Inner peace: Volkswagen e-Golf driven

24 March 2014

Volkswagen e-Golf

Volkswagen e-Golf
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Good: Quick, quiet, enviable brand image
Bad: Anonymous styling
Price: from £25,845
Car adverts are often economical with the truth, but one of the biggest lies they propagate is that of the empty city street.

Just think about it – how often does a car commercial feature vehicles swanning around urban centres mysteriously devoid of vehicles? In which Utopian country do these car-free cities exist? Why are there no endless queues of traffic, double-parked delivery trucks and pedestrians carelessly flitting across the road not twenty feet from a pedestrian crossing?

Until I’m granted a meeting with the sort of marketing type who conjures up these adverts – at which point I shall punch them squarely in the face – I have at least found an alternative to Utopian, traffic-free city driving: the new Volkswagen e-Golf.

Volkswagen e-Golf rear view

Driving it around Berlin on the car’s launch, the German capital’s heavy traffic grated not a jot. All was serene inside the car, and not just because of the e-Golf’s typical German solidity and logically arranged cabin.

No, it’s the electric Golf’s powertrain, rendering it silent against a backdrop of droning diesels. Other electric vehicles are equally silent and soothing in the city of course, but there’s something very compelling about the combination of a Volkswagen badge and electric power. Something reassuring that, for myriad reasons, the average customer may not get from a Nissan or a Renault. Volkswagen’s reputation for quality, warranted or not, will go a long way.

Luckily, the e-Golf backs up reputation with ability. At its heart is a 24.2 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, a scant 200 watt-hours larger than that you’d find in a Nissan Leaf. Range is a little less than the Leaf’s official combined total of 120 miles, at 118 miles, though in reality both will do a solid 70-100 miles on a single charge.

Prices for the e-Golf start at £25,845 after the £5,000 contribution of the Plug-in Car Grant, or about £4,575 more than a mainstream dealer like Bristol Street Motors is asking for a five-door Golf BlueMotion. A mid-range Leaf costs £23,490, by way of comparison, and also offers the option of battery leasing to cut initial outlay. There's no equivalent buy-plus-rent route into e-Golf ownership.

Volkswagen e-Golf cutaway

In terms of power, the e-Golf is a little friskier than its Japanese rival, with an 85kW (114bhp), 270Nm electric motor propelling, as ever, the front wheels. It’ll reach 62mph in 10.4 seconds and Volkswagen has set a sensible top speed limit of 87mph, to help preserve range.

VW also provides an acceleration figure of 4.2 seconds to reach 36mph (a more logical 60km/h for those raised on the metric system), and that’s the number you notice most in the city.

Throughout my test drive I secretly wished for red lights. Every one was an opportunity to leave the hordes of beige Mercedes taxis and blacked-out BMWs wheezing in my wake. The e-Golf’s initial acceleration is satisfyingly punchy and, like all electric cars, near-silent. If anything, the e-Golf is even quieter than some of its counterparts, with no audible whine from the electric motor under acceleration or deceleration. There are no histrionics – just linear, brisk acceleration.

Volkswagen e-Golf interior

Slowing down means either coasting, or using one of four different levels of braking regeneration. With the transmission slotted simply into D, the car will coast forward smoothly whenever you lift your foot from the throttle pedal. But choose D1 to D3, by tapping the gear lever left and right, and you’ll experience noticeably different levels of energy recuperation, the electric equivalent of engine braking.

Alternatively, maximum recuperation can be summoned up by pulling the stick backward into the slot marked B. This is where I left it most of the time, allowing for real one-pedal driving around town. Deceleration in the more energetic levels of regen will trigger the brake lights, even with your feet off both pedals, so you shouldn’t alarm any following drivers with your sudden lack of speed. When I did choose more traditional braking methods, pedal feel was more than adequate.

Volkswagen e-Golf charging sockets

The benefits of careful driving and the strongest regen setting were clear by the end of my urban test. Despite a 24-kilometre journey through busy Berlin, indicated range had dropped from around 98km at the start of the test to 91km by the end. City-based drivers won’t be recharging all that often, I suspect. When they do, an optional VW-supplied 3.6kW wall box can fill the battery in eight hours. Optional DC fast-charging, as part of a CCS ‘Combined Charging System’ connection, provides the usual 30-minute, 80-percent fill.

Elsewhere, the Golf EV is little different from any other Golf. A little more aerodynamic – it has a 0.28 drag coefficient rather than 0.29 – and has been granted a set of distinctive LED daytime running lights, but otherwise it’s unlikely to set heads swivelling. Inside the tachometer makes way for an energy use dial, the central touchscreen features several electric-specific information screens, and you get (truly excellent) full LED headlights as standard.

Volkswagen e-Golf range monitor

It also handles nicely, rides very well and is as practical as any other Golf – it comes with full set of five doors, rear seat space is unchanged and at 343 litres, the boot is only a little smaller than a conventional Golf’s 380-litre volume.

It is, to state the obvious, an electric Golf. If you’re unexcited by other Golfs then electric power may do little to change that, but that VW badge has a strong draw and Volkswagen’s play-it-safe styling means it might hold more appeal for customers than other, slightly weirder electric vehicles currently on sale.

And if you spend most of your time in the city, the smooth power, classy cabin and cosseting ride really are the next best thing to those Utopian, car-free streets of La-La Land.

Volkswagen e-Golf side view

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