Volkswagen's plug-in hybrid Golf is a cultured performer and an economy champ
Golf on a charge The Volkswagen Golf GTE's powertrain comprises a petrol turbo engine and an electric motor, and has a maximum system output of 204bhp. PHOTO: VOLKSWAGEN

The fact that Volkswagen's hybrid Golf carries a GTE badge suggests it is part of its performance-oriented family - alongside the GTi and GTD. As far as first impressions go, its badge is well deserved.

The car's powertrain comprises a petrol turbo engine and an electric motor. Although VW has a new 1.5-litre engine for its latest Golfs, the GTE continues with the familiar 1.4-litre unit.

In the GTE, the engine is rated at 150bhp. Its electric system comprises an 8.7kWh battery pack under the rear seat and a 102bhp electric motor under the bonnet.

Combined system power is not 252bhp as you would have mathematically concluded, because the two motors produce maximum power at different revolutions a minute.

Hence in the GTE, the maximum system power is 204bhp - still a healthy figure.

If the battery is fully charged, the car will move off only with pure electric power. The test car was handed over with nearly 90 per cent charge, so it moved off silently until it was beyond city limits and three-digit speeds were allowed.

With 350Nm of torque on tap, it is the quickest 1.4-litre Golf tested. VW claims the GTE will accelerate to 100kmh from rest in 7.6 seconds but, in practice, the car's enormous mid-range punch makes it feel a lot quicker.

The car is not as agile as expected, though. The main reason for this is the additional weight from its battery, which brings the car's total curb weight to 1,615kg. Nevertheless, the GTE drives with the same level of composure and refinement that all Golfs are famous for.

Its best quality is the fuel economy it promises. With the electric motor doing most of the work in urban driving for up to 50km, overall fuel consumption is expected to be an unbelievable 55.6 to 62.5km/litre. That is what VW claims, based on the European drive cycle (which is already well known to be not replicable in real life).

For Singapore driving, the figure is likely to hover between 25 and 40 km/litre, which is still enviable.

The GTE sports all the mid-life cosmetic revisions made to the Golf. Outside, there are new LED lights front and rear, and restyled bumpers. Inside, a tablet-style infotainment system comes with gesture control that requires great dexterity to work.

If you are right-handed, using your left hand might take a bit of getting used to before the functions work on first wave. What is wrong with having physical knobs and dials anyway?

The GTE gets a sporty front grille with finned intakes you would normally find on the GTi. A blue trim line along the lower edge of the grille and onto the headlights denote the car's electrified streak. The central VW emblem flips open to reveal an electric socket.