Used 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf Review

One of our favorite electric vehicles, the 2016 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.




what's new

The 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf gets a new, lower-priced base trim with slightly less standard content. Both the base SE and upper-trim SEL models get a new infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and VW MirrorLink smartphone connectivity and a 6.5-inch touchscreen for the SE and an 8-inch touchscreen for the SEL. The SE loses the built-in navigation system, parking sensors and auto-dimming rearview mirror that were standard on all e-Golfs in 2015, and speedy battery charging is now an extra-cost option on the base trim. The SEL gets a new optional driver assistance package that includes front collision mitigation and parallel parking systems.

vehicle overview

Volkswagen was a bit late to the EV segment, waiting until 2015 to introduce its first electric vehicle — four years after Nissan launched the category with the all-electric Leaf. But those weren't four wasted years. VW engineers and designers studied the EVs that were entering the market and learned from their plusses and minuses. The result is the e-Golf, an electric car that doesn't surrender handling, comfort or roominess to make room for its large battery pack. It's a car that actually builds on rather than subtracts from the qualities of the conventionally powered Golf hatchback on which it is based.

The 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf is an electrified version of the standard Golf hatchback. It is rated at 83 miles of range.

On the outside, the 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf looks just like the rest of the Golf lineup. The only real differentiating features are a shuttered grille and some unique wheel and LED lighting treatments to distinguish the electric model. Inside, 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. Acceleration is competitive for EVs, and range depends on driving style, but you can expect between 80 and 100 miles on a single charge.

In both of its trim levels, the 2016 e-Golf's features and standard equipment are better than most competitors offer. But because of limited charging infrastructure availability in many regions, the e-Golf, like many other electric vehicles, is available only at participating dealers in California and the dozen West Coast and East Coast states — plus Washington, D.C. — that adhere to the tougher emissions standards and zero-emissions vehicle rules first implemented in California.

In the states where they are available, there are a growing number of EVs, including the stalwart and affordable Nissan Leaf, cute-as-a-button 2016 Fiat 500e, versatile 2016 Kia Soul EV and engaging 2016 Ford Focus Electric. There also are some luxury-brand options in the Golf's class with the distinctively styled BMW i3 and the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive. But if you're interested in a small EV that doesn't scream "look at me" and offers dynamic driving qualities and great versatility — and if you live in the right area — then you owe it to yourself to test-drive the 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf.




trim levels & features

The 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf is a four-door hatchback electric vehicle (EV) offered in two trim levels: SE (replacing the 2015 Limited Edition) and SEL. Standard equipment for the SE includes power heated side mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, automatic headlights, LED running lights and 16-inch alloy wheels with low-rolling-resistance all-season tires.

Interior features include dual-zone automatic climate control with rear vents, an electrically heated windshield, rearview camera, automatic wipers, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and manual-slide/power-reclining front seats with heating and manual lumbar adjustment. The rear seats are 60/40-split folding with a pass-through armrest. Standard technology features include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB and auxiliary ports, an SD card reader, an eight-speaker audio system with satellite and HD radio, a CD player and VW's MIB II system with smartphone integration, VW's Car-Net telematics and a 6.5-inch touchscreen that provides for all manner of controls.

The SEL Premium adds LED headlights, cruise control, a multifunction steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, ambient lighting, an 8-inch touchscreen, an SD-card-based navigation system, additional Car-Net features, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors and an energy-efficient — and range-increasing — heat pump for the climate control system.

Going for the e-Golf in SEL Premium trim adds niceties such as cruise control and a multifunction steering wheel.

Options packages are simple. The SE can be augmented with a DC Fast Charging package (standard on the SEL) that adds a 7.2-kW onboard charger and a DC fast-charge port that enables rapid charging at a growing number of commercial quick charge stations being installed around the country. The SEL's only optional equipment comes bundled in a Driver Assistance package that includes a front collision warning and mitigation system with autonomous emergency braking, and VW's parking assist system for semi-automated parallel parking (the driver still must control the brake and accelerator).



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 the default "Normal" driving mode. Power is reduced to 94 hp and 162 lb-ft in Eco mode and 74 hp and 129 lb-ft in Eco+ mode. The e-Golf sends its power to the front wheels via a single-speed transmission. Electric power is supplied by an under-floor lithium-ion battery pack with an overall capacity of 24.2 kWh.

The SE model comes with a fairly slow 3.6-kW charger that requires about seven hours to restore a depleted battery when connected to a 240-volt, Level 2 charging source. The SEL comes with a speedier 7.2-kW charger — it was standard across the line in 2015, the e-Golf's inaugural year — that does the job in just under four hours. Charging can also be done on a standard 120-volt household line, but it then takes about 20 hours to replenish a fully discharged battery pack. The SEL also comes with a "Level 3" DC fast-charge port that permits rapid recharging — 80 percent in 30 minutes — on select commercial SAE-standard fast-charging installations that are being installed around the country. The 7.2-kW charger and a DC fast charge port are bundled as the only factory option available for the base SE trim.

The EPA estimates the 2016 e-Golf's fuel (electricity) consumption at 29 kWh per 100 miles traveled, with a total range of 83 miles per charge. 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 the Eco or Eco+ drive modes are used, especially when used in conjunction with a light foot on the accelerator pedal.

At our test track in Normal mode, a 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.

safety

Standard safety features for the 2016 VW e-Golf include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, rearview camera, 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 are standard on the SEL trim

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.

For the SEL trim only, there's an optional Driver Assistance package that includes a front collision warning and crash mitigation system with automated emergency braking.

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 crash tested by federal regulators or by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the non-electric 2016 Golf four-door hatchback on which it is based earned the Institute's highest possible 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.

driving

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.

Unique LED running lights, different wheels and the lack of a tailpipe are a few of the visual p>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 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 e-Golf our highest "A" rating.

interior

Volkswagen wisely avoided the temptation to alter the regular Golf's otherwise practical and functional interior for the 2016 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 base model's 6.5-inch touchscreen (also used to display the rearview camera image) works well and is easily read at a glance. The SEL's 8-inch screen is much better, though, especially for displaying the SEL's built-in navigation system. While the base SE doesn't have a proprietary in-dash navigation system, its smartphone integration allows drivers with smartphones to use the touchscreen to display navigation maps and directions from their phone apps.

Its front seats provide ample support and comfort, even during long-distance driving stints, and not at the sacrifice of rear-seat passengers. The e-Golf's leg- and shoulder room make the small hatch feel spacious. Our lone criticism about the backseat is that while the low-mounted rear-seat cushions afford ample headroom, they reduce thigh support for longer-legged passengers.

By packaging the batteries under the floor of the e-Golf, VW engineers ensured that 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.