Good: nicely packaged, high-quality interior, useful driving range
Not so good: still more expensive than similar rivals
The decision to go electric these days remains primarily influenced by driving range. With that in mind, the latest Volkswagen e-Golf has not only received a small visual makeover, but its battery has added vital extra kilometres to its potential range.
This extended range is the result of a new battery construction that increases capacity without affecting the physical dimensions. More significant is the ability to fast charge, which can replenish up to 80 per cent of the battery's charge in as little as 45 minutes. It remains compatible with the more widely available Type 2 43- or 22kW chargers in addition to home chargers.
Even before looking into that extended range, for some prospective buyers, the Volkswagen e-Golf is already charged with appeal thanks to its entirely everyday looks. To most, it appears to be no different to the other models in the extensive Golf range. Eagle-eyed readers will spot the large C-shaped LED daytime running lights in the front bumper and a blanked-off front grille featuring a blue stripe that runs into the headlights - like the plug-in hybrid Golf GTE.
More significant in this mid-life model upgrade is the change to the battery. Volkswagen quotes 300 kilometres as the expected driving range, which is according to the NEDC test cycle. Most users over the course of time are more likely to achieve between 240- and 260 kilometres in normal driving conditions. The power delivery is smooth, and the e-Golf is capable of quick acceleration away from the traffic lights. It's not on the same level of Tesla's famed 'ludicrous mode', but it does feel spritely off the mark. The surge of acceleration eases off as the speed increases, as indicated by the claimed 9.6 seconds it takes to reach 100km/h. You're unlikely to do it all that often if maintaining driving range is your preference, but it's good to know that the e-Golf can shift when required.
At almost any speed the noise levels in the Volkswagen's well-appointed cabin are low. The combination of a quiet powertrain operation and generously side-walled 16-inch wheels results in a calm interior. Driving in traffic doesn't seem nearly as stressful when so much of the background noise is missing and there's only one pedal to push. There are technically two, but the e-Golf does make it easy to drive with just the throttle once you gauge the rate of regeneration applied by the car when your foot is not on it. As with most electric vehicles, this rate of energy recovery can be adjusted to suit battery and driving conditions.
There are a variety of driving modes that you can choose from, mostly centred on how much or how little energy you draw from the battery. For those on a journey that has fewer stop-starts along its route the e-Golf is now more adept at coasting. Even on relatively level terrain, when you come off the throttle pedal, the car carries plenty of momentum as it coasts along. You can choose to adjust the rate at which the car regenerates power, though it will also recoup some energy when braking. Whether you stick with the standard analogue instrumentation or opt for the 12-inch digital Active Info Display, you can see not only the real-time driving range, but how much energy is being used or regained.
On a more practical side, the boot capacity doesn't take much of a hit thanks to the smart packaging of the battery. You get 341 litres as is, though you do lose some of that by carrying the charging cables around. For bulkier items the overall storage capacity can be increased to 1,231 litres when the rear seats are tilted forward.
The e-Golf commands a higher price than its two main rivals, the new Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Ioniq, but on the inside, the Volkswagen goes some way to demonstrating where some of your money is going. Its 9.2-inch 'Discover Pro' infotainment system is great to use, while the build quality inside seems rock solid. That's against the background of any electric car, with its lower running noise, makes it easier to detect annoying squeaks and rattles from the cabin. A heated windscreen, hill hold assist and adaptive cruise control are other welcome standard features.
If you're in the position that you can or have access to a charger at home and/or in the workplace, the increased driving range of the Volkswagen e-Golf reduces the need to be as reliant on the public charging network. Over the course of a year, driving normally and using items like the air conditioning and a heated seat in winter, it is reasonable to expect a minimum of 200 kilometres of driving range per charge. Obviously driving ranges will go up in summer with warmer weather and down in winter as more requirement for heating and cooler temperatures take more of a bite from the battery.