In years to come we may look back on the current crop of electric cars, with a fondness more associated with their petrol brethren. Volkswagen is a case in point. We’ve just had the pleasure of driving the Volkswagen e-Golf, to all intents & purposes an ordinary Golf which in effect will be the last Volkswagen of it’s kind, a Volkswagen featuring an electric powertrain fitted to the same chassis as a petrol or diesel Golf. In 2020, Volkswagen will launch the I.D. which will be a Golf sized car, with an interior the size of a Passat & the I.D. will be the first Volkswagen built from the ground up as an electric car. Indeed, you can trace the I.D.’s origins back to 1972 when Volkswagen built an electric van, with the first Elektro Golf manufactured in 1976. Who said electric cars were new ?
In the main stream EV car world, the Volkswagen e-Golf is to my mind, the best of the bunch, at least as far as being so ordinarily Golf-like that your brain will tell you are driving a petrol Golf, not an EV. The interior is so Volkswagen as to be comforting – the Walker family run two cars, a Polo & a T-Roc – & the usual dashboard, steering wheel, seat fabrics, soft touch plastics & excellent infotainment system are familiar to any Volkswagen driver. Yes, the interior is a bit bland, but that is the Volkswagen way. What you get though is demonstrably nicer than what’s inside a Nissan Leaf or Hyundai Kona.
Push the start button & the electric motor comes on. Total power on tap is 136 PS with 290 Nm’s of torque. The battery actually weighs 318kg, which is more than most family’s of four, so immediately it feels slightly different to handle than a petrol or diesel Golf. In fact, it glides along so peacefully, it’s an easy car to like, with a 0-62mph time of 9.6 seconds & a top speed of 93 mph – although I strongly suggest you drive the e-Golf no faster than 70mph – . It’s not too dissimilar in it’s handling to a non EV Golf, but the battery weight & location, do make the car heavier in a sharp turn, whilst simultaneously making it feel faster in a straight line.
Volkswagen claim a realistic range for the e-Golf of 124 miles & after a week driving it, mostly locally with a couple of 60 mile round trips, that seems about right, with in my week, 140 miles an achievable target. With a Rolec EV charger at my disposal, I let the car run down to as low as 20 miles of charge in the batteries & by plugging it in to the Rolec, I was able to fully charge the battery to 154 miles in 4 hours.
To give you an example of the battery range, the e-Golf was delivered to us in Altrincham from Milton Keynes, a distance of about 150 miles. My delivery driver collected the e-Golf with a full charge, stopped at Keele Services for 45 minutes, to part- charge the car & then continued onto Altrincham, a distance of 35 miles. The car arrived with me with an electric range showing of 38 miles.
A week in the e-Golf turned up some battery range anomalies , which is to be expected. We had a couple of frosty mornings with it. On the first, I turned on the ignition to see the range showing 38 miles, when I had charged it to full the night before. I went to the gym a couple of miles away & when I got back in the car to come home, the range had gone back up to 151 miles. On the second morning, I de-frosted the car using the heater, rather than a scraper & the charge fell dramatically from 132 miles when I switched on the ignition, to just 58 in just a few minutes. Ouch !
Range anxiety is most customers de-facto objection to owning an EV & Volkswagen have included some range saving technology on the e-Golf that help’s curb this. It will automatically re charge it’s batteries when the driver presses the brake pedal. To enhance this function, you can move the gear selector backwards from ‘D’ to ‘B’ & the car will use a very high recuperating force.
To increase the range of the battery, you can come out of the ‘Normal’ driving mode into ‘Eco’ or ‘Eco+,’ by pressing the Mode button next to the gear selector. Choose ‘Eco’ & the cars maximum speed is reduced to 71mph & the climate control goes onto Eco mode. This I found was perfect for the motorway. Select ‘Eco+’ & things change again. The climate & heating is switched off & top speed goes down to 56mph. Be warned. I accidentally chose this function on the motorway in normal traffic & took a few seconds to realise why I couldn’t go any faster than 56mph. Suffice to say, that this function works best in motorway road works & slow moving urban areas, not in the middle lane of fast-moving motorway !
For those of you who are into technology, the e-Golf features Volkswagen’s Car-Net app, which allows you to for example, activate the cars heating from indoors on a cold morning. It can also give you a constant stream of vehicle information direct to your desktop or smartphone, via the security of the cloud & it also allows you to send configuration instructions back to the car. The best place & time to do this, is when the car is plugged into a charger, so none of the precious battery range is lost.
As far as equipment goes, the e-Golf has al of the modern conveniences & safety features, a normal car has. ABS, ESC, airbags galore , Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), driver crash alert, PreCrash prevention are all fitted. Electric windows, multi-function steering wheel, 9.2″ touchscreen infotainment with Discover Navigation Pro, the Car-Net I’ve mentioned, on which you can connect your smartphone via AppleCar Play or Android Auto, as well as Bluetooth & DAB.
With a total RRP of £32,075, the e-Golf is not cheap. But, for company Car drivers BIK is just 13% & driving 20 miles a day in the e-Golf would save you as much as £1630 per year compared to 20 miles a day driven in a petrol powered car. Food for thought.
For reassurance, the battery comes with an 8 year or 99,360 mile warranty. There are two charging cables included; a 32 amp AC for a home or external charger & a 10 amp mains cable for a domestic socket. Both are safely stored away under the boot floor in convenient sized bags. With the domestic cable taking 17 hours to fully charge the battery, a home &/or work wall charger makes the most sense. My 6.6kW home charger meant a fully charged e-Golf in just 5 hours & Volkswagen have teamed up with POD Point to offer customers a home charging wall box, with the 3.6kW version costing £279 fully installed, including the OLEV grant.
Until the I.D arrives, Volkswagen customers will still have the e-Golf. Just like the Nissan Leaf, the e-Golf will work for some as their car of choice, but not for all. Even the arrival of the Hyundai Kona EV, with a realistic range of 250 miles, is still some way shy of the 500 mile range many of us expect our cars to have. In reality, the e-Golf is perfect for those of us who don’t drive long distances & can utilise a home or work charger. I genuinely believe, that if you can charge every day at home on at least a 3.kW charger, a regular 100 mile round trip is possible before range anxiety sets in.
From my perspective, I really liked the e-Golf & as I stated at the start of this review, one day it could become a collectable classic. If you want the future, you’ll have to wait for the I.D. If you want the future now, then the e-Golf will give you one of the last tastes of an ordinary car, designed for a fossil-fuel engine, doubling up as an electric-eco-warrior.