Volkswagen e-Golf: it's the same, but different
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The styling of most electric vehicles deliberately sets them apart from the mainstream, but Volkswagen takes a different approach with the new e-Golf hatchback.
Only true EV enthusiasts and motoring anoraks will distinguish the all-electric model from the conventional fossil-fuelled Golf hatchbacks.
Given that the Golf is one of the world's best-selling models, the strategy makes sense, and six years after its original launch, the e-Golf is finally available here. It has gone on sale for $61,990 plus on-road costs.
But apart from the badging and blue detailing streaks (as opposed to the Golf GTI's red streaks) the e-Golf is almost identical to other models. The electricity plug is even discretely hidden behind what is normally the fuel-filler cap on other Golfs.
A distinguishing feature is separate LED daytime running lights sweeping below the LED low and high beam headlights.
Volkswagen NZ has taken its time introducing the e-Golf and, as a result, it is offering a model loaded with the latest driver assistance, safety aids and technology, including a virtual cockpit, large full-colour touch screenwith gesture control.
However, the big benefit is the e-Golf's impressive range -- described by Volkswagen NZ as a "real world" 220km.
This means the car will travel with two people and the air conditioning on, from Auckland to Tokoroa.
However, the main advantage the e-Golf has over most of its similarly-sized EV competitors is that it is fun to drive.
Many Golf enthusiasts in this country have been waiting for years for the e-Golf to arrive, wanting a conventional looking electric hatchback, so they can discretely drive about clean and green, and sustainably, without advertising the fact.
The e-Golf may be more expensive than the competing Hyundai Ioniq models, but it offers a greater range and comes with the handling characteristics that have propelled the Golf to the top of the sales charges in most parts of the world. The 30 million-plus Golfs sold worldwide make it among the world's three top-selling models. The e-Golf is the best-selling EV in that bastion of EVs, Norway.
In this country, you can forget about the type of direct cash incentives or scrappage schemes the Europeans are using to encourage the switch. But the e-Golf offers all the advantages of the latest seventh-generation Golf models, including adaptive cruise control, and the premium interior look and feel that Volkswagen has so successfully marketed since the first-generation Golf went on sale decades ago.
Inside the car there are blue accents across the cabin and on the digital cockpit in front of the driver. There is also a leather-covered multi-function steering wheel, with blue cross-stitching emphasising this premiere feel. The cloth seats are a little disappointing given the extensive range of features on the car.
The dashboard is dominated by the 9.5-inch touch screen, which can be configured to suit a driver's requirements. It accommodates audio and other functions, although navigation is through Apple Car Play and Android Auto systems, so keep your cellphone fully charged. There is scope for navigation on the e-Golf but, with so many potential buyers preferring to use these two programs, it makes sense to use the automatically updated route maps through the phone.
It takes about 10 to 13 hours to recharge the battery on the e-Golf, on a slow charge. For most users that overnight charge will provide more than sufficient range for their daily commute.
At a fast charging station, it can be charged to 80 per cent capacity in 45 minutes.
The car has a 100kW electric motor, producing 290Nm of torque, and covering 0 to 100km/h in 9.6 seconds. It has a claimed top speed of 150km/h.
Our four-day test drive showed the car is a practical EV that encourages you to drive it -- the e-Golf is more than just a shopping trolley. It has plenty of feel in the steering, and cornering is good, no doubt helped by the weight of the battery sitting on the floor of the car.
At the speed limit, the cabin is eerily quiet, with virtually the only sound being the road noise. With the windows shut tight, driving the e-Golf at speed on a smooth motorway is a little like travelling on a modern European electric super-fast train.
Volkswagen e-Golf Hatchback
Price: $61,990 PLUS ORC
Pros: Good range, comfort and handling
Con: Cloth seats