Still the Most Affordable Fun
It seems like a simple equation. Take a solid, popular, respected hatchback. Add in a state-of-the-art electric powertrain. Improve often. The best example I can think of that fits this equation is the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf.
We’ve been in this model before and have very little negative to say about it. We’ve loved the Golf through it’s multiple generations and the electric version is icing on the cake. It loses none of the great handling of the gas or diesel models (maybe even gains a little from the battery weight).
In our view the e-Golf is one of the best EVs out there. Competition from new models has made me modify my previous “best” to “one of the best.” But that’s because of the advances of new models from Chevy and Tesla, not through any deterioration from the VW.
In fact, I could make an argument for a new title for the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf—most improved EV. Only three years after its introduction, VW has upgraded the battery pack in this compact sedan and booted its range beyond the magic 100 miles. I’ll be the first to admit these arbitrary milestones don’t really mean anything in the real world, but I’ll almost be first in line to admit the 2017 e-Golf just feels better than its previous version.
Those extra miles change the equation on so many trips, it changes the viability of the car and its appeal. Like the similar upgrade by Nissan with its 2018 Leaf, this is a gamechanger. Not as big of a gamechanger as the Chevy Bolt or Tesla Model 3 with their 230-mile-plus ranges, but still significant.
Cars are still about how we use them and more range means more useability. This takes the e-Golf, already a great EV choice, into new territory.
The Good Stuff
The Golf is a wonderful platform to start with. Crisp handling and a great road feel is the starting point. Feedback from the steering wheel is immediate and the car tracks true. For a small car, it’s quiet (and even quieter due to the electric drivetrain). This is a car that seems to know where it’s going and is eager to get there.
The eight-inch touchscreen is a great size and contains a wealth of information about the car and the technology included. On some screens, it becomes a great training ground to teach you how to become a better EV driver.
I made a point about how the longer range (EPA rated at 125 miles, a number I saw on several recharges). Here are the caveats, which will be familiar to most EV drivers. Drive fast, drive in extreme cold or extreme heat, push acceleration, take on big hills—all result in diminished range. Of course, with the e-Golf’s strong regen capabilities, coasting, driving down hill and gentle braking puts energy back into the battery. When the disclaimer says “your mileage may vary,” that’s pretty much the subtitle of every electric car on the road. Drivers deal with it, but it does come back to a fundamental lifestyle change. Every time you get in an EV, you have to calculate how much range you have left on your battery, where you’re going and auxiliary factors like the weather and traffic patterns.
The good news is the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf pushes these considerations to a lower level. More of your life will more easily fit the EV lifestyle. We won’t even delve into the 119 MPGe (mles per gallon equivalent) rating of the e-Golf since that number means a whole lot less than the range. (If you’re keeping score, the e-Golf comes in at 126 MPGe city/111 highway/119 combined.
The e-Golf Choices
Like most cars on the market, the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf comes in several flavors. The entry-level model is the SE, which starts at $30,495. Next step up is the Limited Edition at $33,795. The top-of-the-line is the SEL Premium, which we tested, at $36,995.
Even at the top level, options were available, including a $1,395 technology package that included forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking w/pedestrian monitoring, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor w/rear traffic alert, high beam control (light assist), parking steering assistant and the VW digital cockpit. All good stuff that, along with the destination charge of $850, brought the bottom line on our tester to $39,240.
Clean Fleet Report recommends leasing all plug-in vehicles because of the rapid advance of these vehicles (as demonstrated by the quick refresh of the e-Golf), so taking advantage of lease deals (latest one we saw was $159/month for 36 months with $2.349 down). A lease gives you the opportunity to do a reality check after two or three years. Imagine buying an e-Golf with an extended payment plan a year or two years ago and then seeing this new higher-range model coming out now.
The Basic Package
The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf comes with a good package of standard equipment. It’s 100 kW electric motor delivers 134 horsepower and an all-important 214 pounds-feet of torque to get you off the line. It’s capable of taking you from 0-60 in less than nine seconds.
VW’s battery packaging keeps the 35.8-kWh pack out of site and not taking up any of the hatchback’s great storage space (52.7 cubic feet with the back seats folded down). The boost in the battery size was a big part of the range boost for this year’s e-Golf.
The 7.2 kWh on-board charger allows fast charging (an option on the base model, but standard on the upper trim levels). Even with a level 2 charger, you could bring the e-Golf up to full charge in about four hours.
The Bottom Line
The EV choices out there are increasing and starting to feel more like traditional cars. If you want maximum range and good utility in a mildly styled package, there’s the Chevy Bolt. If you want the range and some cachet, there’s the Tesla Model 3. Bargain basement fun is the Fiat 500e. Luxury cred comes with the BMW i3, Mercedes-Benz B-Class or either of the two big Teslas. Modest sedan competence is the Ford Focus Electric, Honda Clarity Electric, Hyundai Eoniq EV or Nissan Leaf. Then there’s the quirkiness of the Kia Soul EV or Smart ED.
In this crowd I see the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf as one that cuts its own path—a fun-to-drive, affordable, reasonable-range compact EV. I could think of no more higher recommendation. While we’d love to say wait for the upcoming Volkswagen I.D., that’s far enough down the road that a three-year lease of an e-Golf will be long over before you’re tempted to move on to the new generation.
Flash Drive: Clean Fleet Report “Flash Drives” are concise reviews of vehicles that include the major points and are easy and quick to read. A “Flash Drive” is often followed later by a comprehensive test drive review.
Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf (John’s view)
Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf (Steve’s view)
First Drive: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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