Volkswagen Passat GTE review

The VW Passat GTE saloon is an excellent plug-in hybrid, but it's neither the most practical nor the best-value choice

Volkswagen Passat GTE
£36,790 - £39,480
Plug-in hybrid

Pros

  • Good electric range
  • Spacious interior
  • Nice to drive

Cons

  • Estate is more practical
  • Sometimes-slow gearbox
  • Economy when battery drained
Car type Electric range Fuel economy CO2 emissions
Plug-in hybrid 36-37 miles 217-235mpg 28-30g/km

The Volkswagen Passat GTE plug-in hybrid was introduced in 2015 and the first-generation version remained on sale until late 2018. During 2019, this updated and improved model arrived, offered as before in both four-door saloon and five-door estate bodystyles.

The plug-in hybrid market is considerably more crowded these days, however: the latest Passat GTE must contend with rivals including the BMW 330e, Mercedes C-Class hybrid and Volvo V60 T8, as well as its Volkswagen Group sister model, the Skoda Superb iV.

Under the bonnet of the Passat GTE, there's a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine that works in conjunction with an electric motor to produce a total power output of 215bhp. That's enough for a 0-62mph time of 7.2 seconds (a few tenths quicker than the estate model) and a top speed of 138mph.

Like all plug-in hybrids, the Passat GTE offers a highly impressive official fuel-economy figure (between 217 and 235mpg, depending on specification), but that assumes you're always leaving home with a full battery and making maximum use of the car's posted 37-mile electric range. The vagaries of the weather, temperature and specific driving routes can all affect these numbers, and once the battery's charge has been depleted, you're likely to see fuel economy in the region of 40mpg in normal driving. 

CO2 emissions stand at 28g/km for the entry-level GTE and 30g/km for the more fully featured GTE Advance; in either case, that combines with the car's official electric range to put it in the 10% band for Benefit-in-Kind company-car tax during the 2020-21 financial year.

Charging the Passat's 13kWh battery takes about three-and-a-half hours, and because charging speed is limited by the vehicle's on-board charger, you won't top it up any faster than that, even if you plug into a public rapid charging point. So it's best to look into getting a wallbox charger installed at your home or office and letting the car charge slowly while you sleep or work.

So what's it like to drive? For anyone who's owned or driven a Passat before, reassuringly familiar. The model's signature traits of comfort, smoothness and quietness are present and correct (and doubly so when running in pure-electric mode), along with plenty of space for both front and rear-seat passengers. Like other Passats, though, the GTE is no match for the equivalent BMW when it comes to driving enjoyment and driver engagement, and the added weight of the hybrid battery doesn't help in this regard.

Obviously the saloon does less well in the practicality department than its estate sister, but equipment-wise the specification is the same across the two models. There's a choice of GTE and GTE Advance trim levels, with the former getting LED lights, alloy wheels, an eight-inch touchscreen, DAB digital radio, satellite navigation, smartphone connectivity, leather seat trim and blue ambient interior lighting as standard.

The range-topping GTE Advance increases the alloy-wheel size from 17 to 18 inches and the touchscreen from eight to 9.2 inches, as well as adding LED matrix headlights, voice control, keyless entry and a powered tailgate.

You can check and control the GTE’s charging and climate-control functions remotely, using a ‘We Connect Plus’ app that works in conjunction with the touchscreen system in the car. Together with the SIM card the Passat comes with (which means it’s always online), this is next-level connectivity and integration for Volkswagen.

Safety is taken care of by an extensive suite of passive and active systems, including Volkswagen's ‘Travel Assist’ package, which bundles adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping assistance. The technology can adjust your speed when the posted limit changes, and can also use data from the sat nav to slow down for corners, roundabouts and junctions of its own accord.

Overall, the saloon version of the Passat GTE is an impressive package. But potential buyers need to remember that the estate model offers more carrying capacity, while there are also hatchback and estate versions of the closely related Skoda Superb iV to consider; they offer essentially the same technology for a lower list price.