Volkswagen e-Golf (2014 - 2020) used car review

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B Jonathan

Introduction

Volkswagen's first foray into EV motoring came back in 2014 with this model, the e-Golf. Subtle styling hides impressive technology that's easy to use in ordinary motoring. With zero emissions come big savings and with later versions, there's a reasonable driving range between charges for the standards of compact EVs in the 2014-2020 period. Still want that used turbo diesel family hatch?

Models

Models Covered:

5dr Hatch (EV)

History

Before the launch of this model in the Spring of 2014, electric motion was associated with the kind of extrovert futuristic design you saw on cars like the Nissan LEAF and the BMW i3. Volkswagen could have done that too but instead, opted to try for something far more challenging: the creation of an all-electric car that looked and felt identical to a conventional one.

The seventh generation Golf was developed from the start with this goal in mind, its unique MQB platform flexible enough to make this Volkswagen the first car available with no fewer than five different types of power source. The 'CNG' 'Compressed Natural Gas' version was never made available here but alongside this e-Golf, we did get a petrol/electric GTE Plug-in hybrid model as well as the conventional petrol and diesel versions. It was quite a line-up.

Creating this version though, challenged Volkswagen's designers more than any other. Its launch was the culmination of 38 years of development, the first electric Golf prototype dating all the way back to 1976. That car though, only developed 25PS and managed just 43 miles between charges. This one of course was very different. The initial 115hp version launched in 2014 managed 118 miles between charges. Volkswagen improved it in 2017, the updated 136hp version increasing battery range to 188 miles. The e-Golf shuffled off to the showroom in the sky in 2020 to make way for the Volkswagen ID.3.

What You Get

These days, the choice you have to make in buying an affordable used family-sized all-electric car is fairly clear. Must you display your eco-consciousness overtly and buy, say, a BMW i3 or a Nissan LEAF? Or will you be content to keep your planet-saving preferences to yourself and drive something like this, a Golf that.. well looks like any other Golf.

Inside, as with the exterior, the message is very clear: 'yes, this car is electrically powered but otherwise, it's just like any other Golf: carry on as usual'. A multifunction screen between the binnacle's two main dials shows your remaining range on electric power, as well as bringing all the various infotainment functions directly into your line of vision with neat carousel-type graphics. These features are more easily accessed via the 'Discover Navigation Pro' central infotainment screen, an 8.0-inch touch-sensitive display that dominates the centre of the dash.

This central fascia screen also includes a range of so-called 'e-displays', one of them a beautifully detailed 'Power flow' graphic. In addition, you get a 'Range monitor' showing more clearly how far you can drive on electric power. And there's also a graphical 'Regeneration' screen charting for you how much of the charge used on your journey has been created by regenerative braking.

And the back seat? Well, space around it doesn't appear to have been compromised by the large battery pack that must sit beneath. As with any normal five-door Golf, there's decent leg and knee room for this class of car thanks to the 53mm wheelbase increase delivered by the hi-tech MQB platform. Shoulder and elbow-room are both also reasonable and headroom's quite adequate. The result is the usual spacial compromise you get in this class of car, so comfortable room for two adults or three kids, but nothing more. Things would be better were it not for the kind of high central transmission tunnel you'd think you wouldn't need on an all-electric front wheel drive car.

Most all-electric cars though, manage to achieve decent rear seat packaging without too many compromises. Where a lot of them struggle though, is when it comes to boot space. After all, the bulky battery cells have to sit somewhere. Here fortunately, the effect of was minimal - and certainly a lot more minimal than it is with a Golf GTE Plug-in hybrid, where bootspace falls from the 380-litre figure you'd get in a normal model to just 272-litres, less than is offered by the brand's Polo supermini. With an e-Golf, there are far fewer sacrifices to be made in this regard. Boot space here falls only slightly against the standard version - to 341-litres, which is actually the same as you get in a Golf R hot hatch and significantly more than you get in direct rivals like BMW's i3. Pushing forward the backrest doesn't reveal a completely flat floor, but there's enough space to compensate for the fact that Volkswagen didn't offer an estate version of this variant, the total figure being 1231-litres.

What You Pay

If you possibly can. Try and restrict your search to later versions, which featured the uprated battery capable of boosting range from the original rather feeble 118 mile total to 186 miles. Prices here start at around £18,300 for a '17-plate car, rising to around £26,000 for one of the last '20-plate models.

What to Look For

Not much goes wrong, but there are glitches to look out for. If you're looking for the utmost in reliability, note that VW is not Toyota or Honda. The charge port lock can become stuck, immobilizing the car and impossible to tow if connected to a public charger. Some owners complained that the air conditioning gets into a state where it won't cool or heat. This is frequently fixed by clearing codes and software updates, but could also be a valve malfunction. The video feed from the reversing camera can be patchy, but shutting off the car and restarting it solves the issue. VW uses a digital electrical system, so likely it's a bug in the programming that causes that.

You'll sometimes also find that the CarNet infotainment screen connectivity doesn't work. For earlier models, CarNet is necessary in order to set the charging and pre-conditioning timers. Post-2016 era models have the ability to make these settings on the infotainment screen. Otherwise, all the usual caveats apply in terms of used family hatch purchase. Check for scratches on the alloy wheels and bumpers. And make sure that the interior doesn't have stains on the seats or carpet. Make sure that the car comes with all of its charging cables and that they're in [roper order. Replacing them can be pricey.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2018 eGolf - Ex Vat)

Front brake pads cost in the £47 to £63 bracket . Rear pads sit in the £32 to £64 bracket. Front brake pads cost in the £53 to £62 bracket . Rear pads sit in the £43 to £77 bracket. A front halogen headlamp is around £170, but that figure rises to around £90 is the headlamp in question is of the Bi-Xenon type. A rear lamp costs around £142. A wiper blade is around £7. And a pollen filter is in the £7 to £18 bracket.

On the Road

On the move, if you haven't tried an electric car before, your initial impression in this one will probably be one of surprise - at just how fast it initially feels. There a reason for that of course, namely that the electric powertrain's full 270Nm of torque is all delivered instantly in a form that sees the 37mph mark flash by in just 4.2s, though things calm down considerably after that thanks to the prodigious battery weight you really feel through the bends: that also necessitates a rather over-stiff suspension set-up. More relevant though are issues of range and charge frugality. Initially with the early 115hp version, Volkswagen claimed 118 miles to be possible between charges; that was raised to 186 miles with an improved 136hp model introduced in 2017. Charges will take around 8 hours if you invest in a wallbox for your garage. We'd suggest around 80 miles to be more realistic in real-world use for the early model - say around 120 miles for the later version.

To help achieve that, Volkswagen provides selectable 'Eco' and 'Eco+' driving modes that reduce power, torque and throttle travel while minimising the impact of the air conditioning system. It'll also help if you master the settings of the regenerative braking system that harvests energy back to the battery as the vehicle slows and brakes. There are 'D1', 'D2', 'D3' and 'B' settings that gradually increase this effect. You can monitor the effect of all these via various 'e-displays' available to you on the central fascia infotainment screen.

Overall

Of course, not everyone will like the thought of e-Golf motoring. Those without a garage will join single-car families and long distance commuters in dismissing it out of hand. Those people though, aren't folk who would ever have considered a model like this in the first place. No, all-electric motoring still suits a small but distinct demographic of forward-thinking families and low mileage company users, a market niche that's widening all the time thanks to the introduction of more accessible products like this one.

In summary, perhaps more than any other car of its kind from its era, this Volkswagen proved just how easy and seamless the transition from fossil fuel to battery power could be.

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