What is it?
The original e-Golf was easy to like. Where several notable contemporaries seemed intent on making a statement first, and functioning as a practical everyday car second, Volkswagen built its very first production electric car right into the world’s most recognizable (and arguably best) hatchback. Any wider quibbles about usability were thus rendered null and void from outset; it was still a Golf for all to see, albeit one with a range of only about 100 miles or so.
That, naturally, was the one limitation of the electric powertrain which Volkswagen could not readily conceal (decent though it was for the segment). Unsurprisingly then, that it is the main feature that the engineers have set about fixing on this, the Mk2. They have succeeded to the tune of 186 miles – or 300km as the New European Driving Cycle prefers to measure it. Not nearly as far as internal combustion would carry you on a single tank of fossil fuel, but enough now at least for you to potentially drive for an hour or so, and still get back home again.
The greater range has been achieved by the fitment of a bigger (in capacity terms) lithium-ion battery; increasing its charge limit from 24.2kWh to 35.8kWh. The output of the electric motor mated to it has improved, too: from 113bhp to 134bhp, meaning that the Mk2 takes almost a second out of its predecessor’s 0-62mph time. As before, it’s possible to charge the Golf from a standard domestic 230v supply, although it’ll take over 13 hours to return 80 percent of charge capacity. From a charging station (the home-installed kind) it’ll take a little over 4 hours; from an all-singing, service-based Combined Charging System, 45mins.
So it’s not at Tesla Supercharger levels of convenience then – but in comparison the e-Golf majors on affordability. Volkswagen isn’t quite ready to confirm the model’s final sticker price – but expect it to be only marginally more expensive than the current £31k version. Apply the £4500 reduction you get courtesy of the government’s plug-in car grant, and no-one will be paying more than £28k for an all-electric Golf, which makes it an appropriate halfway point between an entry-level Nissan Leaf and the range-extended BMW i3.
What's it like?
It’ll be a vigilant e-Golf owner that can immediately distinguish the Mk2 from the Mk1. Like the rest of the range, the exterior alterations are limited to the lights and some very minor detailing. Inside, as with its stablemates, the infotainment system has been traded in for the latest version which means you get the glass-fronted fascia (very nice) and an exorcising of most physical shortcut buttons (not quite so nice). Elsewhere there’s an enhanced eco driving tip mode which encourages the driver to adopt a predictive driving style via the multi-function display in the instrument panel.
This, typically, you’ll ignore because – much as before – there is considerable satisfaction to be had from keeping your foot on the accelerator rather gingerly removing it in the cause of efficiency. The e-Golf’s low-key, glassy thrust feels not much more considerable than before, yet it comes in the same noiseless, drawn-out measure that feels impossibly convenient compared to drawl and mechanical drag of internal combustion.
Finally lifting ones foot confirms that fact; the car coasting along almost without discernible hindrance (unless you prefer the immediate retardation effect of the e-Golf’s alternative drive mode – but this is best left for town driving). Aside from a distant whirr under duress, this all occurs in the airless hush of the car's thoroughly well insulated cabin. In refinement terms, the car knows no peer among all-electric options. Its ride is almost as plush on kindly 16in wheels: feeling slightly more stately than its lighter stablemates and occasionally stiffer - but no less comfortable on Majorca’s generally well-paved roads.
In the island’s hills, where quicker corners accumulate, the reality of the model’s weight disadvantage is plain enough: the car running out of grip far more quickly than a conventional Golf would, and expressing its dissatisfaction through enormous tyre squeal. Nevertheless, the extra heft of the batteries is carried unmistakably low, and it doesn’t upset the hatchback’s intrinsically first-rate chassis balance. At less committed levels of effort, aided by familiarly accurate steering and instantaneous torque, the e-Golf is almost as easy to thread as any other variant.
Should I buy one?
Anecdotally, evidence of the car’s newly extended range proves less generous than the rating achieved under the famously benevolent NEDC test – although the results returned by the trip computer (97km completed; 101km range remaining) repeated almost exactly match the 125-mile range cited by the EPA and essentially mirrors VW’s own real-world estimation. By the US agency’s estimation, that puts the e-Golf marginally ahead of both the all-electric i3 and the Leaf, and about on par with a Hyundai Ioniq.
The advantage in driver satisfaction is clearer cut. The previous version was already superior to the ponderous Leaf; the latest though arguably leap frogs even the quicker, quirkier BMW, with its quietness and comfort and all round Golf-like modernity. Granted, the holes in its convenient façade remain objectively gaping compared to the virtual inexhaustibility of a diesel-engined alternative - but that hardly prevents the e-Golf from laying persuasive claim to class-leading status. Pragmatically speaking, this is probably as commonsensical and as appealing as zero emission motoring currently gets without dispatching your money to Palo Alto.
Location Majorca, Spain; On sale May; Price tba; 0-62mph 9.6sec; Top speed 93mph; Economy 12.7kWh/100km; Kerb weight 1540kg; Engine Synchonous electric motor; Installation Front, transverse, FWD; Power 134bhp; Torque 214lb ft; Gearbox single speed automatic, variable energy regeneration; Battery capacity 35.8kWh CO2/tax band 0g/km, 9%;Rivals BMW i3; Nissan Leaf