► First drive of Mk7.5 e-Golf
► Optimum range now 186 miles
► More mainstream appeal than before
The first-generation Volkswagen e-Golf wasn’t heavily marketed in the UK and remained a niche player. Its 118-mile range (realistic range was less than 100 miles) strangled demand to the tune of just over 120 units sold in the UK.
With the Mk7.5 update for 2017, the Golf gets serious about e-power, with ‘thousands’ of PHEV Golf GTE sales planned and confidence that the e-Golf will comfortably exceed its predecessor’s modest sales.
It’s all about cell innovation and evolution, right?
Right. No one enjoys having to push their Golf home, and with the first e-Golf that was an occupational hazard.
Thankfully developments in cell technology, and specifically pushing up power density without sending costs soaring, means the new e-Golf boasts a juicy 35.8 kWh lithium-ion battery, a decent upgrade over the previous car’s 24.2 kWh unit. It’s a little heavier than the old battery, but its increased energy density, together with marginal gains elsewhere – reduced rolling resistance from Bridgestone, and detail powertrain evolution – make for a decent leap forward in power.
To follow suit, VW’s swapped out the old 113bhp e-motor for a 134bhp unit capable of punting the hatchback to 50mph in 6.9sec and 62mph in 9.6sec, nearly a second quicker than the previous e-Golf (10.4sec).
The battery’s an H-shaped creation wedged up under the front and rear seats and running forward into what would be the engine bay, where you’ll find the e-motor.
Familiar EV controls let you adjust the level of regenerative braking off the throttle, from low as standard to a level that allows for BMW i3-style single-pedal driving.
Three drive modes are offered but the differences are marginal unless you choose Eco+, which gets you home but at the expense of any meaningful performance or air-conditioning.
Will it slide into my life as effortlessly as a petrol or diesel Golf?
Depends on how you use your car, and how easily you can incorporate charging into your motoring, but this e-Golf at least stands a chance – only short-range, urban commuters could brave its predecessor.
The increased range makes longer commutes and spontaneous journeys a possibility. UK buyers might also consider the optional heat pump, which reduces the energy consumption of the heater unit by harnessing heat generated by the powertrain components – VW claims a 30% range improvement in winter conditions.
To further help make the most of each charge, the e-Golf flashes up an icon to tell you when to back off and avoid needless acceleration and power draw – a nice touch but it’s common sense stuff really.
Broadly speaking the remaining-range display drops with actual ground covered, though 53 miles of sometimes spirited driving used 74 miles of indicated range.
Like the GTE, the Mk7.5 e-Golf can also be managed through the Car-Net e-Remote app, which aims to deliver some of the useful functionality of Tesla’s phone app, including accessing information on remaining range, activating remote charging and firing up the air-con ahead of a journey.
Charging times are of course dependent on the grunt of the charger. On a three-pin plug at home you’ll achieve an 80% charge from empty overnight (13 hours). Find a 40kW fast-charger and that drops to 45 minutes. The half-way house option is a wall-mounted charger from VW’s charger partner Pod Point – £400 for a 3.7kW charger and a 0-80% charge in just over four hours.
And inside? Bold early-adopter or just a Golf?
Very much the latter, with VW positioning the e-Golf as a non-threatening EV and a premium Golf in the same vein as the R, GTI and GTE.
You get a nicely built, classy cockpit with perfect ergonomics and that headline-grabbing Discover Pro infotainment as standard (the only Golf to do so), with its beautifully crisp, responsive and glossy 9.2-inch touchscreen, complete with gesture- and voice-control functionality. Active Info Display, VW’s take on Virtual Cockpit digital driving instruments, is a £495 option and further adds to e-Golf’s sense of sophisticated refinement.
The battery robs a little boot space but only from the compartment beneath the boot floor, which most owners don’t use, and the passenger compartment goes uncorrupted.
Does a shred of driving joy live here?
Definitely. There’s joy to be derived merely from the beautifully finished cockpit, the oily brilliance of the damping and the way the car pivots with the surprisingly clean, responsive steering.
Acceleration, from low speeds at least, is brisk, with overtaking an option should you need to, and this performance, together with the half-decent range, adds up to an EV more likely to generate a sense of smug serenity than the anxiety that can stem from more traditional EVs’ paucity of speed, range or interior quality.
You sense the e-Golf’s slightly increased weight, but so sweetly is it distributed, and so nicely resolved is the chassis as a whole, that there’s none of the disconcerting wallow and waywardness often associated with battery-stuffed EVs. The e-Golf may lack an engine, but to drive it’s very much still a Golf.
The eerie quiet you expect of an EV – the decent real-world performance, cohesive dynamics and compelling fundamental togetherness you perhaps don’t. There’s no wide-eyed, Tesla-spec performance here, but there is a compelling, very classily-executed everyday car.
Like-for-like, of course, the e-Golf doesn’t stack up with conventionally powered Golfs. With the grant, its list price puts it up against a nicely equipped 2.0 TDI that can go faster, for longer – nearly 700 miles in theory – and be ready to go again, with a full tank, in a couple of minutes.
A ‘normal’ Golf also weighs a little less and has a marginally bigger boot. But none of this will be news to anyone. The point is that EVs have an appeal all their own, one that tugs both at the head – with the promise of low running costs and zero emissions – and at the heart, with a serene, noise- and vibration-free driving experience that perfectly suits commuting.
If you’re on the cusp of going EV, the e-Golf might well be the car to convert you.