First Drive: Volkswagen e-Golf
Whether that’s a pro or a con depends on personal taste. This isn’t a glaring billboard for a company’s environmental credentials, but the e-Golf takes an unfamiliar technology and slots it into a familiar car. It’s just another drivetrain choice for the ubiquitous German hatchback.
So it’s unlikely to stop passers-by in their tracks to have a look. The e-Golf shares its blue pinstriped aerodynamic grille with the Bluemotion, though the bookends here are a pair of energy-efficient all-LED headlights and the smoother front bumper is unique, lit with C-shaped daytime running lights. It's subtle.
Equipment levels are based on the mid-spec SE, rather than the top spec as in the e-up!, but the e-Golf gains EV-specific navigation, dual-zone climate control and parking sensors as standard kit. It’s kept pricing sensible – with the £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant, there’s a negligible price difference against an identically-specced, DSG-equipped 1.6 TDI SE.
The drivetrain comprises a 113bhp electric motor, linked to a 24.2kWh battery, and adds just under 200kg to the diesel’s kerb weight. It chimes into life with a twist of the key and operates like a conventional automatic – just slot it into D, and it pulls away silently with that familiar feeling of Golf solidity and firm, yet comfortable ride quality.
Squeeze the throttle harder and the motor delivers a typically urgent surge of electric acceleration, the sensitivity of which can be altered through Eco and Eco+ driving modes, which also limit power output, top speed and air conditioning. Unusually, there’s no regenerative braking until the battery dips under around 90% charge.
Beyond this, there are a number of ways to vary the driving experience. From the default D mode, nudging the gear lever to the left or right offers three levels of regenerative braking or the option to switch it off for a smoother drive. Pull the lever back and B mode means it’s possible to drive without touching the brake pedal, just lift off the throttle and it’ll scrub speed off so quickly that the brake lights come on.
Volkswagen is claiming a range of between 80 and 118 miles – it reduces on the motorway where regenerative braking opportunities are limited, and the e-Golf can coast at low loads without using any energy at all. Once depleted, the car is supplied with charging cables for a three-pin domestic socket or a socketed wallbox or public charger, which take 13 or eight hours respectively.
But the added string to its bow, and something many plug-ins still don’t have, is rapid charging. This uses the new standardised European connection now being rolled out at UK motorway services, and allows 80% of the range to be regained in around half an hour. It doesn’t make this a perfect long-distance car, but the ability to undertake longer journeys when needed removes a barrier to ownership.
Sales are likely to be in the hundreds rather than the thousands, but with production taking place on the same line as the rest of the range there’s always the option to grow to meet demand. As an easy, understated route into electromobility, the e-Golf makes a really good case for itself.
The e-Golf looks likely to be overshadowed as a company car by the 202bhp Golf GTE plug-in hybrid due next year, but this is an interesting, well-engineered and very easy way to make the switch to electromobility and really shouldn’t be overlooked.
Segment: Lower medium
Type: Battery-electric vehicle
Price: £25,845 (after £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant)
Electric range: 80-118 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 0g/km
Charging Port: Type 2 AC & CCS DC