Used 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf Review
Our new favorite compact electric vehicle, the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf stands out from the growing crowd of EVs with its superior driving dynamics, impressive range and optimized battery charging equipment. And thanks to careful packaging, it has all the practicality of any other four-door Golf hatchback.
The unmitigated competence of Volkswagen's first electric car in the United States cannot be understated. Starting with the sound foundation of the seventh-generation 2015 Golf hatchback (which is reviewed separately), VW built the four-door e-Golf to be a premium offering in the growing class of compact EVs. Rather than detracting from the standard Golf's dynamic qualities, the electrified version may even enhance them, depending on your priorities.
On the outside, the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf looks just like the rest of the redesigned 2015 Golf lineup. The only real differentiating features are a shuttered grille and some unique wheel and LED lighting treatments to distinguish the electric model. Even with its lithium-ion battery pack placed under the front and rear seats, the e-Golf has exactly the same cargo capacity as the standard four-door Golf. The low-slung battery array also helps the e-Golf maintain the same excellent handling traits as the regular models and, in our view, its highway ride is superior and quieter to boot.
The VW e-Golf's electric motor generates a maximum 115 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque, which is sent through a single-speed transmission. Acceleration is competitive for EVs, and range depends on driving style, of course, but you can expect between 80 and 100 miles on a single charge. Speaking of charging, a standard high-capacity 7.2 kW onboard charger allows a full recharge in four hours, using an optional 240-volt wall charger available for garages and carports. (Charging on a standard household plug takes about 20 hours). The e-Golf is also capable of using select DC "fast-charging" outlets, which can replenish 80 percent of the battery in about 30 minutes.
The 2015 e-Golf's price (before tax credits and incentives) is a little higher than similar electric cars, but its features and standard equipment are better than most. For instance, LED headlights, keyless entry and ignition, a 5.8-inch touchscreen navigation system and heated front seats are all standard. Bear in mind, though, that like many other electric cars, the e-Golf is initially available only at participating dealers in select East Coast and West Coast states.
Of course there are a growing number of EVs for 2015, including the stalwart and affordable 2015 Nissan Leaf, cute-as-a-button 2015 Fiat 500e and engaging 2015 Ford Focus Electric. There are also some newer luxury-brand options in the distinctively styled BMW i3 and the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive. But if you're interested in an EV that doesn't scream "look at me," and retains all the practicality and dynamic qualities of its model line, then you owe it to yourself to test-drive the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf.
trim levels & features
The 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf is a four-door hatchback electric vehicle (EV) offered in two trim levels: Limited Edition and SEL Premium. Standard equipment for the Limited Edition includes power heated side mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, LED running lights and 16-inch steel wheels with low-rolling-resistance all-season tires.
Interior features include dual-zone automatic climate control with rear vents, an electrically heated windshield, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rearview camera, automatic wipers, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and manual-slide/power-reclining front seats with heating and manual lumbar adjustment. Rear seats are 60/40-split-folding with a pass-through armrest. Standard technology features include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB/iPhone integration, an eight-speaker audio system with satellite radio, VW's Car-Net telematics and a 5.8-inch touchscreen that provides for all manner of controls, including a standard SD card-based navigation system.
The SEL Premium adds 16-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, cruise control, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
performance & mpg
The e-Golf is powered by a synchronous permanent-magnet AC motor that develops a maximum of 115 horsepower and an impressive 199 pound-feet of torque in default Normal driving mode (94 hp/162 lb-ft in Eco and 74 hp/129 lb-ft in Eco+ modes) that uses a single-speed transmission to drive the front wheels. Electric power is supplied by an under-floor lithium-ion battery pack with an overall capacity of 24.2 kWh.
The e-Golf has a 7.2 kW onboard charger as standard equipment, enabling the batteries to be recharged in any of three ways. While the standard charging cable can plug into any 110/120-volt electrical socket and fully charge the battery in roughly 20 hours, a more optimal setup is a dedicated 240-volt wall unit that utilizes the full 7.2 kW to charge batteries in less than four hours. Further, the e-Golf comes equipped with a standard Combined Charging System (CCS) which allows the car to use the SAE standard DC fast-charging infrastructure (available at select charging stations), which delivers power at up to 50 kW, bringing the battery's state of charge up to 80 percent in approximately 30 minutes.
