If I wanted a fuel-efficient car, I would look for one that is relatively light and powered by a small but sufficiently punchy engine.
To further reduce fuel consumption, I would also plan my routes carefully and adopt a gentler driving style. Perhaps I would even increase the air-conditioner's preset temperature, despite the scorching weather.
But few motorists would put in this much effort just to reduce their vehicle's running costs. That is why there exist cars such as the Volkswagen Golf GTE, which looks like a normal Golf, except for the GTE (Gran Turismo Electric) badge and blue stripe on its grille.
It is a petrol-electric, plug-in hybrid, equipped with a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine, electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack.
The last two components add considerable weight to the car. The Golf GTE's kerb weight of 1,524kg is 236kg more than that of a 150bhp Golf R-Line. That is about the weight of three average-sized adults and a child.
Apart from its additional weight, the electric powertrain also reduces the car's practicality. While non-hybrid Golfs have a boot capacity of 380 litres with the rear seats up, the Golf GTE offers only 272 litres - 108 litres less.
SPECS/ VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTE
Price: To be announced
Engine: Turbocharged 1,399cc 16-valve inline-4
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch with manual select
Power: 150bhp at 5,000rpm (total system output 204bhp)
Torque: 250Nm at 1,600-3,500rpm (total system output 350Nm)
0-100kmh: 7.6 seconds
Top speed: 222kmh
Fuel consumption: 1.5 litres/100km
Agent: Volkswagen Centre Singapore
To its credit, the Golf GTE is very efficient. Its stated combined fuel economy is 1.5 litres/100km.
I managed an average of 5 litres/100km, which is still respectable.
When started, the car goes into its default E-Mode and uses solely its 105bhp electric motor.
VW says that if the lithium-ion batteries are fully charged, the Golf GTE has an E-Mode range of 50km and a top speed of 130kmh. In theory, this performance is sufficient for most home-to-office commutes in Singapore.
When the batteries are running low or more power is being demanded by the driver, the car switches to Hybrid Auto mode to recharge the batteries and utilises the electric motor as much as possible to reduce fuel consumption.
The Golf GTE offers three other driving modes - Battery Charge, Battery Hold and GTE.
Battery Charge uses the petrol engine as a generator to recharge the batteries. Battery Hold is used to maintain a specific charge level.
Naturally, the Golf GTE's batteries are also "topped up" via energy recovered from braking. In addition, you can recharge them by plugging the car into a standard wall socket at home or a public quick-charge station.
The Golf GTE's charging port is behind the VW badge on the front grille. It takes nearly four hours to fully charge the batteries using a standard wall socket. A quick-charge station reduces this to 2 hours and 15 minutes.
The Golf GTE may sound complicated, but it is actually quite easy to drive. Leave the car alone and it switches seamlessly between E-Mode and Hybrid Auto.
If you want to have a bit of fun, choose GTE mode to unleash the car's sporty character. In this mode, the petrol-electric powertrain delivers maximum performance.
The throttle becomes more responsive and, if thus equipped, the Dynamic Chassis Control firms up the dampers too. You also get a rorty soundtrack, which is surprisingly richer than the Golf GTI's.
But the Golf GTE's heftiness means it is not as agile as a Golf GTI, or any regular Golf for that matter. Its turn-in is not as keen and the firmer damping results in a bumpier-than-expected ride.
This hatchback prefers highways, where it can showcase its potent mid-range and top-end performance. Here, its extra weight becomes somewhat of an advantage, as it gives the car a more planted feel.
The Golf GTE is very impressive, but I just cannot get past its firmer ride and reduced practicality.
So, if I wanted a fuel-efficient car, I would still look for one that is relatively light and powered by a small but punchy engine.
•The writer is with Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.