Volkswagen E-Golf

Styling

The all-electric version of the Volkswagen Golf is one of a growing field of small battery-powered cars. Here’s how it stands out: by its smart mainstream style that doesn’t scream out for attention as a space-age vehicle. The Golf is an ultra-popular platform that combines comfort, practicality, refinement and tasteful Teutonic lines—inside and out. This is the EV for drivers who like classic German automotive styling.

The 2017 model sports a new design treatment, with the rear bumper adding a sleek chrome accent—an element that mimics what you would see in a car with exhaust tips. “Some people call it a fauxhaust or faux exhaust,” said Megan Garbis, product manager of the entire Volkswagen Golf product line. That’s a subtle design feature. You’re more likely to notice the model’s C-shaped daytime running lights, which are a signature trait for the E-Golf. The dashboard is refined and reserved rather than high-tech. And the gauges are conventional.

The color selection includes white-silver, gray, blue and a new green.

Performance

The E-Golf is arguably the best handling electric car on sale for less than $40,000. It particularly shines in zero-to-30-mph sprints, especially in city maneuvers and at slightly higher speeds around tight corners. The combination of 199 pound-feet of torque, taut handling, and tight suspension is a winning formula.

Volkswagen E-Golf

The electric motor on the 2017 e-Golf has been upgraded as well. Where the 2016 e-Golf utilized an 85 kW electric motor developing 115 horsepower, the new 100 kW electric motor develops 134 horsepower. At the same time, the maximum torque of the electric motor has been boosted from 199 pound-feet to 214 lb-ft. The 2017 e-Golf runs zero to 60 mph faster than its predecessor—now in just 9.6 seconds—and its top speed increases to 85 mph.

Like the outgoing model, the 2017 E-Golf allows drivers to use a set of driving modes and levels of regenerative braking. Slap the gear shifter to the left—once, twice or three times—to progressively increase the amount of regenerative braking applied, ranging from a no-regeneration (or “coast”) mode to heavy braking. You can also slap the shifter down as a shortcut directly into B mode, the highest level of what the dashboard screen calls “recuperation.”

Don’t expect a total one-pedal driving experience. Even in B mode, you’ll need quite a bit of runway ahead to allow the E-Golf to slow down before coming to a complete stop. Even then, the car will still slightly “creep” forward when the driver has both feet off the pedals.

There are three levels of performance: Normal, Eco and Eco-plus—providing increasing levels of energy frugality. If you want to push the limits of range, you could put the car into Eco-plus and B mode. But given the lack of clear distinction between each level of regen, we suspect most drivers will leave the car in Normal and only reserve B mode for long downhill stretches or when the battery is getting low. Alternatively, EV geeks might keep the car in Normal (to reserve a modicum of fun) and in B—for an approximation of one-pedal driving.

One cool feature is a kick-down, which is also employed in the Mercedes B-Class Electric. When you need a quick burst of power—for highway passing, an evasive maneuver or a cheap thrill—put your foot on the accelerator all the way down to the floor to release an extra dose of electrons for a few seconds of boost.

Efficiency/Range

Increased battery capacity gives 2017 E-Golf an EPA-estimated range of 125 miles—a 50 percent increase over the previous model year.

For city driving, the EPA estimated fuel economy is 126 MPGe; highway driving is rated at 111 MPGe; and combined city/ highway at 119 MPGe, improved over the 2016 EPA estimates of 126, 105 and 116, respectively.

Charging

The E-Golf's 7.2 kW onboard charger is now standard on all trims, which enables the battery to be charged in less than six hours at a 240V charging station. When equipped with DC Fast Charging (optional on SE, standard on Limited Edition and SEL Premium), the battery can be charged up to 80 percent within an hour at a DC fast charging station.

We wish VW had put a small light in the charging area, to make it easier to plug in at night. Similarly, the small green pulsating indicator light—showing that the car is successfully taking juice—is perhaps too understated. It’s nice to get a quick visual signal regarding the state-of-charge, which is provided in various ways by other EVs, but not the E-Golf.

VW is using the so-called “Combined Charging System” or combo-cord favored by German and American automakers—as opposed to the CHAdeMO fast charging port utilized by Japanese vehicles. The network of combo-compatible Quick Chargers is not nearly as wide as CHAdeMO, but this is expected to level over time (as many Quick Charger providers begin to offer two plugs). It’s rare for EV drivers to depend on Quick Charging except in a pinch.

Passenger/Cargo Room

The conventional VW Golf earns kudos for its upscale interior for a non-luxury compact car. The seats are comfy, with the level of support usually reserved for more expensive models. Dashboard gauges and controls are clear and accessible.

Tall drivers will enjoy the ability to slide the front seats way back—giving more front legroom than most other small cars (even if it compromises space for passengers behind the driver).

In terms of cargo, the baggage area in the gas- or diesel-powered Golf does lose about 10 percent of its capacity to make room for EV batteries.

Volkswagen E-Golf

Price

The value-oriented e-Golf SE ($30,495) trim now offers more standard equipment, including an 8-inch glass- covered touchscreen display, LED taillights, cruise control, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, and the 7.2 kW onboard charger. A DC Fast Charging package is available for $995.

The e-Golf Limited Edition ($33,795) includes the myriad standard features of the SE trim, and adds DC Fast Charging capability, V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces, and Park Distance Control (ParkPilot), with a new feature called Maneuver Braking (arriving late in the model year), which can help driver avoid or mitigate the effects of a collision with stationary objects while parking.

The e-Golf SEL Premium ($36,995) offers an optional Driver Assistance package ($1,395), including the 12.3- inch Volkswagen Digital Cockpit instrument cluster, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Emergency Braking and PedestrianMonitoring (FrontAssist),LaneAssist, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert, Park Assist and Light Assist. (Late availability for the Driver Assistance Package).

These figures do not take a $7,500 federal tax credit, or a $2,500 rebate offered in California, into consideration.

Comparisons of Similar Cars

The E-Golf is bigger and more robust than the suite of subcompact EVs from Fiat, Chevy, Smart, and Mitsubishi. The VW electric car, while cheaper than EVs from BMW, Mercedes, and Tesla, does not fully compete in terms of luxury features, design, and innovative technology. That puts the VW E-Golf in the group of all-electric five-seat compacts that includes the Chevy Bolt, Nissan LEAF and Ford Focus Electric.

Compared to LEAF and Focus EV, the E-Golf feels more solid. When windows and doors shut, they do so with confidence—sealing passengers into a comfortable well-built cabin with quality materials, and shutting off road noise. Operation of knobs and controls is direct and intuitive. The quality of the package is a step or two above what’s offered by Chevy, Nissan, and Ford with its electric cars.

The remaining distinguishing factor is the level of commitment from the different automakers. Nissan is all-in, with domestic LEAF production and availability in all 50 states. Ford and GM appear to be on the fence in terms of pure electrics. And Volkswagen, while claiming that it wants the industry’s leadership position in terms of electrifying the automobile, has not yet backed that goal with big production and wide distribution of battery-powered plug-in cars.

Volkswagen E-Golf

Purchase Process

Sales of the VW E-Golf is limited to the 10 so-called zero-emissions states: California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. Prepare to wait longer if you’re interested in an E-Golf with a full suite of the latest driver-assistance features. That’s targeted for release in late 2017.

Volkswagen E-Golf specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $30500
Est. tax credit: $7500
Technology: Electric Vehicle
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 125 miles pure electric
Battery size: 36 kWh
Charging rate: 7.2 kW

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.