While the EPA estimates fuel (electricity) consumption at 29 kWh per 100 miles traveled (and thus range to be a modest 83 miles), our own testing experience suggests a realistic range in the default Normal mode of 106 miles on our suburban evaluation loop, with 6 miles remaining. This was, in part, due to the e-Golf's unique ability to customize regenerative braking among four different levels to maximize energy recovery. Range can be further extended if either Eco or Eco+ drive modes are used.
At our test track in Normal mode, the 2015 e-Golf accelerated to 60 mph in 9.3 seconds. This is a little slower than the Chevrolet Spark EV, but quicker than the Ford Focus EV.
Standard safety features for the 2015 VW e-Golf include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A post-crash braking system is also standard and automatically applies the brakes after an impact to reduce the likelihood of a secondary crash. Front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are standard.
Also included is VW's Car-Net emergency telematics service, which offers automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers). A Car-Net app for Apple and Android smartphones lets owners control many of these functions on the go.
In Edmunds braking tests, the e-Golf stopped from 60 mph in 117 feet, an impressive result for this class, only bettered by the much smaller and lighter BMW i3 EV.
Although the e-Golf has yet to be tested, in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash testing, the non-electric 2015 Golf earned the highest score of "Good" in tests for moderate-overlap frontal-offset impact, small-overlap frontal-offset impact, side impact and roof strength. Its head restraints and seats also received a "Good" rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
The e-Golf's ability to provide smooth and effortless drivability comes naturally due to the zero-shift direct-drive powertrain. The car's electric motor delivers maximum torque from a standstill, which makes for good response in city driving conditions. It's not going to win any drag races, and as speed builds, acceleration ebbs slightly. Still, you'll have no problem merging into highway traffic.
Unlike some other EVs, the e-Golf offers four distinct levels of lift-throttle regenerative braking that the driver may select with the shift lever up to the maximum "B" level. This is handy in traffic as well as for improving efficiency and extending range.
Another benefit of the batteries' under-floor location is that the electric hatchback's center of mass is low to the ground and as a result, provides a very stable highway ride and surprisingly good handling as well. In fact, the e-Golf matched the standard Golf's agility in our handling tests, and its power steering retains a smooth and direct response. This EV is easy to steer when you're parking, and the wheel is reassuringly firm and stable at highway speeds. And because there's no engine, the e-Golf is amazingly quiet in any situation. Volkswagen's engineers added a whirring sound for pedestrian awareness and safety.
Overall, the Volkswagen e-Golf feels exactly like a well-equipped Golf that just happens to be electric-powered, and from the perspective of comfort, its highway ride is actually better. For all these reasons, we awarded the 2015 e-Golf our highest "A" rating.
Volkswagen wisely avoided the temptation to alter the regular Golf's otherwise practical and functional interior for the 2015 VW e-Golf. Were it not for blue accent colors and a specialized power display replacing the tachometer, you would never guess this is the electric-powered version of the Golf.
That's a good thing because this cabin is furnished with well-grained materials that are soft to the touch, and the overall design is slightly austere but generally comfortable and even sporty. Buttons and switches are close to the driver and offer intuitive control over basic functions. The center information display is simple to use and the 5.8-inch touchscreen (also used to display the rearview camera image) is a tad small compared to others, but it works well and is easily read at a glance. The navigation system disappoints, however, with slow response to its clever unpinch-zoom (like an iPhone) and inability to overlay traffic information on the map. Instead, it lists traffic incidents in the vicinity.
Front seats provide ample support and comfort, even during long-distance driving stints, and not at the sacrifice of rear-seat passengers. The new e-Golf's added leg- and shoulder room make the small hatch feel spacious. Our lone criticism about the backseat is that although the low-mounted rear seat cushions afford ample headroom, they reduce thigh support for longer-legged passengers.
We are continually impressed with the packaging of the batteries under the floor of the e-Golf because its luggage and cargo capacity are identical to any other Golf hatchback. Up to 22.8 cubic feet of cargo can be accommodated behind the rear seats, while folding the seats completely flat provides a class-leading 52.7 cubic feet of space.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.