Used Volkswagen Golf GTE buying guide
Looking for a secondhand VW Golf GTE (2015-2018)? Here’s everything to know before you buy
The Volkswagen Golf has been a family favourite since 1974, and has become famous for being understated to look at, but with all the latest technology and impressive engineering under the skin.
The Golf GTE is a great example – it was introduced at a time when plug-in hybrids weren’t very common, yet it was highly polished and impressive, and the VW Group still uses a similar set-up in its modern plug-in models.
It was ahead of its time, and makes an interesting used buy – it’s a practical, good-to-drive family car with the potential for low running costs. Read on below to find out everything you need to know if you’re interested in buying one.
October 2012: The seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf goes on sale in the UK.
March 2014: The Geneva Motor Show hosts the reveal of the GTE model.
January 2015: The Golf GTE goes on sale at a price of £28,035 after the government grant. All models had a six-speed DSG automatic gearbox and a 148bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, plus a 100bhp electric motor. The total output of the powertrain was 201bhp.
March 2015: The Golf GTE arrives on forecourts and is delivered to the first customers. The GTE uses four driving modes, from the engine alone to electric only, and two others that help it to make the most of regenerative braking as well as make the most of its performance from the full powertrain.
March 2017: Volkswagen releases an updated model with some subtle changes and a £3,420 price cut, plus some more equipment and technology. This included VW’s Active Info Display (a digital dash), plus Traffic Jam Assist and a new 9.2-inch infotainment display with gesture control. At this point there were two trim levels to choose from, GTE and GTE Advance.
Which one should you buy?
Volkswagen initially kept the Golf GTE range simple, as it was a trim level in itself, but from the 2017 facelift there was a higher-spec Advance model offered.
At the outset the standard equipment included 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, a 6.5-inch display with DAB radio, privacy glass and sports suspension. Although there was only one trim level, there were standard and Nav editions, the latter getting a bigger (eight-inch) screen and extra functionality.
When Volkswagen then split the range into standard and Advance models, the former came with 17-inch alloys, whereas the latter got 18-inch items, along with privacy glass, heated front seats, upgraded multimedia and heated windscreen washer jets.
The closest rival to the Volkswagen Golf GTE is the Audi A3 e-tron, which is essentially the same car underneath. The Audi's interior is even more inviting than the Volkswagen's thanks to the use of even higher-quality materials throughout, and like the Volkswagen, the e-tron comes in five-door hatchback form only.
The BMW 330e and Mercedes C 350 e are two more premium plug-in hybrids; the former is available only as a four-door saloon, while the latter comes in saloon or estate forms. As you'd expect, they're not cheap to buy, but they're very well thought through so they're comfortable, easy to live with and potentially very frugal.
If you really need hatchback practicality, the Toyota Prius is another alternative that's worth a look. It's as dependable a family car as you'll get, it's very roomy, cheap to run, distinctively styled and easy – if not especially enjoyable – to drive. You can buy one in hybrid or plug-in hybrid forms and there's even a seven-seater version available, called the Prius+.
Compared with its more conventionally powered siblings, the Golf GTE has sold in relatively small numbers, so if you've decided that this is the car for you, the hurdle may well be finding a suitable example. It can be worth seeking out a Golf GTE, though, as this is a genuinely enjoyable car to drive; it sits among VW's other Golf 'GT' models, which include the GTI and GTD.
When our sister title Auto Express ran one on our long-term test fleet, it said: "If you’re a true car enthusiast, the Golf GTE can’t help but be intriguing, even if it isn’t the last word in high-performance hot-hatch motoring. "The most impressive part of all is how smoothly the electric technology is integrated with the car’s conventional drivetrain. The GTE is expensive, but it works a treat".
- The Golf GTE is a plug-in hybrid, so it has a bigger battery pack (8.8kWh) than a regular hybrid. As a result, it can travel up to 31 miles in electric-only mode.
- A full charge of the GTE is claimed to take three hours and 45 minutes from a standard domestic socket, or two hours 15 minutes from a wallbox.
- The Golf GTE should come with a pair of charging cables, so make sure they're there. One is to charge from a domestic socket, while the other is to charge from a wallbox.
- The GTE is given away by its blue accents across the radiator grille as well as on the seats, steering wheel and gear gaiter.
June 2015: Some cars were delivered with poorly manufactured front wheel-bearing housings, which could fail.
June 2016: Faulty child locks mean the door could be opened from the inside, even with the lock engaged.
January 2017: The lights could fail because of a software fault wihin the electronic control module.
March 2017: The airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners could fail to work in the event of a crash.
June 2017: The anti-lock brakes and electronic stability programme could fail to intervene because of a faulty earth connection.
November 2017: Poorly manufactured rear wheel-bearing housings were fitted to some cars, which could fail.
March 2018: Some Golfs were fitted with brake discs that were too thin. As a result they could crack.
May 2018: Some head restraints were fitted with faulty locking bars, so the restraint wouldn't fit securely into place.
December 2018: The rear bench seat was welded incorrectly so the head restraint wouldn't lock into place.
Insurance groups: 25-26 (GTE), 26 (GTE Advance)
Average mpg: 166mpg (GTE), 157mpg (GTE Advance)
CO2 emissions: 38-39g/km (GTE), 40g/km (GTE Advance)
Golf GTE owners can opt for fixed or variable servicing. The former means maintenance is due every 12 months or 9,000 miles, with services alternating between minor and major. At the time of writing (October 2019) these were priced at £143 and £195 respectively.
Golf GTEs on a variable servicing schedule can go for up to three years and 36,000 miles before the first service is due, then after that the maximum between visits to the garage is two years or 24,000 miles.
The Golf GTE's 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine is fitted with a cambelt that has to be replaced every five years, with no set mileage limit. We'd advise an inspection at every service, though, to check that the belt hasn't deteriorated.
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