Volkswagen Golf Plug-in Hybrid review (due 2014/2015)

Andrew English 6:30AM GMT 01 Mar 2013
The Volkswagen Golf Plug-in Hybrid promises more than 188mpg and CO2 emissions of just 35g/km.

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You might be wondering what all the fuss is about over the Volkswagen Golf Plug-in Hybrid – haven’t we seen this before?

Good question. In fact the first batteryelectric Golf MK I models arrived badged as City Stromers in the Seventies, and there were additional City Stromer versions of the MK II and MK III models.

The first plug-in hybrid Golf models appeared in 2008, with 20 Variant Twin Drive cars that had a 35-mile electric-only range. We were supposed to get a Golf MK VI production version, but have had to wait until this MK VII model, which will go on sale next summer.

The new MQB VW Group architecture for transverse engines means the latest plug-in hybrid powertrain will be available for a range of Audi, VW, Seat and Skoda models.

First to arrive will be the Audi A3 e-tron, which will be launched this summer. Audi claims this is exactly what it planned all along and that all the other stuff, such as its neat little rotary engine range extender and pure battery derivatives were just a bit of teasing.

Volkswagen, however, has been pretty clear all along that plug-in hybrid technology is the only sensible choice for the immediate future and is pushing it hard.

Group-wide, the Plug-in Hybrid models will combine a 148bhp/184lb ft, 1.4-litre TSI, turbocharged, four-cylinder, petrol engine and a 101bhp/243lb ft VW-manufactured electric motor, which weighs 75lb. The electric motor sits between the engine and the twin-clutch, six-speed gearbox and has its own separate clutch so it can be disengaged to provide a coasting mode. The battery is a 96-cell, 8.8kWh Sanyo unit which weighs 258lb and sits under the rear seats.

Top speed is 138mph, and the 0-62mph time is a very brisk 7.6sec. EU Combined fuel consumption is 188.3mpg and the CO2 emissions figure is 35g/km. Total system power is 201bhp and torque is 258lb ft.

Volkswagen quotes a maximum range of 31 miles using only battery power and 416 miles using petrol and battery power. A recharge takes three hours using a UK household supply.

First impressions are that this is a no-compromise environmental car. The dashboard is familiar Golf, but in place of the rev counter there’s a power meter that shows the energy flow and power useage.

There are several different drive modes: Electric-only, Petrol-only, and a Charge mode so that the engine will charge the battery. There’s also Boost, where both power units lend a shoulder to the wheel.

The first two are pretty self explanatory, Charge mode is inefficient, but useful if you need to go into an electric-vehicle-only zone; Boost is pretty quick. So much so that VW is wondering whether it should market the Plug-in Hybrid as that modern oxymoron, a performance environmental model.

With a kerb weight of about 1.5 tons, you feel the extra weight as a slight lethargy in the steering, an extra bounce over regular road undulations, and a bit of harshness over bumps. Another problem is the brakes which, on this prototype, were hopeless jerky in response, dipping the nose as each clutch opens and closes. We’re told that will be sorted out by the time it makes it on sale.

Of course we don’t know the price yet and that’s the ultimate test. Those who regularly do long journeys are likely to find the £20,000 Bluemotion diesel a more economical car to buy and run, but environmental carrots and sticks are changing, and fuel isn’t getting any cheaper.

In the medium term, the hybrid might be on a par with,or even a better bet than, a diesel. You might need a calculator.

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