Road Test: Volkswagen e-Golf. The not-so-good

Road Test Part 3. Part 2 (Clever Tech) here

No car is perfect. Not even the Citroen 2CV. So here are the less-good things my review on the Volkswagen e-Golf has found in my real-world road test.

Firstly, there’s price. At £27,395 on the road, this one is certainly not what you’d call cheap. I configured a top-spec Nissan LEAF Tekna with metallic paint, all-round parking sensors and a meaty 6.6kW on-board charger (quite expensive at £1150 extra) and the on the road price was £25,590. With the LEAF, you can down-spec (Visia trim starts at £16,490). With the e-Golf, there’s only one level of trim and quite a lengthy options list.

Electric Car Charger  EV

Free, non-smelling fuel – but charger confusion ruins dream.

You cannot specify a 6.6kW charger with the e-Golf, which is probably the next big hurdle. The optional bigger charger means a 32amp home supply can charge a LEAF in just four hours. The e-Golf will take eight – which isn’t that useful a saving over the 13 hours it takes to charge from a simple 13 amp plug. In short, it means it needs to charge overnight. Volkswagen are aware of the issue and there is talk of an upgrade to the spec at some point. Really though, they’re behind the game in this regard. Kia already packs a 6.6kW charger as standard on its Soul EV. Incidentally, the Soul EV’s RRP is £24,995 after grant, and it packs an impressive spec – including a 7-year, 100,000 mile warranty. Metallic paint is free.

The e-Golf has another downside to charging – albeit one which is steadily improving. To rapid charge with DC (say at motorway services) you need to find what’s known as a CCS charger – Combined Charging System. Sadly, most DC rapid chargers use a ChaDeMo plug. It doesn’t fit the e-Golf. There are two CCS chargers in Wales. One is on Anglesey, the other is in Llanelli and doesn’t work. I visited one in Oswestry the other day, but got confused by the complete lack of labelling on the charger, and pages and pages of info in the owner’s manual that I found it hard to make sense of. I just could not easily see the information I needed and hadn’t realise that a lower cover needs removing from the charge port to allow use of a CCS plug. I did get the AC socket to work, but that relies on the slow on-board charger, so it took two hours to get enough juice on board. And I then discovered that this was not enough after encountering a few hills! I was forced to stop at the excellent EV-friendly Blaenglanhanog self-catering cottage where the owners kindly let me juice up some more. That took another two hours. Sure, some of this was my fault – I should have taken longer to make sense of the handbook – but it goes to show how something easy may not see so to a novice. It should be noted that more CCS chargers are being rolled out. See ZapMap for more.

Fast charging wall box

The friendly folk at Blaenglanhanog allow me to use their fast charger.

To be honest, those charging issues are the main gripe with the e-Golf. Yes, the ride is a bit firm and jiggly at times, but that’s sadly common with many modern cars. Low-profile tyres certainly don’t help here. I’m also not all that keen on how wide the centre console is – what’s hiding under there? It’s like the transmission tunnel in an E-Type Jaguar and I find my leg rests, uncomfortably, on the hard plastic if my foot is on the ‘clutch’ rest.

That’s probably just a personal thing though, as is annoyance at the number of beeps and bongs. One final issue was revealed as I visited Blaenglanhanog though, which is along a gated track. The e-Golf chucks a massive hissy fit if you get out while it is still ‘running.’ In effect, you have to restart it every time you get back in. Which can be quite often on a gated road!

EDIT 25/06/15 I need to add a few more gripes now I’ve covered over 700 miles in this car. The first one is that the climate control resets every time you turn it on. It puts the temperature to 22 degrees, and puts it on Auto. I find this infuriating after a bit as I have to keep putting the settings back to where I want them (usually a lower temperature, or off entirely). You can access very little information about the car while it is charging too – the info screens won’t show anything unless the ignition is on, which we are told not to do while charging. It’s important to have stuff to play with while sitting there charging! Not huge things, just things.

Next time, I’ll reach my conclusions and later on, I’ll discuss EVs in wider detail – the good, the bad and the downright frustrating!

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