28 March 2018

VW e-Golf 2018 Car Review

Cars powered by electricity are becoming more common, but the technology is still expensive, and that won’t change until a combination of factors – including more advanced battery tech and economies of scale – start to come into play.

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VW e-Golf
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VW e-Golf
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VW e-Golf
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VW e-Golf
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VW e-Golf

Not that European buyers are likely to notice the cost, given the purchase and tax incentives available there, quite apart from perks like exceptions to congestion zone parking.

But for those willing to pay a premium for new tech, plus lower emissions on NZ roads and lower running costs, the cars are now rather good. Indeed, they’re barely distinguishable from their conventionally-powered stablemates.

Which is where this VW e-Golf comes in. At first, and even second glance this is simply another Golf. Unless you’re in the know about subtle headlight and grille differences, and close enough to read the badges and spot touches of blue trim up front, it simply looks like a Golf on 16-inch alloy wheels.

But climb in, fire up, and you know you’re not driving an internal combustion engine, for this thing is so damn quiet, with barely a whine even during hard acceleration. But apart from that, and the fact you must keep a wary eye out for pedestrians wishing to cross without looking, you drive it just like any other auto Golf. The instruments look slightly different, but not much – even the battery charge indicator looks like a converted petrol gauge. Otherwise there’s the restrained design of a Golf cabin, nice materials, and a decent features list that includes items like park distance control and a rear-view camera, climate control air con, Apply CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a touchscreen to access functions that’s easy and intuitive to use.

Other than a 39-litre cut in boot space mandated by the underfloor batteries, the car is as practical as any other Golf.

As for performance, it feels fine at highway speeds, though overtaking is more relaxed than you’d expect from its slower-speed sprightliness. That’s because an electric motor is at its best from standstill, so punch off the line and at round-town speeds is vigorous. As for those who like to fiddle with a gear lever, you can do that to change the level of power regeneration you get when decelerating.

Handling and ride comfort is about as well rounded as any Golf except on rougher surfaces, where it doesn’t feel quite as comfy and composed.

What about range? A duo of AA staff took the car for an extended drive with two aboard, the air con on, and the system in ‘Normal’ mode, travelling from Auckland to Tokoroa via Mystery Creek, where it ran out after 220km.
That means you won’t drive from Wellington to Taupo, or Auckland to Rotorua, without a top-up charge. After all, you can’t exactly coast to a stop and hitch to the nearest fuel station for an extension lead, or call the AA for a canister of spark.

But buy it for most days of the year, doing the work commute, errands, the school run and a bit of evening running about, and you won’t need to worry about range – or spend so much as 10 cents at the pump.

Simply head home, and plug in. If you can access a fast charger, you can top the battery to 80% in 45 minutes. Using a household plug fills the battery in 10.5 hours.

This writer put the car to another range test, heading from Auckland’s wild west coast to Meremere for the day. Roadworks-induced stop-start traffic on SH1 meant no drain on the battery at all, in conditions that increase fuel thirst in conventional engines. The car arrived at Meremere’s Aquatrack with plenty of juice to get home, and some. But at day’s end, heavy rain required drying air con and hot air, wipers, lights, the full kit and caboodle – and that drained the battery faster than expected. By the last 8km downhill to home, the car had automatically alerted the driver and cut to Eco – reducing power, and top speed. And it had cut again to Eco Plus, with power down by over half. Range showed as 9km…
But that 8km downhill also regenerated the battery, so we rolled into the garage with 14km of range remaining, around 200km driven in demanding conditions that day, and not a drop of petrol used.

Volkswagen NZ banks on some buyers being happy to pay a premium for the tech, and liking a car that fits in with the masses: someone comfortable that most days of the year the car’s range is generously more than required, given the family’s second car can be used on holiday; a purchaser not worried that rapidly developing tech may cut residual value when the time comes to sell.

After all, everyone likes to be ahead of the coming pack, and with the e-Golf you can do that while making impressively few compromises.

At a glance


Volkswagen e-Golf


100kW electric motor



ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

100kW, 290Nm


Single speed auto

Fuel economy

220km range, 10:50hr charge time on household socket, 45-minute fast charge

Towing capacity



2WD, front wheels

Seating capacity

Not yet tested

Luggage capacity/payload

341/1231 litres seats up/down

Safety systems

Seven airbags

Drivar fatigue detection

Adaptive Cruise Control

City Emergency Brake

Lane change assist

Lane assist

Rear traffic alert

2 Isofix

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