2014 VW e-Golf review

  • New electric Golf tested
  • On sale now, priced from £25,845
  • Strong rival to Nissan Leaf

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Volkswagen has big plans to sell a lot more battery-powered cars, and this e-Golf is one of the first steps towards that goal.

We’ve already seen and driven the battery-powered Up city car, but this Golf is likely to have far more widespread appeal for electric car aficionados.

It follows the same formula as the Up and virtually every other EV, so the front wheels are powered by an electric motor (in this case one that generates 113bhp) that goes through a single-speed gearbox.

You can charge it through a normal household three-point plug, which takes 13 hours for a full charge. Alternatively, you can take advantage of a free 3.6kW home charger, installed by British Gas, which takes only eight hours; these are becoming more common in public spaces such as service stations, too. If you have access to the latest quick chargers, you can get up to 80% battery capacity in just 35 minutes.

Unlike in many rivals, there’s no need to pay extra monthly costs to lease the battery, although this is reflected in the e-Golf's comparatively high list price.

Only one version will be available in the UK – a five-door that’s largely based on mid-range SE trim. However, it’s embellished with standard sat-nav, a colour touch-screen, parking sensors and bespoke alloy wheels. The e-Golf is also the first VW to come with standard LED headlights, which promise brighter light and use less power than xenons.

Smartphone users can also download an app that lets you charge, cool or heat the Golf remotely when it’s plugged in.

What's the 2014 VW e-Golf like to drive?

Sadly we didn’t get to drive it on anything other than a private test track, but there was enough evidence to suggest it’s among the better electric cars.

Like any EV there’s an almost eerie feeling of silent and powerful acceleration. In fact, it shoots to 60mph from a standing start as quickly as most diesel hatchbacks. In truth, it runs out of steam quite soon after that, but it’s perfect for shooting between lights in the city and for urban driving.

Pushing the gear selector down to ‘B’ gives you the same effect as engine braking, and it also regenerates energy to recharge the battery. There are five modes in total, according to the severity you want and how much energy you want to regenerate.

There’s a standard driving mode, but if you’re feeling especially parsimonious there are also two further economy modes. Both cut power and the top speed, and either restrict or turn off the air-conditioning to save the battery. In truth, if you stay inside the city limits you'll barely notice the difference between the modes.

The e-Golf has the same attributes as any other Golf, so there is well weighted steering and faithful, secure handling. It's also agile enough for you to have fun on tight city streets.

We suspect it has a mildly firmer ride than most mainstream Golfs, although the final verdict will have to wait until we’ve driven it on UK roads. You also hear more tyre and wind noise, but that’s largely due to the absence of a diesel or petrol engine intruding.

What's the 2014 VW e-Golf like inside?

Aside from some extra graphics indicating the state of charge and battery range, this is a standard Golf. This means you get all the usual benefits of a high-quality cabin, plenty of space and a comfortable driving position.

Unlike some other alternative-energy cars, you get the same amount of passenger and luggage space as the conventionally powered versions.

Should I buy one?

Even with a £5000 Government grant taken into account, the electric Golf is still an expensive choice. A committed one, too, because you have to have a specific set of requirements for it to fit into your life: you need to do limited miles (maximum claimed range is 118 miles) and have easy access to charging points. However, this is no different from any other pure-electric vehicle.

If you do have those needs and the desire to drive a family-sized electric vehicle, then the e-Golf is one of the best. In fact, we’d say it was the best conventional EV hatch to come along since the Nissan Leaf and is definitely worth a look.

What Car? says


Rivals

BMW i3
Nissan Leaf


Specification

Engine AC electric motor
Price £25,845 (after £5000 Govt. grant)
Power 113bhp
Torque 119lb ft
0-62mph 10.4 seconds
Top speed 87mph
Maximum range 118 miles
CO2 0g/km

 
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