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Passat GTE is leading the charge for new super-stylish hybrids

Passat GTE is leading the charge for new super-stylish hybrids

The world of hybrids can be described as a bit of a slow burner. There are only around 200,000 sold yearly around the world, but experts think that will rise into the millions by 2022.

Toyota claimed most of the plaudits when it launched the Prius back in 1997, and it became a bit of a fashion accessory for the rich and famous doing their bit for the environment.

The battery/combustion engine combination didn’t tempt Irish buyers from their trusted diesels, and the price premium over an oil burner was too much for many to make the leap.

Hybrids of old were, let’s face it, ugly, with manufacturers favouring technology over style. Recently, though, that trend has started to turn full circle, with hybrids now looking exactly the same as conventional offerings.

A case in point is the new GTE variants from Volkswagen. Recently seen in the Golf, the technology is now available in the brilliant Passat. It’s an electric GTi of sorts, with the running costs better than anything a diesel can produce.

The figures will grab your attention. An overall range of around 1,100km is achievable say Volkswagen, and the combined power of both the electric and 1.4TSi petrol is a whopping 215bhp with 400Nm of torque.

The extra weight of the batteries and components (around 280kg) makes it feel heavier compared to the normal 1.4TSi model, but it cruises along beautifully and feels super refined.

The electric range is 50km and you can reach speeds of 130kph in full electric mode. It feels lively in electric mode with instant acceleration and massive amounts of torque. Using both power outputs in GTE mode it becomes a potent force. 

On the road the Passat GTE felt every bit as glorious as the diesel or petrol offering and it is one of the best cars on the road at the minute. 

I covered just over 150km at the launch and was very impressed when I averaged 3.8 litres per 100km (74mpg). Taking in different roads, including motorways and country lanes, and varying speeds, this fuel consumption is excellent for such a big family car. 

And this is the real selling point for hybrids, not power, but running costs. The Passat GTE falls into tax band A1 €170 a year, and has acclaimed figures of 1.6 litres per 100km, which is 176mpg in old money. 

The Passat is a sublime car to start with, add 218bhp and running costs a diesel can only dream of, and suddenly hybrids make sense. So why haven’t they caught on? Simple really — price. 

The new Passat GTE price hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s expected to be the mid-€40,000s. That’s an awful lot of money considering that’s after you get a €5,000 SEAI grant and €2,500 VRT rebate. 

It would make much more sense at around the low €40k mark as it would have a small premium over a top-of-the-range diesel Passat, making it an appealing choice for commuters who fancy electric mode for city driving and a powerful car for cruising on the motorway.

I hope cars like the Golf and Passat GTE will tempt more buyers to the hybrid world, they are starting to make real sense now. And if Volkswagen can get the price down a little then I’d expect sales of the GTE range to go up.

Paul Keown