First Drive

Volkswagen Golf GTE 2020 UK review

Hit the starter button and the GTE defaults to its electric motor, which, rather unsurprisingly, is more than up for the task of trundling about town. There’s enough punch to get you up to city speeds swiftly and throttle response is as spot on as you’d need to be.

At these lower sorts of speeds, the GTE rides pretty well, too, if not quite with the same easy-going comfort as the regular Golf. It feels quite tightly controlled and there’s a bit of fidgeting present, but it’s not so rigid and unyielding that you’ll find yourself wincing as you roll over a drain cover or expansion joint.

Push the throttle a bit harder and you’ll rouse the petrol engine, which sparks into life swiftly. Curiously, the 1.4-litre motor feels a little smoother and sounds slightly quieter under lighter throttle loads than it does under the bonnet of the largely identical Seat Leon e-Hybrid. The GTE’s ride feels a bit tidier and more well resolved than it does in the cheaper Spanish hatch, too, even though they share the same basic suspension configuration. I guess those DCC adaptive dampers will at least be partly responsible for this difference, seeing as they didn’t appear on the Seat we drove a few weeks ago.

Head out of town and the GTE makes for a comfortable motorway companion, thanks to the fact that there isn’t too much tyre roar or wind noise and the driving position is spot on. Meanwhile, the petrol engine and electric motor combine effectively so that it doesn’t feel damp or lacking in outright potency if you need to give it the beans on a slip road or when passing slower traffic. Shifts are pretty slick, and if you dial things up into Sport mode, it makes an okay noise, too. Its warble isn’t quite as meaty as the GTI’s 2.0-litre motor, and it does get a wee bit thrashy at the top end, but it’s not bad.

The uplift in performance and a slightly more tuneful soundtrack mean it’s now a much more convincing take on a plug-in hot hatch – at least from a powertrain perspective. So what about from a handling point of view?

Well, it’s still no GTI, but neither is it totally limp. In fact, throw it down a decently winding stretch of road and it can be quite good fun. Its steering instantly feels more immediate in its responses and tactile in its weighting than the rack you get in the lowlier Leon; and there’s a good level of front-end grip to back that keenness up. Plough on through faster, sharper bends, and you’ll sense its brake-based torque vectoring system gently dragging its inside front corner closer towards the apex, too. The car still feels a bit heavy, mind, and although it’s entertaining enough, it still doesn’t feel quite as mobile or adjustable as the best, bona fide hot hatches.

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