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Road Test: Volkswagen e-Golf

By / 4 weeks ago / New Cars / No Comments

Longer ranges, quicker charging, more choice and better end-user awareness of their daily travel needs means swapping to an electric car doesn’t feel like the giant leap it once used to. But ditching the combustion engine rarely feels as normal as it does in a Volkswagen e-Golf.

Even after a subtle update, this 100% battery-powered Golf is  barely distinguishable its petrol and diesel counterparts, wearing only an aerodynamic bodykit and small, hubcap-like alloy wheels. But behind minor styling alterations, the big news is a 50% increase in the energy capacity of the battery, to 35.8kWh, with a matching uplift in range. Volkswagen claims 125 miles between charges under real-world conditions – for comparison, that’s 186 miles under NEDC testing.

If anything, that seems conservative. There are three driving modes available, and even the mid-point Eco mode easily offers a range of around 120-130 miles while keeping pace with motorway traffic. Around town, with frequent regenerative braking opportunities and lower loads on the motor, it can go even further. Granted, that’s still short by combustion engine standards, but the ability to travel 100 miles between charging stops without fretting about remaining range only makes this feel more normal to live with.

Range updates are only part of the story. The new electric motor produces 134bhp, instead of 115bhp, resulting in performance that’s more like a 2.0-litre TDI than a 1.6-litre TDI. This is no performance car, but it’s quick enough for relaxed overtaking and incredibly quiet – even for an electric vehicle – at high speeds. Factor in the ride quality on small wheels and the ability to set regenerative braking at one of three levels, or turn it off completely enabling it to coast on the motorway, and the e-Golf is a very comfortable car.

Of course, a bigger battery affects charging times. A DC rapid charger can restore 80% of its range in around 40 minutes , which is a bearable wait on long trips, while domestic charging points can take as little as six hours. A cable for a three-pin socket is included, but as a full charge takes 17 hours it’s really only an emergency backup. Thankfully, the physical size of the battery hasn’t increased, which means boot space is still significantly larger than the plug-in hybrid Golf GTE – an upshot of not having to also accommodate a fuel tank.

There’s a single trim level in the UK, based on the SE, but the e-Golf adds a 9.2-inch glass-fronted navigation system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, two-zone climate control, a wire-heated windscreen and LED lighting. Spec-match a 2.0 TDI DSG SE Navigation and pricing is fairly close, though it’s a shame Volkswagen hasn’t included heated seats as standard, as they’re more energy-efficient than a cabin heater in cold weather.

The trouble is, that’s also close to the GTE’s pricing, and the hybrid hot hatch has proved much more popular in the UK so far – by a factor of 79 to one last year, according to DfT figures. Even when it feels this normal, not everyone is ready to ditch that combustion engine just yet.

What We Think:

An entirely conventional, and very clever, electric car, but with rivals already offering longer ranges it perhaps needs a little more battery capacity to lure drivers out of other models – including the popular GTE.

Specification:

Segment: Lower medium

Type: Battery-electric vehicle

Price: £32,190 (£27,690 including Plug-in Car Grant)

Fuel: N/A

Electric range: 186 miles (NEDC)

CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 0g/km

Charging Port: Type 2 AC & CCS DC

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.