Review: Volkswagen Passat GTE

Combing saloon practicality with a refined plug-in hybrid powertrain, the Volkswagen Passat GTE is something special. If you’re on the lookout for a PHEV, then this should definitely be your list.

The Volkswagen Passat is the old faithful of saloons – a reliable, understated, drive-it-til-the-end-of-the-world car that is famed up and down the UK for being one of the premiere mile munchers.

So where can a plug-in hybrid fit into that established view, and how can it possible build on that diesel-only reputation?

Volkswagen Passat GTE front

Thanks to the stellar reputation of the GTE Golf, the hard work involved in branding has already been partly established by VW.

With an emphasis on the ability and perks of switching from diesel to a petrol/lithium ion mix, Volkswagen has forged ahead hoping to win over the Passat’s built-in fanbase with decent fuel economy and lower VED rates.

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The hybrid powertrain is essentially the same as that featured in the Golf GTE, offering a 154bhp 1.4 TSI petrol engine and a 113bhp electric motor

Distinguished from other models by its C-shaped lights and blue trim which extends across the grille where the port for charging the battery is concealed, this subtle styling continues inside with blue stitching for its leather-upholstered gear knob and steering wheel, as well as blue piping on its carpets, and trim for the dashboard and doors. All of this acts as a hint that this is no ordinary Passat.

There’s an adaptive instrument display that sees dials adapt and change as you cycle through the various drive modes – E-Mode, Hybrid, Battery Charge and GTE – and a ‘Think Blue’ driver training feature included in the infotainment provides handy feedback on how you can get better battery range and fuel economy as you go.

The 12.3in, high resolution TFT dash display screen comes with customisable menus and information, and App-Connect functionality gives you smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android.

Volkswagen Passat GTE interior

The hybrid powertrain is essentially the same as that featured in the Golf GTE, offering a 154bhp 1.4 TSI petrol engine and a 113bhp electric motor. 0-62mph can be reached in 7.4sec... does that sound sluggish? Thank the Passat’s hefty 1722kg kerb weight courtesy of the eight-module battery pack mounted under the rear seats.

Unlike the e-tron, the Passat engine can be used to part-charge a depleted battery while running

With a 9.9kWh capacity and a peak output of 103kW, this battery pack weighs 135kg, with the electric motor accounting for an additional 34kg on top of that.

To charge this battery it takes around four hours from a domestic socket, or two and a bit if you’re using a 3.6kW wallbox, and from that you’ll get a stated 31 mile range.

Volkswagen Passat GTE charge

The car handles great and the comfort and refinement on offer to the driver really is top notch

Now, when we reviewed the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, we realised pretty quickly that once you’ve used up the 29 miles of electric range the car turned into a heavier, more sluggish A3. Does the Passat suffer the same fate?

Not so much. Unlike the e-tron, the Passat engine can be used to part-charge a depleted battery while running, or used to save existing battery charge for later use.

As such, performance is fine when running solely on battery power, with regenerative braking kicking in when going downhill as well as giving you the ability to cruise when you lift your foot off the accelerator. The more you get used to doing this the better your electric-only range will be around town, and this gamification of eeking every last bit of emission-free mileage from your range is part of the fun of living with a hybrid.

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Put it in pure Hybrid mode and the engine shuts down when cruising at motorway speeds with the petrol engine restarting smoothly when needed.

Can the GTE really rival or steal customers away from the reliable diesel?

Opt for GTE mode and while it doesn’t exactly feel faster or more powerful than Hybrid mode, it will stop the engine from shutting down so there’s a strong throttle response whenever you need it.

Throughout all of this, the car handles great and the comfort and refinement on offer to the driver really is top notch. Consistent grip levels and control weights make it a car that you always feel in control of with the traction and stability controls giving an assured hold on the road.

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The Passat GTE is a very accomplished and highly desirable car whether for your fleet or as a personal leaser

With all this said, can the GTE really rival or steal customers away from the reliable diesel?

The long and short of it is it depends on how you drive the car and how often you plan on charging it. Sensible driving on any number of A roads, B roads, in town and on motorway and you’ll get diesel-beating figures of upward 70mpg.

Over longer distances, using just the petrol engine and putting it to the test, you’ll be lucky to get as high as 40mpg. That’s just the cold hard truth.

Volkswagen Passat GTE head on

Be that as it may, the Passat GTE is a very accomplished and highly desirable car whether for your fleet or as a personal lease.

Volkswagen has achieved something really special by combing saloon practicality with a refined plug-in hybrid powertrain. If you’re on the lookout for a PHEV, then this should definitely be your list.

Model tested: Passat GTE Advance 1.4 TSI plug-in hybrid 6spd DSG

Price:£40,015
Top speed: 140mph
0-62: 7.4 secs
Official fuel economy: 156.9 mpg
CO2 emissions: 40g/km
Car tax band: First year £0
Standard £130
Insurance group: 26E
Engine:1395cc
Luggage space: 402 litres

Average* lease prices:

Personal: £448
Business: £382

*Average lease rates calculated using ContractHireAndLeasing.com data and based on typical 6+35 10k p/a deals. Correct at time of writing.

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