When is a Golf not a Golf? After spending a week with the aforementioned, it would appear never. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s either something quite clinical and brilliant about the e-golf’s execution or something very simple. Despite being electric, it still looks, feels and drives exactly like any other Golf I’ve ever driven.
In the metal, if it wasn’t for the familiar front, quarter panels and rear boot lid sporting ‘e-golf’ badges, you would be none the wiser. It gets unique ‘C shaped’ LED daytime running lights on the front apron, but the alloy wheels might be the only clue that there may be something different about it. The 16 inch ‘Astana’ alloys have a slight moon buggy style and look to them. Sitting inside you are met with familiar territory once again, albeit looking on the higher spec’d side with the larger 8 inch sat nav and infotainment screen plus the DSG style gear shift in the centre console.
Turning your eyes to the instrument cluster however, and things begin to look a little different. It still displays two round dials with the speedometer on the right as normal, but the rev counter however reads very different. While it still reads revs, the needle rests dead centre pointing up. Under acceleration it moves to the right showing the revolutions of the electric motor while under braking, it dips back to the left and into a green coloured area reading ‘charge’. This is because the e-Golf is fitted with regenerative brakes ensuring every ounce of energy is conserved and not wasted. Clever stuff.
Driving it is where you might think things begin to change, as did I, but they didn’t. It all feels very… well Golf Like. Ergonomics, passenger and boot space and general practicality remain unchanged. Turn the key however, and you hear a little jingle that indicates that you are ready to move. But there is absolutely no sound. While in the driving seat, this sensation of silence is not too disconcerting but to any passengers that I carried, they struggled to come to terms with the sheer silence. Once getting over the complete lack of noise apart from that created by the wind or the road, the drive is exactly the same as you would get from any other Mark 7 petrol or diesel Golf. It steers, handles and rides very similarly too and is just as refined. While acceleration from a stand still is very quick indeed, don’t think that this power can’t be called upon at cruising speeds, because it can. This is one point where things begin to change where you need to adapt your mentality and driving style to what suits an electric car. If you drive it like a normal petrol or diesel, its 160km range at full charge can be quickly eaten away.
One smart feature of the car is its ability to coast. You can accelerate fast off the mark, simply lift your right foot and the e-Golf will happily woft along for a considerable distance. Learn to use the power in this way on motorway stints while gently feathering the throttle when required, and you can make the most of your reserves, even to the extent of seeing the range being marginally extended on your read-out. That said, ‘Range Anxiety’ is a very real thing and I did find myself constantly checking the range whether I was on a 2km journey to the shops or a 40km up and down parts of the M50. Living with an electric car for just one week was not really long enough to get my head around this issue, but something I have no doubt that ownership would change. One of the biggest advantages to owning an e-Golf is that a full charge from empty to full overnight at home on a standard charge only costs an average of €2. That is 190km of motoring for next to nothing and that cannot be ignored.
While the initial purchase of an e-Golf may carry a premium, running one certainly does not and with annual road tax at just €120 per annum and a cost of €10 per 1000km (or 1c per km) of commuting, it’s hard to argue. Would I be ready to make the change from combustion to electric power after my week? Honestly, not just yet. While the technology is exceptional to say the least, the whole concept of owning an electric car depends on individual lifestyles and requirements. It’s not a concept that is for everyone and certainly not for me at this point. Hybrid technology on the other hand is totally different, incredibly economical and on a day to day level, probably more practical too. If you are considering a e-Golf, perhaps hang on a little bit and consider the Golf GTE hybrid. This brings with it fuel economy of just 1.6l/100km with C02 emissions of just 39g/km and boasts 204PS.
The e-Golf comes in one single specification with an OTR price of €33,410. The Golf GTE is also available to order now from €38,495 boasting a specification on par with a Golf GTD. While it may carry a premium of €5000, it brings with it, better economy levels than a Golf Bluemotion with all of the performance of a Golf GTI.