Volkswagen e-Golf review
The Volkswagen e-Golf is one of the latest generation of electric cars that’s rewriting the old clichés about everyday practicality and driving enjoyment. Yes, it needs to be plugged in to charge, but with a maximum theoretical range of 186 miles (and a realistic range of 130 miles) it makes light work of most people's daily motoring.
The e-Golf has roughly the same range as one of its key potential rivals, the BMW i3 hatchback. Others like the Hyundai Ioniq Electric are in the same ballpark, while the latest Nissan Leaf offers up to 168 miles between charges, the Renault ZOE goes further still with a claimed maximum of 186 miles, while the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia e-Niro offer double the e-Golf's range.
For those who aren’t quite prepared to give up the reassurance of the internal combustion engine, there are plug-in hybrid options like the Toyota Prius with its 39-mile electric-only range. Whichever one you pick, these cars all provide convincing evidence of the day-to-day relevance of the current crop of electric cars.
The e-Golf differs from other electric cars that have been designed from the ground up – such as the i3, Leaf or ZOE – because it’s an electric variant of an existing model. Instead of an engine under the bonnet, there’s a 134bhp electric motor driving the front wheels, while a 35.8kWh battery sits under the floor in the boot. Otherwise, the e-Golf is an almost identical proposition to the rest of the line-up.
Indeed, one of the most appealing aspects of e-Golf ownership is that it looks much like any other Golf on the road. Only car spotters are likely to notice the blanked-off grille (there’s no need for a radiator to cool the engine) and the unique aerodynamic alloy-wheel design of the electric model. It also comes with blue styling accents and blue-backed VW logo at both ends to denote its electric status.
Charging can be taken care of using a domestic supply with a full charge from empty taking 11 hours using a wall box at home. However, most owners will only be topping up a partially used battery overnight, so returning to maximum charge will be much quicker than that. Use one of the ever-growing network of DC rapid chargers and you can get back to 80% capacity in 45 minutes, or be fully charged in one hour.
The e-Golf’s carries around a sizeable battery, and that means noticeable extra weight to lug around. This blunts the agility and poise of the standard Golf chassis a fraction, but not enough to take all the fun out of driving it - in fact, the e-Golf remains about the best pure electric car to drive given its direct handling and relaxed ride comfort. The e-Golf also feels quite happy and unstrained at normal motorway speeds.
There’s only one trim level on offer, but the equipment levels help justify the e-Golf’s price. Standard kit includes a Discover Pro navigation system with gesture control and a 9.3-inch infotainment touchscreen. Adaptive Cruise Control, LED headlamps and Car-Net App-Connect smartphone connectivity are also included.
From the driving seat, or any of the passenger seats, the e-Golf experience is remarkably similar to any other model in the line-up. You get the same dashboard layout and interior trim, identical interior space and the freedom to choose many of the same optional extras. Boot space is reduced a little by the underfloor batteries, but still offers a reasonable amount of room.
With typical VW build quality and a comprehensive safety package built in, the VW e-Golf must be one of the most reassuring and easily accessible ways to get into electric motoring – for those who can afford the purchase price, anyway.
It makes a lot of sense for families with a daily school run and for city-based business users, although by its very nature, the electric Golf does have a more conservative feel than its BMW i3 rival.
For a more detailed look at the Volkswagen e-Golf, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.