VW e-Golf likes, dislikes, and surprises: the wrap-up

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We have to admit, the Volkswagen e-Golf had us rather charmed from the start.

Even based on early Euro-spec prototypes, and when we pitted all-electric against diesel with our back-to-back e-Golf vs. Golf TDI test drive review nearly two years ago, we found a lot of potential in the all-electric hatchback—provided details like driving range, charging, pricing, and availability meshed in with comparable all-electrics like the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric.

Against either those electrics or the diesel, the e-Golf satisfied the driver with a nimble, light, responsive driving impression, while its high-quality cabin appointments and refined, quiet ride wowed passengers.

The “e” in e-Golf is far more important for VW this year

Since then our long-term 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf has come and gone, and it didn’t prove us wrong on any of those early impressions. Somewhere in the middle of our nine-month period with the e-Golf, however, the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal broke, and it likely forever changed the way the public sees VW’s TDI lineup.

The e-Golf brought us lots to love and very little to fret about, and it has us convinced that there’s light at the end of the tunnel—provided Volkswagen can get its family of plug-in hybrid (and pure electric) models out soon enough.

2015 Volkswagen e-Golf - Long-term test car [November 2015]

2015 Volkswagen e-Golf - Long-term test car [November 2015]

Even early last summer, after a few weeks with the Golf, when we look back at what we liked and didn’t like, we pointed out that VW appeared to have met its goal of providing a car that was “a Golf first, and zero-emission second.”

So many positives, with a few teething pains

Back then we singled out the e-Golf’s smart packaging, tidy handling, and great ride quality as positives—as well as the straightforward gauge layout and excellent interior packaging. As for negatives, we had to search rather hard, identifying its sparse information screens, speed-limiting Eco modes, and generally conservative powertrain settings as things to be critical about.

Outside of one particularly annoying issue, a communications module gone bad (it kept calling emergency services every few hours, or minutes), we had no actual failures or breakdowns with the e-Golf. But we definitely noted a few niggles and idiosyncrasies.

For instance, our FM tuner kept “detuning” itself from whatever station we had selected and tuning to 87.7 FM (it didn’t exhibit the same issue with satellite radio or the excellent AM tuner). Disabling HD Radio changed the behavior somewhat, but it would still lose our station.

The other issue pertained to the climate control system, which reset itself to on, in automatic mode, at 72 degrees, with every start—no matter what it had been set to before (or if it had been off).

Climate controls, in long-term 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf

Climate controls, in long-term 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf

VW dealership personnel appeared familiar with that issue and offered to order a new unit but anticipated a replacement unit might do the same. A different system was subbed in for 2016 models, so we really hope this buggy behavior has been fixed by now. Our e-Golf's heat-pump-based climate-control system also varied widely in its performance depending on weather and battery factors; as efficiency-minded users it was acceptable, but we don't think the general public would all be so forgiving.

High-quality in almost every respect

The e-Golf felt as tight and rattle-free after nine months and around 2,700 miles as the day we got it. The only physical defect (and we’d call it a defect) was that the rearmost cargo floor (actually a lid over a lower compartment) started bowing somewhat under the normal wear-and-tear of grocery-getting and gear-hauling.

2015 Volkswagen e-Golf - Long-term test car

2015 Volkswagen e-Golf - Long-term test car

One thing we grew to appreciate even more with time was how the seating and cargo arrangement isn’t compromised by battery packaging; it folds almost fully flat.

Functionally, the poor availability of CCS fast-charging stations (even in the EV-progressive Portland area) remained the chief reason why we didn’t put more miles on the e-Golf—even though we did consistently get driving range numbers out of this car that were better than the EPA-rated 83 miles. Until there were more CCS-format chargers on the way to the coast, or up the I-5 corridor, pure-electric cars using this standard will lag in convenience behind models using the CHAdeMO (Nissan Leaf) and Supercharger (Tesla models) standards.

With the introduction of a new 30-kwh battery pack coming for 2017, and more fast-charging stations to be installed, we’re hoping to revisit the e-Golf soon. And if this is a glimpse of the future for various other VW models, we genuinely look forward to it.

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