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Living life in the fast lane: Idealog takes the 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf for a spin

How does the Volkswagen 2019 e-Golf – which was also named Autocar’s 2018 New Zealand EV of the year – stack up when compared to a traditional car? Elly Strang takes Volkswagen's first 100 percent electric vehicle for a drive to see what all the fuss is about.  

It looks like a Golf and drives like a Golf, but it doesn’t quite sound like a Golf. The 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf is a fully electric car without any form of petrol or internal combustion engine. Translation: this is not a hybrid car, and it is almost eerily silent when compared to an engine-operated one, but don’t let its quiet demeanour fool you into thinking it doesn’t have much power.

Driving the e-Golf was my first experience of an electric vehicle, and its formidable acceleration stood out to me as one of the advantages to that of a fuel-powered car. Its torque-rich electric motor effortlessly accelerates from 0 to 100 kilometres an hour in 9.6 seconds, meaning power is readily available when you need it.

But there’s also no need to worry that intense acceleration means that all the battery power is being used up, either. Features like brake energy recuperation mean that energy that’s usually lost during braking is saved, keeping the car’s charge at a reasonable level. This is helpful in slow moving, peak hour traffic, as it can help extend the range. If you are wanting to be even more economical in your usage, there’s also two modes, Eco and Eco+, that limit power and top speed, and also restrict or turn off the air conditioning, all to conserve battery.

I can also debunk a popular theory about EVs here when I say that I didn’t find range anxiety to be a thing with the e-Golf. At full charge, it has a range of 220km, and even as someone with a significantly longer commute than most, this lasted me several days before I needed to top up its battery.

When that moment came, a quick Google alerted me to a Vector rapid charging station five minutes from my house. This goes to show New Zealand’s charging network has really come a long way. As of January 2019, there was 175 rapid charging stations recorded across the country, plus another 300 or more AC charge points registered on Plugshare.

The charging station topped the battery up to full capacity in 50 minutes while I read my book in the car. It was a really straight forward process – and also, satisfyingly, given the soaring prices of Auckland’s petrol at the moment – 100 percent free.

For those that would prefer the comfort of pulling into their garage and charging their vehicle at home, the e-Golf comes with a New Zealand approved trickle charger that plugs into a regular power socket and will take 21 hours to charge up. Almost 90 percent of EVs in the US are charged this way. If this is a bit on the lengthy side, there’s the option of installing a wall box, which charges at 3.6kW. This will get the battery up to 100 percent in 11 hours.

EV capabilities aside, the car also features top-of-the-line technology we’ve seen become an essential component of modern vehicles, where their features have developed to be just as smart as the devices we carry around in our pockets. The e-Golf’s City Emergency Braking function can be used to sense an incoming rear-end collision and acts by reduces the severity of the accident or ideally, helping to avoid it altogether by warning the driver.

If there is no response from the driver, it automatically applies the brakes. Other safety controls in the vehicle’s toolbox include class-leading standard driver aids like Lane Assist, Side Assist and Front Assist with City Emergency Brake (City EB), and even Driver Fatigue Detection. Safety is all just a touch away, which is really reassuring. Another feature, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), can automatically adjusts the driving speed by accelerating and braking.

And then, of course, there’s the design. The e-Golf’s look and feel doesn’t stray too far from that of any other Golf and is just as well made and spacious, but an illuminated décor lined with LED lights creates a modern and sophisticated looking interior.

Seeing as it’s an environmentally conscious vehicle, it also makes sense that its headlights also use LED technology to provide maximum illumination at a low rate of consumption.

In the interior, the e-Golf also boasts a discover Pro satellite navigation system within its 9.2-inch infotainment glass screen. This also has a proximity sensor and gesture controls for a really intuitive touch.

Overall, the car feels smooth, steady and swift to zip around town in, thanks to the batteries’ low-down location in the vehicle. However, being friendly on the environment doesn’t mean it’s sacrificing any of its power, either. The 2019 e-Golf model starts from $68,490 plus on-road costs. For the city commuter, it’s a pretty perfect match.

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