REVIEW | Volkswagen e-Golf the first step in electric mobility as VWSA embraces change

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• Wheels24 recently spent more than a month driving the Volkswagen e-Golf.

• The e-Golf is powered by a 100kW/290Nm 35.8kWh battery.

• The e-Golf is not on sale locally, but used for market research by the German giant.

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For the last month and a half, the Volkswagen e-Golf has been in the Wheels24 garage. And if you're reading 'e-Golf' again, you're not mistaken: We drove and lived with an electric Golf the last while.

In case you were wondering, the electric Golf is not on sale in South Africa, but Volkswagen South Africa decided, in 2019, to have several of these cars do media duties. Why? To gauge the market's reaction and uptake to electric mobility and better prepare itself for selling electric vehicles (EVs) locally.

So when the opportunity to drive the e-Golf for a month came our way, we didn't hesitate as it would not only be to VW's benefit, but ours as well as we come to grips with the new way of motoring.

A way of thinking

The e-Golf first made its appearance in 2014, followed by the current model in 2016/7. However, the car went on sale in Europe, with several first-world markets following shortly after. Volkswagen realised that the pendulum was swinging towards electrification and made the deliberate decision to go the electric route with its Golf; one of its best-selling cars of all time.

It was a stroke of genius because instead of confronting buyers with this sudden and new concept, they used an existing and familiar product to garner trust.

This same way of thinking applied to Volkswagen South Africa's approach of the e-Golf.

Do you think South Africa is ready for the uptake of electric mobility? Email us with your opinion or use the comment section below.

Volkswagen e-Golf
Volkswagen e-Golf

e-Golf design

The e-Golf can be mistaken for a standard Golf, which might not be such a bad thing. The cues that indicate that this is not an ordinary Golf are subtle, but you won't be able to unsee once you notice it. The wheels are perhaps the biggest giveaway, with the space-age design drawing in the attention. These wheels are not only lighter than your average set of rims, but they are more aerodynamic, as well. This aids the range you can cover in the electric Golf.

Other bits include the blue strip running on the grille, and the e-Golf sign brought onto the grille and the lid of the boot. Because of the car's purpose, VW has added a big 'VW E.lectric' sticker to the car's side.

Inside, the cabin is standard Golf with very little to indicate that this is an electric car. Though some automakers are inclined to give their electric vehicles' cabin a futuristic design and feel, Volkswagen kept things simple and refrained from alienating customers. To this end, we commend Volkswagen for sticking to the Golf's formula because it went a long way in ensuring that familiarity prevails.

READ: e-Golf arrives in South Africa, but won’t be sold locally – Volkswagen explains why

Volkswagen e-Golf
Volkswagen e-Golf

Battery, range, and drive

The e-Golf is powered by a 35.8kWh battery, of which only 32kWh are useable. The power unit produces 100kW and 290Nm, with the latter is available right from the moment you lay on the throttle. Volkswagen claims that the e-Golf will reach 100km/h from standstill in 9.6 seconds, and onto a top speed of 150km/h. The test team managed to reach an indicated top speed of 160km/h.

On a full charge, the e-Golf has an electric range of around 200km, which translates to a use of just under 17kWh/100km, according to the onboard computer. To put it in familiar talk, this translates to a fuel equivalent of 2.0-litres/100km. The e-Golf's range is influenced by the selected driving mode: Normal, Eco, Eco+. Each driving mode impacts the car's performance, how much power is made available to the driver, and how much distance you can cover.

READ: Charging an electric car in SA could be complicated - what to know about various EV cables

The part of living with an electric car most people would probably be most interested in is the drive. While the car shares many of its elements with the conventional Golf, it sets itself apart on the road. As alluded to earlier, power is available immediately, and it gifts the e-Golf with a thrust and shove the standard Golf - bar the GTI and Golf R - can't match. Because the battery is placed underneath the car, it also increases the centre of gravity, which results in the car having impeccable dynamism in the corners.

Interestingly, the car's top speed is also affected by the driving modes:

Eco+: 90km/h

Eco: 120km/h

Normal: Unrestricted

Rola Mercedes-Benz in Somerset Wes allowed Wheels24 to charge the e-Golf using their charging facilities, which really took off some pressure.

Volkswagen e-Golf
Volkswagen e-Golf

Our thoughts on the e-Golf

Though the e-Golf will not go on sale in South Africa, it provided good scope for both Volkswagen and the South African public to understand electric mobility. Currently, EVs are still way out of reach for the average South African, but things could, and probably will, change as the technologies become more common and readily available.

If, in future, Volkswagen decides to sell an electric Golf as an alternative to the petrol-powered options, prospective owners will appreciate the sense of familiarity the car has, but even more the improved driving dynamics that come with it. For now, though, Volkswagen South Africa is readying for the arrival of the ID.4, its electric SUV that is scheduled for a 2022/3 launch.

If the e-Golf were to be available as a purchase option to South Africans, we'd be looking at an asking price of around R800 000 - R900 000, at least. Expensive yes, but for now it's an invaluable case study to the future.

Volkswagen e-Golf
Volkswagen e-Golf
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