VW Golf goes electric, boasting a quiet drive, an impressive 190km range and excellent acceleration
Game for an electric Golf? The VW e-Golf comes with three driving modes and five levels of regenerative braking. -- PHOTO: VOLKSWAGEN

After scooping up various Car of the Year awards around the globe, including in Singapore, the VW Golf has gone down the electric vehicle route and is now available as the e-Golf variant.

Whereas carmakers such as BMW and Nissan started from scratch with their electric hatchbacks (the i3 and Leaf respectively), Volkswagen has chosen the path of familiarity by incorporating an electric motor into the versatile platform of the current Golf model.

You would expect, therefore, that the resultant e-Golf drives like a regular Golf powered by good ol' fossil fuel, but there are subtle differences.

First off is the noise, or more accurately, the lack of it. The Golf is already a very refined car, thanks to its excellent sound-proofing, and when this refinement is coupled with the eerie interior silence of an electric car on the move, regardless of how quickly it is going, it never fails to fascinate.

If you have passengers and have trouble starting a conversation, turning on the radio might be a good idea, lest all you hear is everyone's breathing.

Another characteristic of electric cars is how quickly they accelerate and the e-Golf displays the same behaviour. With a power output of 85 kilowatts (equivalent to 115bhp), the e-Golf is 25bhp lower and also about 200kg heavier than the petrol 1.4-litre TSI Golf Sport. But because the e-Golf's torque figure is higher (270Nm compared with 250Nm) and readily available from a virtual standstill, it is almost GTI-like off the line.

Volkswagen claims a 0-60kmh timing of 4.2 seconds and 0-100kmh timing of 10.4 seconds, but the e-Golf feels far more eager from behind the wheel because of how its electric motive power is delivered.

Pair this with the quietness of the cabin and I get an idea of how hyperdrive must be like on the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars fame. Well, sort of.

This Golf is also a little more nimble than its non-electric siblings, seeing how its 318kg battery pack is located right smack below the floorboard, in between the front and rear axles.

Range is vital with electric cars and the e-Golf can travel up to 190km before it runs out of juice. In the real world, such as on urban roads in Berlin, expect that figure to drop slightly, unless you do not mind driving with the air-conditioner turned off, which would help achieve that theoretical 190km range.

Compare that with the 140km range of the Nissan Leaf and the 160km range of the BMW i3 (model without range-extender option), and the e-Golf scores favourably.

It also comes with three driving modes which enable drivers to get the most out of every battery charge. In Normal mode, you get maximum power and torque at your disposal, plus a 140kmh top speed. Eco mode cuts the figures to 70kw (94bhp) and 220Nm, and caps the top speed at 115kmh. For those moments when you are running on empty, there is an Eco+ mode that reduces the power to 74bhp and 175Nm, and slashes the top speed to 90kmh. These measures should get you to your destination or recharging point without the help of a tow truck.

In addition to the three driving modes, the car's range can also be affected by the five levels of regenerative braking. Engaging D with the transmission lever completely disables the regenerative braking, while D1, D2 and D3 make the braking force progressively stronger, with B providing the strongest braking effect.

Regenerative braking converts kinetic forces back to electrical energy for the batteries. Depending on the situation, it is possible to depend on regenerative braking alone to slow the car down in start-stop traffic conditions.

But some throttle finesse, especially in B mode, is key to avoid making occupants feel nauseous, given the vigorous braking and accelerative forces of the car.

It takes 13 hours to fully charge the e-Golf from a typical wall plug and about eight hours if you opt for the dedicated VW wall-box.

In Europe, e-Golf owners can charge their cars at designated CCS, or combined charging system, stations, which can "refill" the cars' energy capacity by up to 80 per cent in 30 minutes. Do not expect to see the quick-charge third option in Singapore any time soon, though.

Volkswagen Singapore says the e-Golf will arrive here eventually, but whether it will be made available to customers and not just as part of some test-bedding scheme is still unknown.

Unless the Government comes up with more committed and beneficial policies towards sustainable mobility, the practicality and efficiency of a car such as the VW e-Golf would be like the rest of Singapore's electric vehicle fleet now - rare and fleeting.

 

Background story

SPECS

VOLKSWAGEN E-GOLF

Price with COE: To be announced

Engine: Permanent synchronous electric motor

Transmission: Single-speed

Power: 85kw (115bhp)

Torque: 270Nm

0-100kmh: 10.4 seconds

Top speed: 140kmh

Fuel consumption: Not applicable

Agent: Volkswagen Centre Singapore

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