Updated: Aug 14, 2019
On paper, the e-Golf is a confusing car.
While most herald the traditional Golf as the perfect car, the perfect car for most would not be powered by electricity. This makes for an interesting first drive: while our test car benefits from the recent model refresh, it is effectively the Mk.1 e-Golf—the first of its kind, and a nod toward the Volkswagen Group’s wider ambitions for EVs.
At first glance it is difficult to tell whether this is simply a well specified GTD, but there are some distinguishing features: the blue accents at the front and rear (which I like) and if you look closely, the super-skinny tyres (not so much). Emblems mounted on the boot and above the gear lever inside are the most obvious indicators that this car is emissions free, along with the lack of a tailpipe. The headlights are all LED, partly to create a mean appearance, but also to reduce the strain on the battery and improve driving range slightly.
Step inside and it's all very normal, if not underwhelming, but that's by design. Volkswagen is aware that EVs are tough to sell, and packaging such technology in a familiar setting makes for an easy transition.
User interface (UI) systems have come a long way in recent years, and all displays in the e-Golf are digital. The dials provide a crystal clear read out of available range, driving speed and local speed limits, and can also be configured to show navigation in the driver's eye line.
In terms of practicality, it is proportionally the same as any other Golf. Boot space is ample for a full load of shopping or to comfortably transport the family labradoodle. The rear seats fold near-flat, allowing for cavernous storage in hatchback terms. Front and rear head room is ample even for taller passengers. If pushed for criticism, there could be a few more cubbyholes to store motorway vitals (crisps and drinks).
With only one powertrain option, the e-Golf needs to offer an element of performance to tempt most prospective buyers. Thanks to instant torque, the e-Golf feels not only fast for an EV, but fast compared to most other cars. While the 0-62 time of around ten seconds is little more than bang average for an entry-level hatchback, hard acceleration between 0-40mph verges on brutal, and arguably feels quicker than a GTI at a traffic light.
Driving range is reported as 186 miles by VW, but expect that to drop significantly when on the motorway, which can zap power twice as quickly as town driving. This is not an exaggeration—the range ticks away before your very eyes and can be quite alarming, even at a steady 70mph. By contrast, town and city driving can in fact 'add' range thanks to regenerative braking. Like all plug-in cars today, charge time is leisurely from a normal home socket. Most charging can be done overnight if timed well: arrive home from work, plug in, and—just like your smartphone—both are fully charged by the time you wake up.
It’s worth noting that public charge points around the UK can be hit and miss—some may be inactive, while others have difficulty registering your RFID card. Most providers have a smartphone app which can get around the latter issue, and a quick phone call can sort the former. Tap-and-go payment remains quite rare, but InstaVolt is one provider that has the right idea.
Should you buy the e-Golf? If you tend to drive briskly or rack up motorway miles, then probably not. The GTD, or more zesty GTI, will prove a more welcome companion. Range anxiety gets old fast, and can prove frustrating for those with longer commutes.
However, if you like the occasional slingshot of torque when necessary, with a fraction of the running costs, the e-Golf is a highly capable machine.
Key competitors: Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, BMW i3.