Electric-car adoption in the U.S. continues to lag, but it’s not for lack of excellent choices like this 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf SE.
What is it?
The Volkswagen Golf is the prototypical “world car”, instantly recognizable to folks all over the globe, and so it’s logical that an all-electric version would hit the streets. The e-Golf first launched in the U.S. in 2015.
Pricing and trims
Two trim levels – SE and SEL Premium – separate the e-Golf into base and upgraded guises.
The SE’s entry price of $32,790 ($31,895 + $895 destination) is dwarfed by the SEL Premium’s $39,790 sticker. That $7,000 difference covers the SEL Premium’s extra features – navigation, leatherette seating surfaces, the 12.3-inch Digital Cockpit screen in front of the driver, and more.
Our tester was the simpler SE with the $850 Driver Assistance Package, which has the active safety features that are standard on the SEL Premium and really should be standard on the SE as well.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash-tested the e-Golf, but the internal-combustion Golf did well, with a merely Acceptable rating for passenger-side offset impacts and a Poor rating for headlights, which is common among 2019 models.
The aforementioned Driver Assistance Package includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, which makes bumper-to-bumper traffic much less stressful.
This e-Golf SE felt quick. It jumps off the line with EV zip, and there was never a time where the e-Golf SE didn’t feel like it couldn’t pick up and go. Silent operation was icing on the cake.
There are no Sport modes in the e-Golf SE; perhaps the default state is sporty enough.
Instead, the e-Golf SE’s modes are there to help you get home on the trickle of charge you have left.
Engaging Eco or Eco+ progressively makes the e-Golf SE feel heavier and less responsive, but they are helpful tools in keeping things charged up.
For 2019, the EPA pegs the e-Golf with a range of 125 miles.
Word has it the next-gen e-Golf will hit the magic 200-mile range, where it starts to approach the miles covered on a tankful of gas. For now, it’s pretty easy to determine whether or not an e-Golf fits the your driving needs.
The transmission has only one gear, but that’s all it needs to get the e-Golf SE’s power to the ground.
The plus-or-minus selections mimic traditional shifting, and the B keeps the e-Golf SE in Battery mode, which amps up the regeneration to the point where steep downhills can slow you down. It’s another helper in maintaining the electric charge.
Ride and handling
The Golf in general is a terrific handler, and the e-Golf SE was no exception, with immediate responses and an overall slickness that inspired confidence.
The tester was so much fun to whip around that it was jarring looking back after parking it to see an innocuous grey compact; in internal-combustion terms, this e-Golf should have had stripes and spoilers and bold colors to call out its extraordinary performance.
But the e-Golf SE just did it, with an uncommonly comfortable and quiet ride besides. Its Bridgestone Ecopia tires are finding mass adoption among green-leaning new vehicles, and they gripped well despite having an energy-saving mission.
Front seats are typical Volkswagen, with ample back and thigh support and a structure that encourages good posture. Not a lot of adjustments here, and they’re not missed.
The seats slide far back – helpful on the passenger side to fit cargo or taller friends.
In the rear, people will find decent room for heads and legs, and 35.6 inches of legroom keeps the e-Golf from feeling cramped. Big windows and the high seating position are other bonuses.
True to its history, the e-Golf is a versatile hatchback that makes the most of its boxy shape. Full-sized sedans have trouble matching the e-Golf’s 22.8-cubic-feet capacity; flip down the seats, and that number hits 52.7, which is small-wagon territory.
The charging accessories fit under the load floor, where there is no spare tire.
The load floor can be dropped lower to squeeze in that last little bit of whatever you’re hauling.
The hatch is easy to close with a wide internal handle that can be reached from both sides.
Infotainment and controls
The tested e-Golf SE came with the “Composition Media” eight-inch display; the e-Golf SEL steps that up to a “Discover Pro” 9.2-incher that includes navigation. The e-Golf SEL’s screen also features gesture control, a 64-GB SSD hard drive, and predictive navigation.
Maximizing screen size is a likely way to keep resale value high, but here, the standard setup seems fine, with a bright display and smooth animations.
Volkswagen offers its propriety Car-Net App Connect for enhanced smartphone connectivity – Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink are all covered.
To train you to be a more effective EV driver, the center screen incorporates “Think Blue. Trainer”, which reinforces good habits with modules and exercises to hone your skills. When in Rome, eh?
The backup camera has a view that’s clear and wide, though the tracking marks don’t bend to the direction of the front wheels.
The e-Golf SE was a pleasure in many ways. Quiet, quick, comfortable, versatile – you’d need a chip on your shoulder to have a problem with this one.
True, the drama of the GTI or Golf R is missing, and the lack of sensory engagement can be isolating.
And range is an issue when it’s still considerably less than that of a typical tank of gas.
But the majority of motorists would find a lot to like in the e-Golf. Electric sales are sluggish in the US, but it’s only a matter of time before the secret gets out.
2019 Volkswagen e-Golf SE
Base price: $31,895
Price as tested, including $895 destination charge: $33,440
Driver Assistance Package: $850
- Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring (Front Assist)
- Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert
- Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) Stop And Go
- Slingshot acceleration
- Comfortable and quiet ride
- Supportive front seats
- Solid build
- Improved electric range still requires planning
- Lacks GTI’s stimulating feedback
- SE’s optional safety features should be standard