Volkswagen e-Golf Review
It looks like a VW Golf and drives like a VW Golf but there is one major difference with the e-Golf – it is one hundred per cent electrically powered. So, is this the perfect family hatchback for ‘green’ city dwellers?
- Fabulous to drive and kind to the environment
- Upmarket interior with full infotainment set-up
- Spacious five-door hatchback with practical storage options
- There are cheaper EV hatchbacks out there
- UK’s EV infrastructure needs improvement – not enough charging points
- The 124-mile range could be an issue (NEDC figure is 186 miles)
Developing an EV can be a tricky business. There are buyers out there who want to stand out from the crowd with quirky designs, but others would rather blend in naturally with the crowd despite being a little different. The e-Golf falls into the second category. It looks and drives very much like a standard VW Golf, but it is completely different in the way it is powered. That’s because the e-Golf is an EV or rather an Electric Vehicle.
It can be charged via a standard domestic plug or fast charger and delivers zero emissions driving. But the e-Golf isn’t exactly cheap costing in excess of £30k before the Government plug-in car grant has been deducted.
The official range of 186 miles is more realistically around the 124-mile mark which is still plenty for the average daily commute which is thought to be well below one hundred miles. And that makes the e-Golf the ideal five-door hatchback for anyone looking for all the plus-points of owning a Golf but with the added attraction of helping to save the planet.
On the Road
The latest e-Golf has seen an increase in power and that’s always welcome news especially as electric cars boast instant power delivery. Basically, a petrol or diesel engine must build speed before the powertrain reaches its optimum torque and power figures, whereas when you get behind the wheel of the e-Golf the power and torque are immediate.
On the technical front, the e-Golf features an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion 35.8kWh/323-volt battery mated to a direct drive single-speed gearbox. The total power output is 136PS and the torque figure is 290Nm. But that all translates into pretty nifty performance figures. The e-Golf can sprint from 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds and tops out at 93mph. There are zero tailpipe emissions and although the vehicle has been issued with an NEDC range of 186 miles, VW says the realistic limit would be nearer to 124 miles.
Despite all the technical wizardry, the car drives like a ‘proper’ Golf. It feels a little strange pulling away in complete silence, but the acceleration is smooth and swift meaning the e-Golf quickly reaches national speed limits.
The bursts of sharp acceleration are impressive and it can easily hold its own alongside fast-moving motorway traffic.
The steering is perfectly weighted and the road holding confident and assured into bends. The e-Golf is about 300kgs heavier than the standard model and feels slightly stiffer at times as a result, but it still copes well when being pushed hard into long sweeping bends and is agile enough to cope with weaving through congested city traffic.
VW has a long-established reputation for building cars that are great fun to drive and the e-Golf is another perfect example of that. Admittedly the additional weight means the car isn’t as dynamic as its siblings in the Golf stables, but it still delivers on all counts. The ride is slightly firmer than normal models, but it’s by no means uncomfortable – it’s just a case that VW has set the bar very high.
The drive modes called Normal, Eco and Eco+ alter the way the car handles and the car’s range can be extended according to how it is driven and importantly, through regenerative braking.
With limited range, the manner in which an EV is driven is important and learning to recoup energy is all part of the process. The e-Golf has five modes called D, D1, D2, D3 and B. In D, the car coasts as normal without any regenerative braking when the foot is taken off the accelerator pedal. However, in all the other modes, energy is generated when you take your foot off the gas. As the car can slow considerably by lifting your foot, the brake lights are activated to warn following motorists if the reduction is deemed sharp enough. It may sound complicated, but it’s all part and parcel of EV driving if you want to maximise the range.
One concern I had with earlier EVs was the complete silence which is very nice as a driver but can cause problems for pedestrians and cyclists. That’s not an issue with the e-Golf though as it has an electronic engine sound that can be turned on and off. This is just one of the many refinements to be discovered on the vehicle.
Although the e-Golf is only available in one trim, it is generously equipped and stands out from the norm thanks to some EV-specific design cues. These include C-shaped LED daytime running lights in the front bumper, a signature blue strip running the width of the radiator grille and into the headlights, a blue-edged VW badge, along with blue stitching on the upholstery and the option of blue ambient lighting.
An e-Golf styling pack introduces uniquely shaped front and rear bumpers, a rear roof spoiler and side sills. The differences are noticeable but very subtle.
Inside the car, it is beautifully refined with very little road surface noise filtering through. With no natural engine sound and very little noise from the motor, other sounds can become more noticeable. However, VW has addressed that issue with some extra sound proofing along with some aerodynamic homing which has resulted in a reduction in wind noise. This was achieved by reducing the volume of cooling air via a radiator shutter and partially closed-off grille, introducing new underbody panelling and adding new aerodynamic wheels that make the wheels flush with the car’s exterior so closing off any gaps.
The ride of the e-Golf feels perfectly balanced and any unexpected bumps and dips in the road are competently dealt with by the highly effective suspension system, making it a very sophisticated and refined environment for all occupants.
