The Volkswagen e-Golf has joined us for a 3-month stint.
Internal combustion? Never heard of it! If you’re looking to buy the likes of any Tesla, the Nissan Leaf or the Chevrolet Bolt, you’ll get into a car that was built from the ground up as an electric car. Things are different with the 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf, though. It comes from a 45-year-long bloodline of gasoline and diesel-powered hatchbacks, so I had to change my mindset to what I’d been used to. This must be compromised, I thought as I first got behind the wheel. It can’t be as practical, or as fun, or as straightforward as a normal Golf, is it?
Over the course of the next three months, that’s what we in the TFL office hope to find out. This was my first opportunity to drive an e-Golf, and in this first leg I wanted to see how much Volkswagen’s all-electric hatch would impact how I felt about the rest of the lineup. I love the Golf R, the GTI and I even found myself impressed by the Golf Alltrack. So, could the e-Golf charm me the way the others have?
On paper, the 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf doesn’t look like much fun, even against the standard 1.4-liter model. The all-electric Golf makes a modest 134 horsepower from its single synchronous electric motor. It also weighs nearly 500 pounds more than a regular Golf, making that small number even less impressive. That said, the 3,459 pound e-Golf is lighter than the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Bolt. The critical part to remember with EVs isn’t so much horsepower, though, but torque. On that front, the e-Golf claws some points back, managing 214 lb-ft of torque.
That still doesn’t make it out-and-out fast, and its top speed is limited to just 85 mph. However, the torque does make the 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf feel plenty zippy driving around town. The car also has the same suspension setup and brakes as the standard Golf, so it feels nimble and responsive, despite the extra weight. If anything, the standard Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 Plus tires let the handling down thanks to their bias toward fuel economy over grip. The e-Golf’s heavier stance means it does understeer a bit more when pushed, though its handling would improve with better tires.
Take the eco-friendly tires away, though, and you’ll dig into the e-Golf’s big Achilles’ heel. It’s electric, so range is likely the first number that really pops into your mind. Here, the 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf doesn’t impress with its small 35.8-kWh battery. Its 125-mile range is beaten by the Nissan Leaf, and thrashed by the Tesla Model 3, Chevy Bolt, Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV. If you drive carefully (i.e. less than 60 mph), you can beat that range estimate. Even still, the relatively low figure wasn’t enough to keep my range anxiety at bay, and that’s a reason most people may turn away from the otherwise solid e-Golf.
DC fast charging capability
Fortunately, the 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf does offer DC fast charging as option. VW includes a 7.2-kW onboard charger, allowing you to charge up in about six hours on a Level 2 240V station. However, thanks to the 50 kW fast charging option, you can get up to 80 percent state-of-charge in around an hour. The DC fast charging setup comes standard on the 2019 SE model, as well as the SEL Premium.
The regen system makes the e-Golf feel normal
One of my favorite parts of the e-Golf is just how normal it felt to drive. You do have to re-train your brain a bit driving every electric car. The noise you’re typically accustomed to is gone, replaced by what’s normally an unintuitive regenerative braking system. However, Volkswagen thought of that by allow you to move the shifter side-to-side to increase or decrease regen, in three stages. Putting the shifter back to “B” after you’re in drive puts the car in the strongest regen mode. What’s better is that you can shut regenerative braking off entirely, allowing the car to simply coast when you take your foot off the throttle.
As useful as one-foot driving may be for some with things like Nissan’s e-Pedal and Tesla’s strong regenerative braking, I prefer the e-Golf’s solution. Accelerator. Brake. Why fix what isn’t broken?
Comfort and Convenience
That “don’t fix what isn’t broken” mantra translates to the interior on the 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf stronger than anywhere else. Sit inside, and it feels exactly like an ordinary Golf. Same steering wheel, same 9.3-inch infotainment screen (8.0-inch on the base SE), and the same interior layout. More importantly, the battery pack doesn’t intrude into the interior space, so you get exactly the same cargo and passenger space as you do in the standard model. Set the front seats to my driving height at six feet tall, and the back seats are cramped, but at least they’re no worse from any other Golf.
With the seats folded, the 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf has 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold the seats down, and you get 52.7 cubic feet. As with the battery size versus the car’s range, this all-electric hatch is perfectly efficient when you get right down to it. On this $39,790 SEL Premium model, you also get Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit. Apart from the Golf R, that feature isn’t available in either the standard Golf or the GTI in this generation.
On the base SE trim, you get a standard gauge cluster instead, and you get cloth seats instead of the leatherette treatment. Safety features that come standard on the SEL Premium — forward collision braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control — are part of a $650 Driver Assistance Package instead. Note: On 2020 models, these features are standard on the SE as well.
The Volkswagen e-Golf – First impressions
The 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf won me over with the straightforward, familiar character that I’d come to expect in a Golf. It isn’t goofy like some older electric cars were, it’s efficient enough to handle most of your daily errands, and it’s still fun to drive.
On a price-per-mile basis, the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Bolt beat the e-Golf on range. But for fun factor, and owning an EV that comes in an understated, but not underrated package, Volkswagen’s offering is worth your time and attention, especially when you factor in available federal and state tax credits.
There is one caveat, however. If you are looking at an e-Golf, I’d advise against the SEL Premium. Unless you really need leatherette seats, the bigger infotainment screen and cooler LED lights, it’s tough to justify the $7,000 premium.