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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

The powertrain is quiet even by the extra-quiet standards of the modern EV. Most battery cars have a gentle, high-pitched turbine whistle-cum-whine, which is detectable mostly at low speeds before road roar and wind noise drown it out.

But the e-Golf’s motor and high-voltage power inverter barely register any noise at all. Flex the accelerator a long way and the crunch and chirp of rubber slipping momentarily against asphalt as the car takes off from standing is the only audible sign of expended effort.

The e-Golf's off-pedal momentum is often preferable to its energy recapture modes

But this is also a powertrain with a bit of low-end muscle, which gives the car not only the sense of classy refinement that you hope for from a VW but also competitive performance and a strong impression of flexibility. The e-Golf proved 0.4sec quicker to 60mph than the Leaf that we road tested three years ago and, more tellingly, 0.3sec faster to 30mph than a current 148bhp Volkswagen Golf diesel.

That neatly sums up how the car feels around town: very responsive and quite vigorous up to typical ring road speeds. An BMW i3 has it licked on darting-into-gap potential, but every other ultra-low-emissions option could be quite easily shrugged off everywhere except on the motorway, where the e-Golf’s single-speed gearing means that overtaking performance is less effortless.

Of more relevance is the sophisticated control of energy regeneration that the e-Golf’s powertrain gives you. A Nissan Leaf has a fixed, speed-dependent ‘regeneration’ regime that can make it hard to predict exactly how quickly it’s going to slow when you lift off the accelerator. An BMW i3 gives you either quite a lot, or even more, depending on your selected driving mode.

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The e-Golf lets you choose between plenty of regeneration or none at all by shuffling the gear selector left and right, or slotting it backwards into ‘B’ mode. And the more familiar you get with doing that, the higher your displayed miles-per-kWh energy efficiency average rises.

Tailoring the energy regen settings like this adds a bit of involvement to the driving experience and also allowed it to beat the overall efficiency of the i3.