Volkswagen's facelifted the Golf range, and with it comes a new electric e-Golf. AOL cars got behind the wheel of the eco-friendly choice in Volkswagen's range to see if it makes sense over a petrol or diesel model.
What is it?
Though it looks just like a regular Golf, this is the electric-only version of Volkswagen's popular hatchback. It's aimed at the kind of driver who'd like an electric car, but doesn't want to shout about it – the e-Golf flies under the radar. It also offers the same benefits as any other Volkswagen – namely, a premium brand image and quality feel.
See also: Nissan Leaf first drive
The headline feature on this facelifted model is a much improved range, courtesy of a larger 35.8kWh battery capacity. This gives the e-Golf an official range of 186 miles, making it much more usable as an everyday car.
There's also mildly revised styling, though you'd be hard-pressed to notice it, and improved connectivity features.
What's under the bonnet?
Power comes from an electric motor, which gets its energy from a 35.8kWh battery pack. Volkswagen says a realistic range figure is around 124 miles – which should be plenty for most commutes, although heading out onto the motorway will see that figure drop dramatically.
Performance figures are equally respectable, with a power output of 134bhp – plus the instant and ample torque you get courtesy of the electric powertrain. In real-world driving you'll have no trouble keeping up with traffic.
What's it like to drive?
Electric power suits the Golf – perhaps more than petrol or diesel does. With the silent drivetrain, refined interior and relaxing ambiance, it's a truly serene place to be. It's also effortless to drive in town, with the punchy electric motor making crawling through traffic a breeze.
It's not quite as good out on country roads. Low-grip eco tyres don't inspire confidence in the corners, and the added weight of the battery pack can be felt. Keep the e-Golf in town and you'll be one of the most relaxed motorists in traffic.
How does it look?
The e-Golf looks almost exactly like any Golf. Unlike cars like the Nissan Leaf or Toyota Prius, there's nothing here to shout about your eco-credentials.
Only updated C-shaped daytime running lights, some blue trim, and subtly reprofiled bumpers mark this out as the e-Golf. Otherwise, it's the same blend of familiar lines and neat styling you'll find with any Volkswagen.
What's it like inside?
It's very Volkswagen inside – no bad thing by any accounts. The German manufacturer has built itself a reputation for building high-quality interiors stuffed to the gunnels with soft-touch plastics. It's undeniably a little dull inside, though.
It's reasonably spacious, though, with a big, square boot and plenty of space in the back.
What's the spec like?
Electric cars remain a relatively new technology, and as such they're quite pricey. Manufacturers usually make this cost slightly more palatable by adding lots of equipment as standard – and the e-Golf is no exception. A 9.2-inch touchscreen is standard, and offers built-in navigation, gesture control and a suite of driver assistance systems.
At £27,690 even after the government's plug-in car grant, the e-Golf is a hard sell against a similarly-priced Golf GTI. That's somewhat won back by the savings on running costs – with free road tax and minimal fuel costs.
Whether the e-Golf is a practical choice for everyday use will depend entirely on how your lifestyle accommodates it. With a 124-mile 'real-world' range, it should easily accommodate most commutes – but if you don't have anywhere to charge it, it's impossible to recommend.
Where the e-Golf really shines is in its discretion – it blends into the crowd and offers the kind of solid build quality that's often missing in the EV market. It's just an electric Golf – and that's a big compliment.