Review: 2020 VW e-Golf
Farewell to a fine first EV-ffort
The time has come to say goodbye to the Volkswagen e-Golf, the all-electric hatchback that is ending its run as VW’s subtle EV entry, the last of which have landed in Canada as 2020 models. In the U.S., VW will instead offer the ID.4 compact crossover to replace it in early 2021, while in Canada the all-new and more advanced ID.4 is slated to arrive closer to mid-year. And compared to the reconstituted e-Golf, the ID.4’s dedicated platform and more advanced battery technology will prove a seismic leap in many key EV areas: it will offer double the range, more than twice-as-fast high-speed quick charging (and will be able to handle multiple quick charge stops per day), plus roughly double the horsepower.
That’s the kind of quantum shifts in new generation advancements that you just don’t see in gas vehicles.
The slate of upcoming EV advancements also helps explain why VW Canada is only offering a shockingly low 28 per cent residual on a four-year lease on an e-Golf, meaning the company expects your newly leased ’20 e-Golf to be worth only about half what it believes a similarly priced ’21 premium gas-running VW GTI will be worth 48 months from now.
Part of that discrepancy may also come from the $5,000 federal EV rebate available to Canadian BEV buyers, or in Quebec or B.C., the further rebates currently available in those provinces of $8,000 or $3,000, respectively.
Given those provincial rebates, it’s likely no major surprise that most remaining e-Golfs can be found in Quebec and B.C., according to VW Canada’s inventory search results, with a smattering of units also in Ontario. The e-Golf has always been available in limited quantities in Canada ever since it arrived about four years ago, with its relatively mainstream design that barely differed from that of a regular Golf, offering roughly 200 km worth of range that soundly out-distanced rivals like the Nissan Leaf of the day.
But the Leaf as well as most other rival BEVs such as the Kia Soul EV, Niro EV and Chevrolet Bolt have all now vastly surpassed the e-Golf when it comes to range, with the VW still officially stuck at 198 km of range.
On the plus side, that number is surprisingly accurate with temperatures hovering at between zero and five degrees, even with the climate controls and heated seat on throughout, as I found out in my week with this fully loaded $47,580 e-Golf tester. In testing its real-world range in these conditions, I managed to get it down from an optimistically predicted 270 km full charge down to 16 km left, after traveling exactly 182.8 km, which included both city and highway driving. This suggests it could conceivably achieve its 198 km rating, even in far from ideal weather and driving conditions.
On the negative side, the last 50 km of that driving was full of range warnings, and more persistent than the low fuel warnings in gas cars. Once I hit about 20 km of charge remaining, the e-Golf went into ‘Can you hear me now!?’ mode, making the once-sprightly e-Golf feel painfully slow to accelerate, with little heating available to the driver, and dire warnings of ‘Limited convenience functions.’ Passenger side climate controls went away entirely, and my breath started appearing inside the car. It was a clear indication that, though the car itself may travel 200-ish kilometres in cold weather if pushed to the extreme, it’s a good idea to keep a healthy 30 km cushion, minimum, especially if you’re planning any longer winter drives.
Longer highway drives at any time of the year are helped by its ability to quick charge at up to 50 kW using its CCS combo charger at public quick chargers, versus the 5.5 hours or so it will take to fully charge from near empty on the usual Level 2 chargers that most BEV buyers use at home. Most OEMs will offer to sell you one of these to mount in your garage as an accessory at between $500-$1,000, and can be rolled into your monthly payments, though that typically doesn’t include installation by a certified electrician.
Unlike some modern Tesla models, the e-Golf comes standard with a heat pump that helps it efficiently warm up the cabin while minimizing how much battery power it pulls from actually powering the car. Unfortunately, the e-Golf doesn’t have a modern thermal management system to cool the battery down after quick charging allow for multiple L3 quick charges when on a long trip.
As with most EVs originally designed on an internal combustion (ICE) platform, there are various giveaways to its ICE age roots. The gas cap flap that covers the EV charge port is still located at the right rear of the vehicle, furthest away from the driver. That’s not a huge deal at gas stations, but in tighter urban garages where drivers inch over carefully to the right to allow for more room for the driver to exit, having a charge port on the passenger side makes it a royal pain to access.
Another giveaway inside is with the starter button located near the shifter, which is still labeled ‘Engine Start/Stop’, despite no engine anywhere in the e-Golf. Instead there’s a 100 kilowatt electric motor that puts out a modest 134 hp under the hood, its ample 214 lb-ft of torque providing good jump off the line, but quickly losing steam, as its meagre 9.6 second time in the benchmark 0-100 km sprint attests.
As with most BEVs, the smoothness and quietness of even full acceleration is astonishing, especially if you haven’t yet tried one.
The inside of this fully loaded e-Golf was traditionally clean but austere, a fine $30,000 interior on a car that unfortunately starts closer to $40k. This interior came with a Technology & Driver Assistance package that added $4,750 to the bill, but also worthy niceties such as a digital cluster in front of the driver that nicely melded the navigation screen fully between the digital gauges, Audi-style, while allowing for multiple info display options; parking sensors; interior ambient lighting, a larger central infotainment screen and parking sensors with an auto parking function.
The package also added a healthy amount of safety features, including auto pedestrian and emergency braking, adaptive cruise with stop and go functions, auto high beams and rear traffic alerts, among others. The overall feel of the car therefore felt high tech, even if it didn’t look very high-tech.
There are some surprising omissions though in the features list: no heated steering wheel chief among them, but also no 360 degree camera, no sunroof and no power operated seat, outside of the backrest angle. All of which are available on other Golf or GTI models.
In the end, it’s really the VW e-Golf’s lack of thermal management, its slow quick charging speeds and the limited range that mark it as less than state of the art EV technology. This was a fine EV four years ago, especially when it was one of the lowest priced BEVs on the market. The 2020 e-Golf now becomes the swan song of Volkswagen Canada’s initial foray into battery electric vehicles, a viable appetizer on what the company promises will be a more abundant and fulfilling menu of BEV choices to come.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.
2020 VW e-Golf
BODY STYLE: Compact EV hatchback
DRIVE METHOD: Battery-electric, front-wheel-drive, 100 kW motor, 35.8 kWh battery, 1-speed automatic transmission
ENGINE: NA; 134 hp, 214 lb-ft
FUEL ECONOMY: (Electricity L/100km equivalent) 1.9/2.3/2.1 Le/100 km city/highway/combined (Range: 198 km)
CARGO VOLUME: 645 litres (22.8 cu ft)
TOW RATING: Not recommended
PRICE: $47,580 including destination fee and options (before federal $5,000 rebate)