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Volkswagen e-Golf First Drive

By raccars Published

Volkswagen prides itself on offering a Golf for everyone. The new e-Golf ticks the electric car box – but how does the new zero-emissions Golf fare on the road?

  • Price: £25,845 (after £5000 government Plug-in Car Grant)
  • Gearbox: Single-speed automatic
  • 0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
  • Top speed: 87mph (restricted)
  • Electric battery range: 80-118 miles
  • CO2: 0g/km
  • On sale: Now
  • Insurance group: 15

Three UK Volkswagen e-Golf facts

1: The e-Golf will initially be sold through 24 specialist Volkswagen electric car dealers. If there isn’t one in your area, your local dealer will help you track one down 2: It will be sold in a single e-Golf trim, with a high level of standard kit, but the regular range of Golf cost-options will also be available 3: It’s the most expensive Golf on sale – until you take off the £5000 government Plug-in Car Grant…

What is it?

Volkswagen is aiming to go head-to-head with the well-known Nissan LEAF electric car with its new e-Golf – but the firm is taking a very different approach indeed. Whereas Nissan has built a bespoke EV to offer zero-emissions motoring, Volkswagen has instead converted the familiar Golf to run on electric instead.

The merits of this approach are, in theory, being able to exactly tailor production to demand. Instead of Nissan’s dedicated factory that requires a certain number of LEAFs to be built in order to break even, Volkswagen can mix e-Golfs with regular petrol and diesel Golfs, thus giving the market exactly what it wants.

This, it argues, is a more sustainable way to gear up electric car production. Crucially, it also provides less of a hurdle to new car buyers thinking about switching to electric cars. Instead of jumping into the unknown, buyers will instead be considering the familiar Golf they know so well. Just one powered by electric, not fossil fuel.

It’s this combination of flexibility, familiarity and an electric car’s obvious benefits in zero-emissions eco-friendliness that could see the e-Golf become an electric car just as significant as the ground-breaking Nissan LEAF. Some would never consider an unknown entity. But an electric version of the Golf? Well, they may think, tell me more…

Styling and interior

Volkswagen has purposefully ensured the e-Golf looks almost identical to a regular five-door Golf hatchback. The basic profile is unchanged and it’s only in details that it differs, rather like how a GTI differs to a normal Golf.

At the front of the e-Golf, Volkswagen has fitted full LED headlights and a distinctive set of C-shaped LED running lights. With some blue accent detailing and a blue-tinted Volkswagen badge, it’s both familiar yet appealingly distinctive.

Inside, it’s the same basic layout as well, but again with EV specifics. The rev counter has become a power meter and the fuel gauge now shows battery charge. There’s a huge 8-inch colour touchscreen infotainment panel in the centre – this is standard – which is packed with EV driving mode displays, while all the trim again has ‘electric blue’ detailing.

Significantly, the rear seats offer exactly the same amount of space as a normal Golf. The boot is almost exactly the same size too – it’s actually the same capacity as the high performance Golf R as it uses that car’s boot floor stowage panel (below which is stowed the electric charging cables). Batteries are big and heavy, and can eat into passenger and luggage space: not here, though, thanks to some fantastic engineering by Volkswagen.

Performance

The e-Golf is not a slow car. It’s actually faster form 0-62mph than the top-selling 1.6 TDI Golf – and it feels even swifter, thanks to the immediate and lag-free response characteristic of all electric motors. Step-off is instant and the single-speed automatic gearbox ensures acceleration is seamless.

The hefty 199lb ft pulling power output means the e-Golf feels punchy on the move as well – it’s just as responsive as a diesel, despite the batteries taking total weight to over the 1.5-tonne mark. Sensibly, given this eagerness, Volkswagen has restricted the top speed to 87mph, in order to conserve the batteries.

The e-Golf is extremely refined in action too. Noise levels are very low – even the ‘whine’ of an electric motor, which is obvious in other EVS, is isolated here. It performs effortlessly and quietly, which makes it feel more of a Rolls-Royce than any other Golf…

Handling

A Volkswagen Golf trademark is its safe and secure handling. The e-Golf is no exception. Indeed, in some ways it’s probably better than most other Golfs here. This is because the batteries are mounted in the middle of the car, low down in the chassis – which makes the car’s centre of gravity lower, thus improving stability through bends.

Volkswagen says even the weight distribution has improved, making it more balanced between front and rear, and this is apparent in the neutral feel of the Golf through corners. It’s very well balanced and even rather fun: the predictability of the setup gives plenty of confidence.

The only thing the e-Golf doesn’t like is being chucked about or put through quick direction changes like a GTI. Here, you’ll feel the weight of the batteries, combined with the rather soft suspension, working against you. Best to take it a bit steadier and enjoy the nice neutrality of the car.

The weight of the batteries does improve the car’s low speed ride, which is even more plush and pliant than a normal Golf, although it is a bit more pattery at speed – and tyre roar is rather intrusive as speeds go up too, although this is maybe because the rest of it is so quiet.

Price and value

Electric cars are usually more expensive than normal cars. The technology is new and pricey, so manufacturers have to charge more. The base price of the e-Golf shows this: it’s the most expensive Golf on sale, with its £30,845 tag topping even the 300hp Golf R.

However, the Government will give £5000 towards this, thanks to the Plug-in Car Grant scheme. The resultant £25,845 price is much more appealing – and in line with rivals such as the Nissan LEAF. The e-Golf is actually pretty impressive value compared to other models, which isn’t always the case for the premium family hatch.

The e-Golf is based on Golf Match trim, but adds the high-grade infotainment system with sat nav, plus full LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, climate control and all the e-Golf specific styling features. It’s also cheaper to run, too…

Fuel economy

Electric cars receive many tax breaks, such as free parking in many towns and free London Congestion Charge in the capital. Fully charging the 24.2kWEh battery costs less than £3; it takes 13 hours from flat to fully charged with a normal UK plug socket, or 8 hours with a wallbox. The e-Golf can also use fast chargers, taking it from flat to 80% full in 30 minutes.

But what about range? Ah, this is where electric cars always stumble. The e-Golf officially has a range of between 80-118 miles, compared to nearly 1000 for a Golf TDI Bluemotion. This is the single biggest question electric Golf buyers need to ask themselves – can they manage with this?

The flipside is cheap recharging at home every night, the plethora of on-board systems to manage the range when in use (even the gearbox has several energy regeneration modes to choose from) and, of course, the fact you’re putting out no tailpipe emissions at all. As inner city pollution levels rise, this is likely to be an ever-more significant electric car advantage…

Verdict: Volkswagen e-Golf

The e-Golf is a Golf, with all the good things that brings: it simply brings electric motoring to the familiar Golf template. It doesn’t set out to change the market dynamic like the Nissan LEAF, just give an electric option to those who know and love the familiar Golf family hatch.

As such, it could be a very significant electric car launch indeed, one that helps break the barriers down between normal cars and electric cars. That it’s also a very impressive car in practice helps too, and it even has value on its side. If you think an electric car would fit into your life, this is one of the very best on sale right now.

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