The greenest Golf in history is coming! With Nissan getting ready to launch the Leaf electric car, Volkswagen is playing catch-up. The plug-in Blue-e-motion hatch won’t go on sale until 2013 at the earliest – will it be worth the wait?
We drove a prototype at VW’s HQ in Wolfsburg, Germany. At first glance, aside from stickers and the lack of an exhaust pipe, it looks like any other Golf.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the VW Golf
Inside, it’s a similar story. To package the electricals, designers lost a couple of inches of the boot floor, but the Blue-e-motion feels familiar from behind the wheel – VW wanted “no compromises”. The analogue dash displays are classy and easy to read – there’s none of the confusing bar graphs and digits on some battery cars.
Under the skin is a 113bhp electric motor and a lithium-ion battery, which produces 270Nm of torque. The range is limited, at only 87 miles, and a full recharge takes six hours from a conventional household plug.
Plans are afoot across Europe to make three-phase 50kW fast-chargers available at the roadside, which should give an 85 per cent top-up in only 30 minutes. However, regular use of such set-ups will soon deplete the battery’s life.
On the move, the Golf is quick off the line, but slows when the motor’s torque falls off above 50mph. Around town, it keeps up with traffic, and easily maintains 70mph on a motorway. The trouble is, too much high-speed driving tends to dig deep into the model’s range.
The electric motor is smooth and also one of the quietest of any battery-powered car we’ve driven. It’s so refined, in fact, that you can creep up on pedestrians with alarming ease. As a result, it’s more than likely that VW will develop a low-speed warning noise for the car.
The handling is great, with precise steering and limited body roll, although the low-resistance Michelin tyres crash through potholes. VW says it has yet to optimise the suspension.
Rival: Ford Focus
electric version of the Focus is due on sale in about three years’ time. A number of prototypes are currently being tested, and it should more than match the Golf on performance and range. Ford is also readying a hybrid variant.
* Price: £25,000 (est.)
* Motor: AC synchronous (brush-less) electric motor driving the front wheels with 26.4kWh, 180-cell water/air-cooled lithium-ion battery
* Transmission: Single speed, front-wheel drive
* Power/torque: 113bhp/270Nm
* 0-62mph: 11.8 seconds
* Top speed: limited to 113mph
* Equipment: air conditioning, electronic power steering, electric mirrors/ windows
* On sale: 2013