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WELCOME TO HYUNDAI’S HAPPINESS MACHINE
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

The GTE’s 295lb ft of torque is more than you’ll find in the MkVIII GTI (273lb ft) and both cars are matched on power, so the GTE is far from sluggish in a straight line. From a standing start you’ll be at 62mph in 6.7 seconds (just under half a second behind the GTI) and it’ll run on to a top speed of 140mph. Not bad, but not great in today’s market of 270bhp+ Ford Focus STs and Hyundai i30Ns.

How does it compare with the GTI? 

The main problem with the PHEV is that it never comes alive as a hot hatch should. It grips well and VW has ensured there’s a lovely weight to the steering, but the dual powertrain means it won’t cock a wheel, pop from the exhaust or put a proper smile on your face like an ICE-engined competitor would. In an effort to include regen there’s little feel to the brakes too.

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And there’s another issue. The WLTP claim may be 39.7 miles of EV range but put the GTE into EV mode and you’ll deplete that in 30 real-world miles. Once the battery is flat, you’re left with a sluggish four-pot hatch that weighs over 1,600kg. There’s nothing hot about that.

Is the GTE a better cruiser then? 

Well, yes. Forget the sporting pretensions and the GTE can settle into the role of sensible plug-in hatchback fairly seamlessly. The optional (£795) Dynamic Chassis Control allows you to stick the suspension into Comfort, the DSG box is slick, and you can set how much electricity you’d like to save for city driving later in a journey. It’s got grown-up motorway manners too, and the switch between petrol and electric drive is as smooth as in any PHEV we’ve tested.

If less was made of the GTE being a ‘performance’ plug-in hybrid then we might be more forgiving of the way it misses the hot hatch brief. Instead, your main takeaway is that PHEV powertrains are unlikely to become the hot hatch norm any time soon.

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