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Review: Volkswagen e-Golf

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Engine
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MSRP
$0
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OVERALL RATING 4.425 of 5.0
  • Performance
    4 of 5.0
  • Comfort
    4.2 of 5.0
  • Interior
    4.5 of 5.0
  • Exterior
    5 of 5.0
Iraj Aghakhani
0

The Volkswagen e-Golf is by far the most ordinary-feeling EV you can buy — and that's a good thing As a very general rule, there are two types of new-car buyers for technology. One group likes it so cutting-edge it’ll draw blood, and the car screams it to the world. The other prefers simple and understated — and for them, Volkswagen’s e-Golf might well be the perfect electric vehicle.

It’s so ordinary  — and I mean that in a good way — that it’s often easy to forget it’s electric. When I took it to the gas station to use the car wash, I automatically pulled to the pump, momentarily forgetting that I’d already “filled” it by plugging it in.

This model was 2017, but there are no changes for the 2018 models, save for new exterior color choices — the fanciest of which, such as Viper Green Metallic or TNT Orange, add a jaw-dropping $2,995 to the sheet. Pricing for 2018 starts at $36,355 before any options which include driver assistance packages or “leatherette” upholstery. (By comparison, the priciest gas-powered Golf starts at $29,095.) Buyers in British Columbia qualify for up to $5,000 in electric-vehicle rebates, while Quebecers knock off $8,000. For better or worse, depending on what side of the plug you’re on, Ontario no longer gives $14,000 against the e-Golf’s sticker.

The e-Golf launched in the United States in 2014, but Canada held off until the 2017 version arrived with a more powerful motor and new 35.8 kWh lithium-ion battery, which pretty much doubled the car’s range from before. The official distance is now 201 kilometers, but of course, much depends on the conditions and how you drive it. On a particularly warm day, my fully-charged car showed an optimistic 215 kilometers, but as soon as I turned on the air conditioning, that dropped to 188.

Like most electric vehicles, the e-Golf can be set to pre-warm or pre-cool its cabin while it’s still plugged in, drawing that climate-control power from the grid rather than eating into the battery’s range. Regenerative braking feeds a bit of power back in when you slow down, and you can adjust the level while you’re driving by moving the shift lever back or forth — a nice touch which lets you adjust your speed in traffic, without always having to use the brakes.

There are three driving modes: Normal, Eco and Eco-plus, all of which progressively adjust the engine’s power and the car’s maximum speed, as well as how the climate control performs. The e-Golf won’t warm or cool you when it’s in Eco-plus, allowing only ventilation and defroster settings to perform.

The steering is also just as you’d expect in a conventional Golf: Quick, accurate and well-weighted, with smooth response and confident feel. The brakes seem equally conventional, without the hard or quirky pedal feel that can sometimes result from vehicles with regenerative systems. As I mentioned, it’s all very ordinary, which is what a lot of drivers want when they’re taking on any new technology.

The e-Golf doesn’t even look all that different from its petroleum-powered sibling, other than an LED light string that wraps around the fog lights, a thin plastic panel closing off the upper grille and some blue accents between the headlights. The charging cord plugs in behind what is the fuel-filler door on a regular Golf. The rear is equally conventional, and the chrome VW logo performs double-duty as the latch to open the hatch, and as a cover that swings out automatically when you shift into reverse, revealing the standard backup camera and keeping it clean in nasty weather.

At the rear, the battery has virtually no effect on cargo space from the regular Golf, and the rear seat includes a pass-through or can be folded down 60/40 if you need even more room for stuff.

Electric vehicles are still just the tiniest slice of the market and for a variety of reasons, including charging infrastructure, price, and people who don’t want them because it’s difficult to drive across Canada in one, even if they seldom leave their neighborhoods. As with any other EV, the e-Golf isn’t for everyone — but for those who want their technology up-to-the-minute but still feeling comfortable familiar, you won’t do much better than this battery-powered VeeDub.

Author
Iraj Aghakhani

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