In the car
The e-Golf is a car that’s easy to get comfortable in with ample seat and steering wheel adjustment, and the pedals line up perfectly too. It has a premium feel to it with a leather-trimmed steering wheel with neat blue contrast stitching. There are decorative inserts in the doors and dashboard along with Merlin e-grey cloth upholstery.
As one would expect, the car is packed with a wealth of on-board technology. Our test car boasted a Discover Navigation Pro system that offered voice-activated control for the navigation and telephone. There is a 9.2-inch colour touchscreen along with gesture control.
The test car featured an Active Info Display costing an extra £494 which adds a 12.3-inch high-resolution TFT dash display with customisable menus. Other creature comforts included Bluetooth, full smartphone connectivity, two-zone air conditioning, front and rear electric windows and plenty more besides.
The latest e-Golf also comes with e-Remote online services that allow the owner to control starting/stopping, battery charging and the air conditioning remotely.
But being an EV, there are some different features that immediately stand out. There are blue accents throughout the interior and the tachometer is replaced by a power display that indicates if the motor is ready, whether the battery is being recharged via regenerative braking, if the power is being used and an indication of available output.
To the right of this display is a conventional speedo although the lower section highlights the battery’s charge levels. And between the two gauges is a colour information panel that offers data such as the current drive option selected, the estimated range and the remaining estimated charging time and type of charge connection being used.
It all sounds rather complicated, but it’s simple to get used to and the touchscreen is very user-friendly. It’s nice to see that increasing or reducing the temperature within the car is still a simple operation via a dial rather than a drop-down menu hidden in the depths of a touchscreen.
Hybrid models and EVs often compromise on storage space in order to accommodate the various battery packs etc., but that’s not the case with the e-Golf which boasts the same boot capacity as the standard Golf hatchback models. With the seats upright, it can hold 341 litres of luggage. Drop the 60:40 split-folding rear seats and that limit rises to a very generous 1,231 litres.
There’s plenty of storage compartments scattered throughout the car too, including deep door pockets, a drop-down sunglasses holder, a covered tray in front of the gear lever which is where the USB slot is located, cup holders, a glovebox, a front armrest with storage cubby and some handy trays.
Inside the car, there is ample room for two adults or three children to travel in the back and there is plenty of leg and head space. The wide-opening rear doors mean there are no access issues and there are Isofix fittings for child seats.
The e-Golf can be charged from a household 2.3kW three-pin socket using the cable provided which would take about 17 hours. By using a wallbox with 3.6kW supply, the recharge time is cut to 10 hours 50 minutes. A 7.2kW set-up cuts the time even further to 5 hours 20 minutes.
Although the initial cost for the e-Golf is fairly high at £32,730 you will receive £3,500 back in the form of the Government’s Plug-In Car grant.
Obviously, an EV will not suit everybody’s needs, but the average daily commute is well within its range. Officially the e-Golf range is set at 186 miles, although VW explains that it’s more likely to be around the 124 miles mark. It’s worth noting that the range will vary according to a number of factors, such as driving style, speed, the use of extra electrical consuming equipment, the outside temperature, number of people in the car and even the cargo load.
And with some clever driving skills, there are plenty of ways to preserve and increase the range of the e-Golf. For example, with the gear selector in the B setting it gives the car the same effect as braking in a conventional car but at the same time, it regenerates energy to recharge the battery.
Our car also featured an optional heat pump costing £830 which recovers heat from the vehicle’s systems and as a result can increase the winter range by up to 36 per cent.
And it’s the car that keeps on giving because with zero emissions, it is exempt from road tax and can drive free-of-charge through congestion charge zones.
The insurance rating for the e-Golf is group 26.
The VW Golf has a reputation for being exceptionally well built – almost a car that rival models aspire to. All the upholstery, switch-gear and infotainment systems feel solid and very well put together and the car is well engineered with no problems to date. As with all VWs, the doors close with a hearty thud leaving occupants feeling safe and sound.
During our test drive, there were no annoying whistles, creaks or unidentifiable noises and the clever technology that the designers have incorporated into the car certainly keep noise levels to a minimum.
The material used in the seats feels well put together and should survive the test of time and the hard surfaces are solid in their build quality.
The e-Golf is sold with a three year/60,000-mile warranty. The battery has an eight-year/99,360-mile warranty. The car also includes one-year Volkswagen Assistance breakdown cover in the UK and Europe.
The latest VW Golf was awarded the maximum five stars when it was tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating. Features include anti-lock brakes with hydraulic brake assist, electronic stability control including electronic differential lock and traction control, numerous airbags, adaptive cruise control including front assist radar sensor-controlled distance monitoring, driver alert system, pre-crash preventative occupant protection and automatic post-collision braking, plus predictive pedestrian protection.
On the security front, the e-Golf has an electronic engine immobiliser, remote central locking, plus an alarm with interior protection.