First Drive: Volkswagen e-Golf
Sector: Lower medium Price: £25,845 (after £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant) Range: 80–118miles CO2: 0g/km
Manufacturers are showing two approaches to plug-in vehicles. Some choose to package the technology in a futuristic bodyshell, while others opt to normalise it, fitting it to an existing car. The Volkswagen e-Golf sits firmly in the latter group.
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, looking a little like a Bluemotion with its aerodynamic grille, but with a unique bumper and all-LED headlights.
Equipment levels are based on the mid-spec SE, rather than the top spec as in the e-up!, adding EV-specific navigation, dual-zone climate control and parking sensors as standard kit. P11d pricing won’t reflect this, but the £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant makes this slightly cheaper than a DSG-equipped 1.6 TDI SE specced to the same level.
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, the driver can choose from three progressively stronger regenerative braking modes by nudging the gear lever left or right, or turn it off altogether for a smoother drive. Pull the lever back, similar to engaging Sport mode on a normal DSG, and the e-Golf scrubs speed off so rapidly when the throttle is released that the brake pedal is usually redundant.
Volkswagen is claiming a range of between 80 and 118 miles, reduced by the limited amount of regenerative braking on motorway trips, and it can coast at low loads without using any energy. Once depleted, the e-Golf can be charged using a three-pin socket or a dedicated charging point, which take 13 or eight hours respectively using the included cables.
But the added string to its bow, and something many plug-ins still don’t have, is rapid charging. Compatibility with the new European rapid charging standard means it’ll regain 80% of its range in around half an hour at most service stations. 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.
Though likely to be overshadowed by the 202bhp Golf GTE plug-in hybrid due next year, the e-Golf makes good sense as a company car for mostly urban drivers.