric power. Although it’s a feature I expect to see on all electric and hybrid cars, this VW executes it perfectly.volkswagen_golf_gte_dials

Because of its hybrid powertrain, the Golf is almost totally silent when you’re driving on battery power, and there are plenty of small reminders around the interior to inform you exactly what the car is doing. Where the rev counter would be, a power gauge displays the percentage of energy being used and recovered by the car, while onscreen graphics demonstrate the car’s energy use in clear, animated diagrams. The Golf GTE also features things you’d usually see in all-electric cars such as preconditioning; this means the Golf will warm up or cool down the cabin while on charge. That way, the Golf uses power from the mains instead of the battery to warm or cool down the cabin, delivering an impressive 166mpg and an eco-friendly 35g of CO2/km.

Volkswagen Golf GTE: Driver assistance and safety 3/5

Semi-autonomous features such as self-parking and adaptive cruise control are becoming more common in modern cars – and this Volkswagen has both. On straight roads, the VW’s parallel self-parking worked as expected, controlling the steering while I applied the brake and accelerator. And while I was somewhat disappointed to discover our test vehicle didn’t come equipped with parking cameras, those can be added as a comparatively cheap, £150 option.

The VW’s parking system also seemed to encounter problems when parallel parking on bends. Although the Golf GTE manoeuvred itself into the selected space, its parking-assist system left the rear of the car sticking out slightly.


My experience of the car’s adaptive cruise control wasn’t much better. Adaptive cruise control is often used in traffic to take the stop/start monotony out of driving, or on motorways to keep a constant distance to the car in front. However, while using it in London traffic I found the system to be somewhat erratic.

It wasn’t always completely clear when it was on and when it was off, and predicting its behaviour was difficult. Indeed, this feature designed to take the stress out of driving, I found to be pretty stressful – it’s better suited to motorway driving or country-road traffic than the hurly-burly of the inner-city commute.

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