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Review: 2017 Volkswagen eGolf is an excellent, affordable EV

Road test

A quieter, greener Golf

The 2017 VW eGolf.

Beyond the engine, Volkswagen wisely changed very little when creating the 2017 eGolf, an electric version of its beloved compact car

The roads that connect the clusters of crumbling forts and sepia-toned villas with their romantic archways and terracotta tiles here are not exactly driver-friendly. They twist more than crisscross. They dump suddenly into whirling traffic circles. They meander through grassy fields dotted with sheep and then, 'round that blind bend, squeak without warning into one-lane, crumbling-edged doozies. Watch out for that gutter there, eh? Oh, and the cyclists. The reams and reams of cyclists you will share the road with – even if it seems like there is no room to share.

Successfully traversing these (read: not damaging oneself, a cyclist, a sheep or a shiny side panel) while also defending the mind from jet lag requires one thing: a responsive, reliable vehicle.

As it turns out, the most pleasing thing about tackling a sunset drive here after a 27-hour sojourn slowed by bad weather, unpaved runways and a plane with broken doors was the vehicle I was given the keys to.

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It was a battery-powered Volkswagen eGolf.

What made it exciting? Except for the purr of a gas-powered engine, driving the new all-electric version of the tried-and-true vehicle that Volkswagen has sold more than 30 million of felt exactly like old times. The fun, familiar-but-nimble-on-the-blacktop old times. This is important.

When the 2017 eGolf arrives in Canadian dealerships this June, it will face a growing but cautious market of EV drivers hungry for confidence-inspiring options. Although increasingly enthusiastic, buyers are still working to convince themselves that, if they buy a battery-powered vehicle, they will ultimately be okay. Out there. On the open road. Without gas.

With the eGolf, one most certainly will. With a range of 200 kilometres on a full charge (you'll likely get more than that based on my test), the VW offers about the best fully electric value and range-for-dollars on the Canadian market. Transport Canada has determined the fuel-efficiency equivalent to be 2.0 litres/100 kilometres.

2017 VW eGolf rear hatch.

While Tesla offers more than 500 kilometres of range, both of the upstart's available models come with a six-figure price tag. The Chevrolet Bolt, hailed as the best long-range, low-cost option available, offers 380 kilometres at about $44,000 before rebates and incentives.

The eGolf's range is lower. But so is its price, which starts at $35,995 before tax. And for that, it comes nicely equipped. An eight-inch touch-screen anchors the dash; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality mean you can use your smartphone for navigation and mapping rather than opting up for the $2,300 technology package (although you'll need to buy that plus the driver assistance package, also $2,300 if you want safety features such as blind-spot assist or rear cross-traffic alert). Bluetooth comes standard as does air conditioning, a heat pump, cruise control, remote keyless entry and push-button start. The list goes on.

In Ontario, provincial rebates are expected to take $14,000 off the eGolf's sticker price. That would put its cost squarely in line with an entry-level gas-powered Golf, but with more bells and whistles. In Quebec, rebates will mean an $8,500 discount while British Columbia buyers will get $5,000 back.

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That, plus the fact that it looks and acts just like one would expect a Golf to behave, gives the vehicle broad appeal. Its novelty will pique the interest of dyed-in-the-wool Golf aficionados and many can expect to be won over by the fact that it handles similarly to its gas-powered counterpart (although the lack of engine makes it much quieter). Instead of gas stations, owners can power up on a DC fast-charger – it takes 30 minutes for an 80 per cent charge.

The eGolf's pricing makes the vehicle a no-brainer for anyone shopping around for a fully electric vehicle. Not only does it ring competitively, it delivers the most distance for that money.

In today's EV market, that combination could add up to a big win for VW.

TECH SPECS

2017 VW eGolf recharging.

  • Base price: $35,995 (less with government rebates in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia)
  • Motor: 100-kW electric motor, 35.8-kWh high-voltage battery
  • Fuel economy (kWh/100 km): 16.8 city, 18.6 highway
  • Alternatives: Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Ford Focus Electric, Kia Soul EV

RATINGS

2017 VW eGolf interior.

  • Looks: The eGolf looks, well, like a Golf. And for this there are big points. Rather than opting for an alien transformation in appearance, when VW electrified the Golf, it made it look just like the real thing (plus some unique blue trim details on the headlights, badging and steering wheel). A palette of 30 optional exterior colours means aficionados can opt for a custom paint job.
  • Interior: There’s little that differentiates the eGolf on the inside from its cool, gas-powered predecessor. The motif is sleek and uncluttered; the digital cockpit and integrated touch-screen are intuitive to navigate.
  • Performance: The 134-horsepower VW has packed into the single-speed electric transmission puts out more excitement than it appears to on paper. This car has a ton of get-up-and-go and easily reaches passing speeds on the highway.
  • Technology: You have to opt up to the driver assistance and technology packages to get the really fancy stuff such as blind-spot detection, digital cockpit and the 9.2-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation. But the base model is well-equipped with an eight-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, satellite radio, air conditioning and cruise. The vehicle also rates you on trip efficiency, so drivers can make real-time changes to save fuel.
  • Cargo: The amount of space lost due to battery compared with the gas-powered Golf is negligible. On our test, the compact four-door eGolf easily fit two hardshell carry-on suitcases, a few camera bags and a purse, with room to spare.

THE VERDICT

9.0

The Golf's reputation as much-beloved vehicle combined with a healthy 200-kilometre range and relatively low sticker price (counting rebates) makes the eGolf a must-drive – and likely a must-buy – for anyone considering a new EV.

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

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