So went the catch line of the 1988 Volkswagen ad featuring Princess Diana lookalike Paula Hamilton throwing away her engagement ring, pearls and fur coat but keeping her Golf as she walked out of her spurned fiancée’s mews house. The VW Golf is the Apple product of automotive: well-designed, well-finished and the compact car of choice of the middle classes -but almost as classless as the original Mini.
As we move towards an increasingly electric car future, we thought it was time to see if the e-Golf was more, or at least as dependable as the other pure electric cars offered by the competition.
We charted a suitable - if not the most glamorous - test route: from Islington, North London to Coventry, via Hertfordshire: a 93 mile-route, well within the e-Golf’s advertised 186-mile range. However, being a very cold morning, the displayed range was down to 136 miles before setting off. Using the heating reduced this even further and deploying the very effective electrical windscreen heater immediately cut the distance to recharging by another 30 miles. After that shock, a glove was used to maintain visibility…
The e-Golf is really much the same inside and out as the seventh-generation five-door petrol /diesel models and, apart from a bit of space hacked from the boot to accommodate the underfloor lithium ion batteries, it offers the same practical accommodation and luggage capacity.
The driving experience is also very similar: the battery weight is low in the chassis so ultimate cornering power is somewhat compromised, but the e-Golf can be hustled through roundabouts and sharp bends with the usual Golf stability and feedback.
The car rolls very little and steers with directness, precision and agility at low and medium speeds. The ride appears at first to be as good as the ‘normal’ Golfs that you may well have driven but Volkswagen have lowered the car for better aerodynamics and this shows in a slightly lumpy ride over larger bumps and it is a bit ‘fidgety’ over broken road surfaces.
Acceleration is brisk, with the electric powertrain giving maximum power from zero revs, making it quicker to 30 mph than most petrol/diesel cars, and reaching 60 mph in a respectable 10.4 seconds. Top speed is 84 mph and 70 mph a comfortable cruising speed; 55-60 mph will give a bit more range though.
This muscular and smooth performance makes for a relaxing drive if a little eerie, as even by the extra-quiet standards of the modern EV it is whisper-quiet. So much so, that unlike some of its rivals, it does not feature other electric cars’ ‘fake engine noise’ to warn pedestrians of its coming
It takes 13 hours to recharge from a domestic socket but if you have a special optional wall box installed at home, that can be reduced to about eight hours. On the road or at a local 40kW charging point, the e-Golf can be charged to 80 per cent of full charge capacity within 30 minutes, making carefully-planned long journeys possible if a little fraught as many of these charging stations are over-subscribed. The e-Golf is equipped with sat-nav charge point destination information, but these stations are still too few and far between for carefree and unplanned long journeys.
With a base price of £32,550, (reduced to £29,740 with the PiCG vehicle government grant of £350)) the e-Golf is good value. However, adding options bumps up the price - our car with its optional reversing camera, metallic paint and heated steering wheel with paddles to adjust the level of regenerative braking, which makes it slightly more of a ‘driver’s car’, came out at over £30,000 even with the discount.
Of course, charging costs are very low and EVs are exempt from the London congestion charge and vehicle excise duty (road tax).
Golf owners will be used to healthy residual values of around 40% after four years, but residual value experts forecast that the e-Golf is unlikely to be worth more than 25% of its new retail price after the same period, as is often the case for electric cars.
As a Volkswagen Golf, the e-Golf is a quite acceptable EV but it is essentially an adapted petrol or diesel car. Its competitors, such as the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, Hyundai Kona and particularly the BMW i3, feel much more like EVs designed from the wheels up.
And this is where the BMW really scores. Its stylish, even quirky looks are the result of engineers and designers starting with a clean sheet of paper and not restrained by using a body designed for a conventional powertrain. But of course, many e-Golf buyers will want a car a that looks, well, just like a Golf...
After a rather anxious journey, watching the battery drain before our eyes while sitting in a freezing cabin to save energy, we rolled up to our destination with zero miles left in the battery, having covered just 98 miles, a little over half the car’s projected range.
The rapid charger in Coventry topped the car right back up and after a more straightforward route home we arrived with 3 miles’ range to spare, having driven the last 60 miles with no heating, to conserve energy. Electric cars are likely the future, but there is some way to go before one can actually go some way.
by Simon Duval Smith
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