The Volkswagen Golf Blue-e-motion will be the company's rival for the Nissan Leaf, but don't expect to see it any time soon. In fact, the production version of the prototype we're driving here won't go on sale in the UK until 2014.
The Golf Blue-e-motion you'll see in VW showrooms won't even be this car. The prototype is based on the current Mk6 model; the car you'll actually be able to buy (or perhaps lease – VW hasn't decided yet) will be based on the Mk7, however, which will be unveiled in September this year.
The car we're driving has a 113bhp electric motor, making it slightly more powerful than its most obvious rival, the Leaf. However, the two cars have almost identical performance, with VW saying the Blue-e-emotion will accelerate to 62mph in 11.8 seconds.
What's the Volkswagen Golf Blue-e-motion like to drive?
The quick answer is that it's very easy to drive. All you have to do is turn the key and wait for the chirrup that tells you all systems are go, before sliding the gear lever into D and moving off.
With the electric motor giving all its torque right from the word go, the Golf Blue-e-motion accelerates strongly and smoothly from rest.
There are various modes to choose from – varying the amount of brake regeneration or limiting the performance to give you a longer range – but with everything set in the normal mode, the car has no trouble keeping up with traffic on main roads.
With a top speed of more than 80mph, it'll cope with motorway journeys, too – although that markedly cuts short the battery's life.
What's more, because it's electric, it does all that in near-complete silence.
Well, actually, that's not quite true. In order to make the car more obvious to other road users, it actually makes its own noise – in this case, something that sounds remarkably like a V6 petrol engine. You can barely hear it inside the car, and it stops above 20mph, but it does mean pedestrians are less likely to step out in front of the car in town.
On the road, the Blue-e-motion feels very much like any other Golf: solid and assured. The trouble is that it weighs about 200kg more than an equivalent Golf with a conventional engine, and although that weight is evenly distributed – the batteries are housed in various positions – the car is a little less agile through corners. Only a little, though – this is still an enjoyable car to drive.
The only real downside is that the regular Golf's ride has suffered a little in the transition to the Blue-e-motion. It has lost some of the smoothness that marks the Golf out from its rivals; instead, it has a slightly firmer feel.
What's the Volkswagen Golf Blue-e-motion like inside?
The Golf Blue e-motion looks very much like a regular Golf – which is good news. The interior has the same space and quality as any Golf, and from the driver's seat you can tell it's electric only by the fact that the dials and displays are unique to this model.
Alongside the speedometer, the second main dial shows how the car's power is being used, while two smaller inset dials show how much charge you have left and how far you should be able to travel.
Other than that, the only telltale that this car has a load of batteries on board is that the boot floor is a little higher than a regular Golf's.
Overall, though, you don't lose much practicality for the sake of electric power; and, when we see the production version of the Blue-e-motion – which has been designed from the outset to have electric power – we expect there will be no loss of practicality at all.
Should I buy one?
At the moment, this is an impossible question to answer, because you can't buy the car you see in our pictures. What's more, the production version will be based on a brand new platform that we're yet to experience on the road.
Price, too, is a complete unknown this far ahead of the car going on sale, and our best guess is that the car will cost around the same as a Leaf.
As ever with an electric car, the crucial question to answer is whether your lifestyle can cope with its limitations – chiefly the 90-mile range and eight-hour charging time – but what we can say already is that the Blue-e-motion looks set to be at least as good as the Leaf.
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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