Volkswagen has big plans to sell lots of battery-powered cars, and the new 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 and early adopters.
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-pin plug, which takes 13 hours for a full charge. Alternatively, you can use a home charger, which takes only eight hours; these are becoming steadily more common in public spaces such as service stations. 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 - £25,845 after the government grant.
What's the 2014 VW e-Golf like to drive?
Like any EV there’s a smooth rush of silent and powerful acceleration. In fact, it shoots to 50mph 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 nipping between lights in the city and for stop/start urban driving.
Pulling the gear selector down to ‘B’ gives you the same effect as engine braking in a conventional car, and it also regenerates energy to recharge the battery. There are five modes in total, depending on the severity of braking you need, and how much energy you want to regenerate.
There’s a standard driving mode, but if the range anxiety is starting to kick in, there are two further economy modes. Both limit power and top speed, and either restrict or turn off the air-conditioning to save the battery life.
The e-Golf doesn't handle too differently from any other Golf. There's slightly more body lean in tight bends, but its steering is well weighted and gives some sense of what the front wheels are doing. It's certainly agile enough for you to have fun on tight city streets, and there's enough grip to make cross-country drives entertaining.
Ride quality isn't quite as impressive. The e-Golf doesn't deal quite as well with broken roads at low speeds as most mainstream Golfs, but it's never uncomfortable, and things improve on the motorway.
You also hear more road and wind noise, but that’s largely due to the absence of a diesel or petrol engine. Compared with rivals such as the BMW's i3, the Golf is a far more refined cruiser.
What's the 2014 VW e-Golf like inside?
Aside from some extra graphics, indicating the state of charge and battery range, and some blue detailing on the gearlever and door cards, 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.
That also means there's room for three children or two adults to sit across the back seats, and although the e-Golf's boot is around 40 litres smaller than a standard Golf's, at 341 litres, there's still room for a large pushchair or a couple of large suitcases in its wide, square loading bay.
Should you need even more space, the rear seats split 60/40 and fold almost flat by pressing easy-to-reach buttons next to the rear headrests.
Every e-Golf gets 16-inch alloy wheels, climate control, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, digital radio, sat-nav, Bluetooth, a multifunction wheel and LED headlights. It also benefits from a standard rapid charging inlet, which allows for half-hour charges.
Smartphone users can also download a free app that lets you charge, cool or heat the Golf remotely when it’s plugged in. The subscription for this service lasts for three years.
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 (our range test suggests 87 miles on a full charge is possible) and have easy access to public charging points, some of which we found were either not working or hard to use.
However, this is no different from any other pure-electric vehicle. If you do have those specific needs and the desire to drive a family-sized electric vehicle, then the e-Golf is one of the best of its type.
A BMW i3 is a slightly cheaper option for private buyers, and has a far superior cabin, but the e-Golf is better to drive, has a better ride, is more spacious and practical and more refined at higher speeds.
What Car? says
Engine AC electric motor
Price £25,845 (after £5000 govt. grant)
Torque 119lb ft
0-62mph 10.4 seconds
Top speed 87mph
Maximum range 118 miles