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2016 Volkswagen e-Golf: New Car Review

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Certified 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf SE
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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2016

The 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf offers most of the qualities that we all know and love about the regular Golf -- only it's electric. The e-Golf provides a surprisingly familiar driving experience despite its lithium-ion battery-powered drivetrain. It also comes with impressive practicality thanks to its 5-door hatchback body style and 5-seater interior that offers the same generous passenger and cargo space as any other Golf.

The Golf is one of the standouts in the compact-hatchback world. Rivals are only just catching up with the levels of refinement and cabin material quality, but even those alternatives are few. Among the e-Golf's particular attributes are reasonable acceleration, an impressive charge time of just 4 hours (with the 7.2-kilowatt charger) and 83 miles of range. The battery pack is installed under the car's floor, resulting in a low center of gravity, which gives the e-Golf quite a sporty attitude.

Naturally, the e-Golf has an app. This allows owners to preheat or precool the car before hitting the road. Charging can be started, stopped or set with a timer. Owners can also access information on miles driven, journey time and estimated power consumption. And they can check the locks, lights and GPS location.

Volkswagen's roadside assistance plan helps to reduce the range anxiety from which drivers of electric vehicles sometimes suffer. If an e-Golf runs out of juice within 100 miles of the owner's home, Volkswagen will arrange for it to be delivered to a convenient charging spot and will even pay any taxi or transportation costs the owner might have incurred.

If there are any negatives to the e-Golf, it's that the car is only sold in the handful of states that comply with California's strict emissions requirements. These are mainly on either coast, plus Washington D.C. -- so a huge number of American drivers don't have the chance to buy one.

What's New for 2016?

The e-Golf is now available in two trim levels, with a base model priced lower than the 1-trim 2015 version. Volkswagen's new MIB II infotainment system is now standard throughout the range, bringing a 6.5-inch touchscreen, a USB port and VW Car-Net App-Connect for greater smartphone (and Apple Watch) integration.

What We Like

Reasonable performance; practical interior; quick charge time

What We Don't

Limited availability

How Much?

$29,815-$36,415

Fuel Economy

The e-Golf's electric motor develops 115 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque, sending that energy to the front wheels through a special single-gear transmission.

A 3.6-kilowatt charger is standard in the lower SE trim, which means a wait of 7 hours for a full recharge when using a 240-volt outlet. The higher SEL Premium trim has a 7.2-kilowatt charger for a charge time of 4 hours when plugged into the same kind of power source. This latter model also has a DC fast-charge function for an 80 percent charge accomplished in half an hour.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a method for calculating what it calls miles-per-gallon equivalent (mpge). It puts the e-Golf at 129 mpge in the city, 105 mpge on the highway and 116 mpge combined. EPA also estimates maximum range at 83 miles.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf comes in SE and SEL Premium trim levels. But don't forget that there are various federal and state credits for buying a car that uses alternative fuel.

The SE ($29,815) has 16-in alloy wheels wearing low-rolling resistance tires, keyless entry/starting, LED daytime running lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, a rearview camera, a leather-wrapped shift knob and Volkswagen's MIB II infotainment system with a 6.5-in touchscreen, a USB port, Bluetooth and satellite radio.

The SEL Premium ($36,415) has the 7.2-kilowatt charger and the DC fast-charging function (both of which are options in the SE). It also gets leatherette upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, navigation, cruise control, ambient cabin lighting, illuminated scuff plates, an 8-in touchscreen, a heat pump (for greater energy efficiency) and Park Distance Control. The SEL Premium trim is eligible for a Driver Assistance package that includes forward-collision warning with autonomous emergency braking and a parking assistant feature.

Cargo space behind the rear seats is 22.8 cu ft. This expands to 52.7 cu ft. when the seats are folded down. These class-leading measurements are the same as the regular Golf.

Safety

Beyond the usual protection features (side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and front-side airbags), the e-Golf adds a few high-tech items such as a post-collision braking system that brings the car to a stop after a collision has already occurred. It may seem unusual, but it can help stop the e-Golf from rolling into other cars if the driver is unable to apply the brakes after a collision. A rearview camera is also standard.

The e-Golf has not been crash-tested, but the regular Volkswagen Golf has earned top scores from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The latter agency made the 2016 Golf a Top Safety Pick+.

Behind the Wheel

Apart from brake regeneration and its driving mode selector with Normal, Eco and a super-efficient Eco+ mode that cuts hp to boost range, the e-Golf gives the impression that it's a normal, everyday car that's capable of doing normal, everyday things. That's not the case for some electric vehicles.

There are some other differences compared with a standard Golf, including low-end torque (a plus), lack of engine noise (also a plus) and weak acceleration at higher speeds. But any downsides are offset by a nicer interior than many rivals, along with comfortable yet stable handling, strong visibility and excellent passenger and cargo space.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Chevrolet Volt -- The Volt is a plug-in hybrid as opposed to a fully electric car like the e-Golf. It offers an electric motor that's capable of about 53 miles until a range-extending gasoline engine kicks in. It's fully redesigned for 2016.

2016 Ford Focus Electric -- This model is estimated to have a range of 76 miles. It has plenty of regular Focus positives.

2016 Nissan Leaf -- The popular Leaf is cheaper than the e-Golf. Base models offer fewer features and a smaller interior, but this is one of the better-selling electric vehicles.

Autotrader's Advice

There's a lot to like about the e-Golf, such as its comprehensive equipment, regular-car driving experience, roomy interior and impressive charge times. Unfortunately, most shoppers won't be able to buy the car at all because of where Volkswagen sells it, a disappointment that's probably the e-Golf's biggest flaw. Those who can buy it should consider how many miles they usually travel and how easy it will be to recharge the car. The e-Golf might make a great second car.

Find a Volkswagen e-Golf for sale

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Certified 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf SE
Certified 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf
$18,100
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Volkswagen e-Golf: New Car Review - Autotrader