VW e-Golf 2017 First Drive
The e-Golf has long been a very good EV in terms of driving experience, but it has significantly lacked the range to truly compete with the big players in the electric car market. It started out with a below average electric range, and almost all of its rivals have upped their game since the e-Golf's launch. Now though it's Volkswagen's turn to bring out an improved model. NGC went to the car's launch in Majorca to try out the new VW e-Golf.
Review by Chris Lilly
Volkswagen has given its entire Golf line-up a refresh, with sharper styling front and rear, and improved equipment levels inside. The e-Golf is no different and benefits from these changes, though more importantly, the all-electric model has also had more done to it than any other Golf.
On top of the Golf line-up's updates, the e-Golf also now benefits from a more powerful electric motor and significantly larger battery capacity. The upshot is a slightly more stylish car, with more tech and improved value for money; and an EV with around 50% more range and a little extra performance to go with it. That means an increase in battery capacity from 24.2 kWh to 35.8 kWh, and power jumps from 85 kW (115 hp) to 100 kW (136 hp). It all sounds great on paper, but how does it come together on the road?
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Something that was a positive with the first-generation e-Golf for some was that it was similar to a 'normal Golf'. Unlike rivals such as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3, VW didn't create a new and edgier car, but used it's tried, tested, and very popular Golf as a foundation. Climbing from a conventional petrol or diesel Golf and into an e-Golf sees very few changes presented to the driver, instantly putting many at ease behind the wheel.
From there, the driving experience does change but actually becomes easier in many respects. The instant torque from the electric motor, the single gear transmission, and regenerative braking create a very digital driving experience, and one that is both enjoyable and convenient. An EV's most natural habitat is in built up areas, with the low speeds and stop-start traffic minimising the restrictions of the relatively limited range of an EV compared to a conventionally powered car. Here the e-Golf excels, helped by the low centre of gravity created by the battery pack being placed in the car's floor. It's nimble, very nippy in short bursts of acceleration, and fun to drive.
That was basically true of the previous e-Golf though, and the changes have improved the e-Golf most when out of town. The added power of the electric motor means the e-Golf doesn't run out of puff as quickly on the open road when accelerating at higher speeds. Likewise, the new range means drivers won't be watching the battery gauge as much and worrying about range remaining, making for a more relaxed drive. The 0-62mph time is now 9.6 seconds, and the e-Golf will reach 93mph flat out - improvements on the previous generation's 10.4 seconds and 87mph respectively.
WHAT'S IT LIKE INSIDE?
The new e-Golf gets VW's latest and best infotainment system and Active Instrument Display. The Discover Navigation Pro infotainment set-up is a 9.2-inch HD unit which also includes gesture control. This last attribute is normally only found on top level executive models such as BMW's 7-Series, so to find it here as standard on the e-Golf shows the backing VW is providing for this new model.
Using the gesture control is a bit of a gimmick since you can only use it on certain screens, and you can only swipe from side to side. However, the 'traditional' touchscreen controls work very well, and the system is quick to respond to commands. Using VW's charge point location tool is fairly simple too, with both look-up and map search options available. The e-Golf's route planner will also show you a mileage calculated 'range radius', which is a wiggly line dependent on the roads in that direction, rather than the geometric circle offered by rivals that takes no account for how twisty the roads are. Overall, it's fairly standard fare for EVs but VW's set-up is glossier and smoother than many others.
The other big change is the Active Instrument Display, which brings the previous e-Golf's slightly jarring analogue dials a couple of leaps forward with a customisable digital unit. The dials remain in digital form which is an aspect I like - as opposed to the bars and numbers etc found on many other EVs - but you can customise the instruments to your own tastes. This includes having the navigation map dominant between smaller dials, or seeing a wealth of efficiency data reported back for those who like to drive as efficiently as possible.
The rest of the cabin is basically standard new Golf - not a bad thing at all. Nicely built, well laid out from an ergonomic view point, and comfortable enough for four adults and luggage, the e-Golf might not have the most visually exciting cabin around, but it works well and is a nice interior.
HOW GREEN IS IT?
Despite offering more power from the electric motor, the e-Golf still returns an official efficiency figure of 12.7 kWh/100km. The system is supported by the now typical plug-in tech such as connected apps for charging times and status, regenerative braking, Eco driving coaching, and efficient auxiliary systems like a heat pump for the air conditioning.
The regenerative braking is one of the best around as it offers various degrees of strength - D1, D2, D3, and B. This allows drivers to adjust the braking strength of the regenerative system as much as possible, recapturing energy and boosting electric range by hardly touching the brake pedal.
On our launch test drive, we returned range figures of around 165 miles on an economical drive, 145 miles or so driving under normal conditions - not thinking about range-extending driving techniques - and approximately 130 miles if driving at motorway speeds. This was all in warm weather and relatively level test routes, with plenty of gradient changes but mostly fairly gentle - there was only one long steep climb up a big hill for example. It was probably fairly typical for many drivers, but we will look to give the e-Golf a sterner examination at a later date. You can confidently say that the e-Golf will do 150 miles on a single charge in summer though.
Charging will take around 13 hours from a three-pin plug, and a bit over 4 hours from a 7 kW charge point, both using a Type 2 connector. The e-Golf can also be rapid charged using CCS equipped units, taking 45 minutes for a 0-80% charge.
IS IT THE BEST IN CLASS?
It's a tricky analysis to make, but I think the e-Golf is now the class leader . . . just. The EV market has become extremely competitive and there isn't a clear class leader, where there has been before. Different models will suit different customers depending on requirements, be it size, price, range etc. But the VW e-Golf offers a good balance of all the main attributes looked for in an EV, and ticks most of the boxes with few downsides.
Being an EV, the VW is typically pitched against some cars that don't quite compare directly. In the e-Golf's case, the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Ioniq are direct rivals, and the e-Golf is a better car than both. The Hyundai and Nissan are both cheaper, but the VW feels worth the extra money. Other satellite rivals include the smaller BMW i3 and Renault Zoe - the first of which is a better car from a driving perspective, and the latter has a range untouchable by any other mass-market EV.
Bearing everything in mind though, the e-Golf takes the class lead in my opinion since VW has taken the negative aspects of the previous generation and brought them right up to scratch. With a real-world range of 150 miles reasonably achievable, the VW will match the i3 and beat its nearest competitors the Leaf and Ioniq in terms of range. The Ioniq is close but, as many EV drivers know, an additional 5-10 miles range can make all the difference. It's very well equipped, competitively priced even if it is a little expensive - its the about the same price as an i3 - and good to drive. Like the VW Golf, the e-Golf is so good at being a jack of all-trades that it doesn't have any real weaknesses. In fact, if you're thinking about EVs at all, the new e-Golf is good enough to be considered as an alternative for conventional hatchbacks, especially for those drivers that don't cover a lot of miles.
Model tested: VW e-Golf
Body-style: Five-door hatchback
Engine / CO2: 100 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Only one
On-road price: £27,370 inc. Plug-in Car Grant
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles - eight year / 99,360 mile battery warranty
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 5 Stars