Geneva show: Volkswagen launches new GTE hybrid hot hatch

GTI & GTE: together in electric dreams?

HOT HATCH drivers are in for a shock: Volkswagen has launched a Golf GTI spin-off that can be powered by electricity.

The new Golf GTE is a production model that will be sold to British drivers from April, rather than a fanciful concept that will travel no further than a glossy stand at the Geneva motor show.

A plug-in hybrid, the Golf GTE offers the ability to drive for over 30 miles on electric power alone, at speeds of up to 81mph, and can return as much as 188mpg, so VW claims. But when drivers find themselves in a traffic light Grand Prix, a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine kicks in and helps power the GTE from 0-62mph in a swift 7.6sec and on to 135mph.

In total, the GTE’s petrol and electric motors muster 201bhp – although the hot hatchback’s performance will be of just as much interest for its efficiency and economy. VW says that the go-fast eco model has a combined fuel economy figure of 188mpg, and that CO2 emissions are just 35g/km.

Car enthusiasts are doubtless expecting a catch, perhaps the weight of the battery pack? According to its maker, the GTE weighs 1,520kg, which is 150kg more than a GTI with a DSG transmission. It will only be available in the five-door body, with a six-speed DSG gearbox that has the electric motor integrated into its housing. It comes with a styling kit that mimics the GTI, albeit with blue trim in place of the GTI’s red colour scheme.

Inside, it’s much the same story. You can still get the retro chequered trim for the sports seats and a flat-bottomed racy steering wheel, but the mood lighting is blue instead of red.

Buyers will get a three-year subscription to Volkswagen’s Car-Net app, which allows the user to check the charge level of the battery and preset charging times, or configure onboard heating or cooling. At the time of going to press, Volkswagen had not responded as to why the app would not be free of charge for the duration of the first buyer’s ownership period.

It is anticipated to cost nearly £30,000, but will qualify for the Government’s plug-in car grant, and customer cars will be delivered from August. Boy racers take note: you won’t hear it coming.