Late in 2014, the Volkswagen e-Golf hatchback entered the electric car fray, likely in response to the stricter emissions regulations that apply in some U.S. states. Going electric represents a big step for Volkswagen, as the company's first EV in the U.S.
The e-Golf demonstrates that the seventh-generation Golf serves as a strong foundation for an electric car, retaining all of its practicality and quality, without making sacrifices like some other EVs adapted from gas-engine hatchbacks.
What's New for 2016
A new, value-priced SE version joins the e-Golf lineup, featuring a 6.5-inch touchscreen to control the updated MIB II infotainment system, which includes USB and VW Car-Net App-Connect. A 3.6 kW onboard charger is standard on the SE, while a new DC quick-charging package adds a more robust 7.2 kW unit for faster charging. An updated Driver Assistance Package, including forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, and parking assist is available for the SEL Premium model. Park assist can identify a parallel or perpendicular parking space and autonomously (automatically) steer the car into it.
Choosing Your Volkswagen e-Golf
The e-Golf now comes only in two trim levels, SE and SEL Premium, starting at $28,995 (plus destination charge). The SEL Premium goes for $35,995. That latter figure is roughly equivalent to the highest trim level on the gas-engine and diesel (TDI) Golf models.
These MSRPs don't include government incentives for which buyers may qualify, including a $7,500 federal tax credit. The electric motor produces 115 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque, and the SEL Premium driver can select from three driving modes: Normal, Eco, and Eco+. Volkswagen claims a range of up to 83 miles on a full charge.
The e-Golf is currently available only from select VW dealers in 10 states, including California and New York, and in Washington, D.C.
The addition of a lower-priced model makes the e-Golf more tempting. Still, the big question to be asked about an e-Golf, or any electric car, is whether a battery-powered vehicle works for you. Unless you have a convenient 240-volt outlet to plug it in nightly, the answer has to be no. You also have to be comfortable with the expected range: in this case, not over 83 miles if starting with a fully-charged battery pack. On the plus side, with no loss of cargo space and a lot of features for the money, the e-Golf presents few compromises.
In the growing yet niche segment of electric vehicles, the Volkswagen e-Golf offers a modest range in a practical compact hatchback package with the proper mainstream looks and interior quality taken directly from its gas-powered sibling.
Pricing and Equipment
The 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf is available in two trims, the base SE trim starting at $28,995 and the nicely-equipped SEL Premium starting at $35,595. The desirable SEL Premium trim loads the e-Golf with an added 7.2kW charger with DC fast-charging capability, which comes as an added cost option on the SE trim and enables an 80 percent charge in just 30 minutes. Other highlighted features as part of the e-Golf SE and SEL Premium trim include:
Heated front seats
Electronically heated windshield
Bluetooth phone and audio streaming connectivity
Rearview backup camera
Power front seats
16-inch alloy wheels with low rolling resistance tires
Full LED headlights (SEL Premium)
8-inch Discover Pro touchscreen infotainment system with navigation (SEL Premium)
Onboard 7.2kW charger - enables full charge in 4 hours via a 240-volt outlet. (SEL Premium)
The top-trimmed Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium equipment list doesn’t depart far from the base SE trim. Most of the pricing difference comes from the added onboard 7.2kW charger that permits a shorter 4 hour charge versus the standard 3.6kW onboard charger, which otherwise takes nearly 20 hours for a full charge using an 110-volt outlet. Additionally, the e-Golf SEL Premium trim adds full LED headlights and an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation.
All Volkswagen e-Golf trims incorporate an 83-mile range and combined 116 MPGe rating. Power is generated from its 24.2-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack to power an 85-kilowatt motor driving the front wheels with 115 horsepower and an instantaneous 199 pound-feet of torque. Zero-to-60 mph time is about 9.5 seconds, an average result for a compact sized electric vehicle.
Effortless acceleration and quick throttle response from a dead stop thanks to the electric motor's instant torque.
Nearly identical stability and handling attributes from its well-praised gas-powered Golf sibling.
Fast full charge time (4 hours) from onboard 7.2kW charger via a 240-volt wall charger/outlet, in addition to an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes via DC quick-charging on e-Golf SEL Premium trim.
The base e-Golf SE's standard 3.6kW onboard charger takes about 20 hours for a full charge via an 110v outlet.
83-mile total range estimate is over 20% shorter than the 2016 Nissan Leaf's range.
The 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf features many of the same soft touch materials and intuitive control layouts from its gas-powered Golf counterpart.
Front seating has ample support and proves to be comfortable on long fully-charged hauls.
Rear seats fold completely flat, opening up total cargo space to a class-leading 52.7 cubic feet.
Rear seating cushion bottoms are mounted very low.
The e-Golf SEL Premium trim's navigation system is slow to respond to various inputs and on-screen gestures.
The base e-Golf SE trim's standard 5.8-inch touch screen is on the small side compared to other systems.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
Four levels of selectable deceleration from the regenerative braking system offer the driver several options. Fundamentally, these levels allow you to extend the range through different rates of regeneration during braking or lift-throttle deceleration. The most aggressive setting will permit a high level of deceleration upon throttle lift-off while recharging the battery at the highest rate possible to extend the range.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
The limited availability of the 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf, which is only currently available in 11 states: California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
The Bottom Line
The 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf builds upon the already-proven and well-perceived formula of its gas-powered sibling and births a fully-electric vehicle with most of the same welcomed practicality, performance, and economical attributes. Apart from the limited range of 83 miles on a full charge, the e-Golf is a good alternative to burning gasoline -- the only stipulation being the ubiquitous range anxiety for some.
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