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2017 Volkswagen e-Golf Drivers' Notes Review | Putting the car first

Great-driving hatchback that happens to have an electric motor

  • Image Credit: Volkswagen
The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf feels both new and familiar at once. It looks, feels and acts like the standard Golf we've known and embraced for decades, but the details are different. Obviously, the Golf's 1.8-liter turbocharged sweetheart has been replaced with a 100 kW electric motor and a 35.8 kWh lithium-ion battery. There are small blue accents both inside and out signifying the car's green intentions. The wheels are flat 16-inch designs made to improve the car's aerodynamics. The tachometer has been replaced by a power meter.

The core is still here. It still packs a clean cabin with excellent materials. The battery pack doesn't take up any additional cargo room. It's still a Golf, just a little more quiet than we're used to.

Senior Editor, Green John Beltz Snyder: Historically, I've enjoyed various iterations of the Volkswagen Golf, particularly the GTI (of course) and the TDI. Every time I get in one, it feels familiar. The same was true when sitting in this e-Golf for the first time. I immediately felt like I knew the car. The controls, the handling, the layout, even the gear selector all felt natural.

Driving the e-Golf, there's nothing much about it that screams "This is an EV!" Yeah, it's quiet, but you don't hear much whine from the electric motor to make it feel any different from a low-powered internal-combustion Golf. Even the charge meter looks like a normal gas gauge. This car just feels like a Golf with a low center of gravity (which was great in carrying speed on the highway on- and off-ramps).

One EV-specific feature in the e-Golf is the ability to choose levels of regenerative braking. That's done with the gear lever, the same way you would manually choose gears — by pushing it left or right. There are only three settings from what I could tell, though. To me, it only made sense to have regen all the way on (which can also be done by pulling the lever back to "B") or all the way off. And the highest level of regen wasn't enough for one-pedal driving. I would like to have that option, at least.

Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: I really like this VW e-Golf. Why? It drives like a Golf, and the Golf is good. It has the same sharp steering, lack of body roll and general eagerness in corners. It has a smooth, comfortable ride, even over metro Detroit's pockmarked streets. It also feels pretty much as peppy as a gas-powered Golf, though I wouldn't mind the throttle tip-in being a bit more aggressive from a stop, and it does feel less potent as speeds increase. Actually, more power would be fun, too. The chassis can certainly handle it. The e-Golf also has the option of cranking up the regenerative braking, and while it isn't as aggressive as in a Chevy Bolt EV, it's still quite strong and a welcome addition.

It's just as good inside, too. It looks and feels just like a normal Golf, complete with the highly responsive and easy-to-use touchscreen infotainment. The batteries don't seem to have encroached on the luggage area, either, so you can stuff as much stuff in this as you can a normal Golf. My only real problem with the car is that the EPA-estimated 125-mile range on a single charge, although much improved, still doesn't compete with the Chevy Bolt (which I took on a long summer road trip) or the Tesla Model 3 and even comes in a bit below the new Nissan Leaf. And I feel that 200 miles is the mark for having a really practical, near-replacement for a daily driver.

Otherwise, I really like the e-Golf. If its range works for your commuting needs, I would say it's absolutely the one to get. Me, I might wait for a longer-range model. And maybe one with more power. A fully-electric version of Europe's Golf GTE plug-in? Yeah, that would be awesome.

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