Pedro Arrais review: VW e-Golf has same good looks, new technology

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Would it come as a surprise if I told you that this is the third year Volkswagen has been selling the e-Golf in Canada? Did you just take a look at the picture again with a puzzled look?

Yes, the “e” in front of the e-Golf name signifies that this is an all-electric version of the popular compact Golf.

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Volkswagen has been quietly selling the e-Golf in Canada since the 2017 model year (it has been available in the U.S. since 2014). Why quietly? Your guess is as good as mine.

Unlike some of its competition, Volkswagen chose not to put their first battery-electric vehicle in a distinctive body, or give it a different name.

Instead they chose to fly under the radar and use the same body (the wheels and lights are unique) as the rest of the Golf line.

The e-Golf is only available as a four-door hatchback and in only one trim level — Comfortline, with a starting price of $36,720. Of course, B.C. has a rebate of $5,000 that you can subtract off that price, before taxes.

I drove an e-Golf with a $2,375 technology package.

As you can tell, the e-Golf looks pretty plain to start. To spice it up a bit, Volkswagen allows you to order your car in 48 (yes, 48) different colours from mild to very, very wild. Mind you, choosing mild doesn’t hurt your pocketbook. Going wild, on the other hand, can set you back $2,995.

But if you always wanted to stand out from the crowd in a parking lot, click on Magma Orange, Cliff Green, Traffic Purple or Ginster Yellow. Interestingly, VW will not let you choose certain colours — such as Curry Yellow — if you plan to lease the vehicle.

Step inside and you won’t be able to differentiate between the e-Golf and its more ordinary cousins. The only change is a battery charge monitor in the place of the gas gauge.

That’s not a bad thing, as the Golf interior has always been known for its clean and businesslike design, with good attention to detail and above-par fit and finish.

The e-Golf comes with an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen that is bright, easy to use and includes satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. My tester had that optional $2,375 technology package, which upgraded the vehicle to a 9.2-inch screen and added a navigation system, among other things.

Rear passengers might notice a slight hump in the middle of the rear floor, but nothing else out of the ordinary. The addition of a 35.8 kWh lithium-ion battery hasn’t even intruded into the luggage area, accessed by a hatch or 60/40 split fold down rear seat-backs.

The real changes are under the hood. The internal combustion engine has been replaced with an electric motor that can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.6 seconds (VW figures), thanks to 134 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque.

Stomp on the accelerator (it’s not a gas pedal any more) and the little fella scoots away quickly from a stop in under 10 seconds — not blazingly fast, but entertaining if need be.

On the other hand, you can coast down to a complete stop without the use of the brake pedal, thanks to four selectable levels of regenerative braking. It feels like engine braking from a gas engine.

VW boasts its litres equivalent fuel consumption is 1.9 in the city and 2.1 on the highway, giving it a maximum range of 201 kilometres.

(Unfortunately, both the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Bolt, its major competitors, boast a better range - in the case of the latter, 182 kilometres more. Keep in mind that the Bolt is also $7,375 more expensive, so choose accordingly.)

The battery can be charged via a 120- or 240-volt charger. Use the former and you need to be tethered up to 26 hours to get a full charge from empty. Use a Level 2 charger and your wait time drops to six hours.

If you come across a 50-kWh DC fast-charging station while on the road, you can get up to 184 kilometres (80 per cent of battery capacity) of charge in an hour.

What sets the Golf apart from its rivals, and indeed the compact car segment as a whole, is its handling. Volkswagen has been developing the Golf for decades — and it shows. This is as close to an enthusiast EV as you’re going to get.

The Golf chassis feels confident, and it eats up curvy roads with abandon. Placing the 318-kilogram battery literally under your rear passengers’ feet helps lower the car’s centre of gravity, and adds another dimension to an already great platform.

With 645 litres of cargo capacity, the e-Golf lags behind the Bolt (most probably because of the latter’s taller profile).

I think that the Volkswagen e-Golf should be definitely on the list if you are looking for an EV. The problem is finding one. I tried to borrow one from the local dealer for months. The problem was that every car that came in would be already spoken for. I was finally able to drive one during an automotive event in Ontario — almost a year after it was introduced.

One last point. The e-Golf differs from other Golfs and the competition by offering a four-year/80,000 km new vehicle warranty — a full year longer. The battery carries an eight year/160,000 warranty.

Volkswagen’s first attempt at an electric car is a success story, but few know of it and there is little advertising. Now, if only they can find a way to cram a few more cells into the battery to increase its range.…

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Compact Battery Electric Vehicle. Four-door hatchback, front engine, front-wheel-drive

Engine: 100 kW electric motor, 134 hp and 214 lb.-ft. of torque

Transmission: One speed

Battery: 35.8 kWh lithium-ion battery

Range: 201 km

Charging: 120V; 240V and DC fast charger compatible

Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,270; width, 1,799; height, 1,452; wheelbase, 2,629

Curb weight (kg): 1,567

Price (base/as tested): $36,720/ $41,215 (includes $1,645 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: Leatherette seats $375, technology package $2,375

Tires: 205/55 R16 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Electricity

Fuel economy (L/100km): 1.9 in the city and 2.1 on the highway

Warranty: Four-years/ 80,000 km new vehicle warranty and roadside assistance, five years/100,000 km powertrain eight years/ 160,000 battery

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