When the e-Golf first arrived on our shores back in 2014, it was considered an afterthought especially considering that it arrived during the pinnacle of Volkswagen's TDI-fueled dominance of the green car market.
But with this diesel empire toppled by scandal, and a growing field of electric vehicles entering the marketplace, the e-Golf's role in Volkswagen's arsenal has become much more important.
Can this electrified Golf stand out against the competition while still retaining the VW's winning formula?
At first glance, the exterior styling does not scream that your driving an electric car. In fact, it looks like a run of the mill Volkswagen Golf, right down to its fake exhaust inlets and hatchback proportions.
Whereas other EV offerings are all about drawing attention to their owner, the VW is all about fitting in, and that may please buyers that prefer a more subtle wrapper for their gas beating purchase. The e-Golf's exclusive touches are minimal, but blue exterior lighting, blue badging, and model exclusive 16-inch wheels make it standout from the rest of its Golf siblings.
A new front bumper and optional LED headlights also give the e-Golf a more sophisticated personality and help it stand out in night time driving.
The interior of the e-Golf also takes a conventional route, and like the exterior, the cabin shares much of its lineage with the standard Golf. A bigger 8.0 inch infotainment screen has replaced the old 6.5 inch unit, and we noticed better clarity as well as higher resolution with the new screen.
Our SEL Premium grade tester did not have the optional 12.3 inch Digital Cockpit instrument package, but the analog gauges that were present still looked great, and offered plenty of information as well. Interior materials were also high quality for the most part, but there were still some obvious cheap plastics, and we did notice occasional creaks when out and about in the e-Golf.
The biggest update however is better range and performance, with the 2017 e-Golf now boasting a driving range of 125 miles (a sizable gain from the old model's paltry 83 miles.) This is mainly due to its bigger battery which has a 35.8 kilowatt hour capacity, and it benefits from several upgrades aimed at enhancing electrical efficiency. Our tester had Volkswagen's standard wall charging system, but while Volkswagen claims that charging the e-Golf is a relatively easy process, our first attempts did not live up to this promise, with the fussy e-Golf initially refusing the advances of our wall outlet.
This forced our tester to spend a good portion of the day plugged into the outlet at my main job (a local bodyshop,) before we were able to work out the problem (a connection issue,) and get it charged at home later that evening. Like others of its breed, the e-Golf uses a rear mounted charging port, which means it needs to be backed up into charging stations to get charged. This layout also forced us to do some creative parking in the driveway to help the cord reach into our garage.
Driving the e-Golf around town also revealed another surprise, and that's how natural it is to experience. Wheras other EVs often come saddled with spongy brakes, and bland handling traits, the e-Golf is actually a fun car to drive, with quick handling and responsive braking that defies EV stereotypes.
Acceleration is also brisk with our tester making the sprint to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds, though it feels quicker than that, and we suspect Volkswagen is hiding a few tenths of a second more in its veiled hat of tricks. Ride quality was also solid, and it really shows just how much potential the MQB platform has when it comes to this arena.
For those that want to squeeze even more efficiency out of their e-Golf, the car does come with two different eco modes, but we advise sticking with normal mode since both eco modes sap eagerness and responsiveness out of the e-Golf.
Handling in our tester served as another compelling glimpse of the hidden levels of fun buried beneath its green focused mission. It may not offer the same cat like reflexes that define the GTI, but the e-Golf sure does a pretty good impression of one thanks to its respectable cornering abilities when pushed hard, especially on twisty roads and far off back roads.
Pricing for the 2017 e-Golf starts at $$30,495 for the base SE model. SEL Premium grade cars like our Atlantic Blue Metallic test car have a slightly richer $36,995 base MSRP. Our lightly optioned tester had a final base price of $37,845 thanks to its $850.00 destination fee which is on par with other EV entries. However our tester did not have the optional $1,395 safety package, which made it miss out on key features such as blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision alert.
For comparison, the Hyundai Ioniq EV we tested came equipped with blind spot monitoring and a formal sport mode for the transmission, but its poliwog dimensions do hamper its versatility and practicality to a degree.
Overall the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf is a compelling improvement over its predecessor and we look forward to seeing the model blossom and mature over the next few years. With rivals like the Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model 3 upping the bar on driving range, we look forward to see if the e-Golf's brand of versatility and conventional undertones can make it standout in the crowded EV segment.