Used BMW i3 vs VW e-Golf
Used electric cars are becoming more and more widely available, so we’ve put two of the most desirable to the test...
List price when new £30,980
Price today £15,500
Electric motoring doesn't come much more desirable than the BMW i3
List price when new £31,680
Price today £16,000
Most of the good points of a normal Golf, but with lower running costs
Price today is based on a 2014 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
Electric cars are still a relatively rare sight on UK roads, but as the charging infrastructure grows, so does the number on sale on the used market. And with the increases in range that have come along with the latest battery technology, a used electric car is now a viable proposition for far more buyers than it used to be.
The BMW i3 is one of the best, with its sci-fi looks, high-quality interior and surprisingly punchy performance at all speeds. However, here it faces tough competition from the Volkswagen e-Golf.
By simply swapping a standard Volkswagen Golf’s engine for an electric motor, Volkswagen has ensured the e-Golf retains most of the standard car’s impressive practicality, but with the bonus of cheaper running costs.
But is that enough to give it the edge over its more extrovert rival? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out. Last month, we put the latest versions of both of these cars to the test – but now it’s time to find out whether our verdict still holds true for this pair as used purchases.
What are they like to drive?
Both cars have three drive modes (Normal, Eco and Eco-plus) that are increasingly restrictive on performance, limiting power, torque and top speed, as well as switching off the air-con to eke out every last mile from the batteries. They also have three levels of braking regeneration, which increases the amount of energy that's put back into the batteries whenever you lift off the accelerator.
With both fully charged, the i3 managed 85 miles in our real-world range tests; the e-Golf beat that by only two miles, despite having a notably larger battery.
Electric power means no gears and instant acceleration, which means both cars feel extremely punchy at low speeds.
However, because the i3 has an extra 54bhp and weighs 300kg less than the e-Golf, it keeps pulling hard at higher speeds, whereas acceleration in the e-Golf starts to tail off above 40mph. In fact, the i3’s 0-60mph time of 6.9sec would embarrass some hot hatches.
The i3 is more than just fast in a straight line, too. Its quick, nicely weighted steering and good body control make it feel more agile in town. However, while the e-Golf’s steering is slower, it gives you a better sense of connection with the road.
The i3 feels less sure of itself when pushed harder, because its skinny tyres cause its front end to wash wide surprisingly early. This, combined with its quick steering, makes it feels nervous and flighty. The e-Golf’s more relaxed turn-in and lower, wider stance ultimately helps it feel the more confident and means it grips harder in corners.
Ride quality is another area where the i3 is second best. It feels firm – although never uncomfortable – over broken surfaces and potholes at low speeds, and it fails to settle at motorway speeds. The e-Golf’s softer set-up can’t match that of a regular Golf, because you feel more bumps. However on most roads, and especially at high speeds, it feels more secure than the i3.
The e-Golf is also a more relaxing place to spend time, mainly because it does a better job of dealing with wind and road noise. The i3 is worse in both respects.