Looking for a classy electric car that subtly fits in with other cars on the road? Take a look at the 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf. Available only as a 5-door, 5-seat hatchback, the e-Golf looks only slightly different from its fossil-fuel-powered older brother, the Golf, which is quite a nice thing if you’re not the type to want an electric car that stands out from the crowd.
2016 marks the second year of production for the e-Golf, and Volkswagen has worked hard to make it more competitive in the emerging electric car segment.
The biggest change this year comes in the form of the new SE trim, which will join the SEL as one of the e-Golf’s two trim offerings (the Limited Edition was dropped after 2015). Added to make the e-Golf more attractive in the face of increased competition, the SE sports a $29,815 price tag (not including the $7,500 federal tax credit)—a far cry from last year’s $33,450 entry point. Not only is the lower price meant to entice new customers to the e-Golf, it’s also meant to lure them away from the popular Nissan Leaf, which should have a starting price within a few hundred dollars of the e-Golf SE.
Again powering the e-Golf will be Wolfsburg’s 85-kilowatt AC electric motor, pumping out 115 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque via a single-speed direct-drive transmission. Supplying that motor will be a 24.2-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, good for an EPA-estimated 83 miles on a single charge. Mileage numbers come in at an astounding 126 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) city / 105 highway, as estimated by the EPA.
How long it takes to charge the battery pack will depend on which trim you choose. Opt for the top-of-the-line SEL and you’ll get a 7.2-kilowatt AC onboard charger with DC fast-charging capabilities, able to give you around an 80% charge in a half-hour. Keep in mind that fast-charger networks are still being built, so if you don’t have easy access to one, you’ll be waiting approximately 4 hours for a full charge using a 240-volt outlet (that number climbs to 20 hours using a standard 120-volt outlet). Stick to the base SE and you’ll be relegated to a 3.6-kilowatt AC onboard charger, significantly increasing that charge time.
Both trims will come with three available driving modes (Normal, Eco, and Eco+), designed to balance your innermost driving desires with your outermost fuel-efficiency needs. Braking has also been harnessed to re-capture energy, and the 2016 e-Golf will offer three different regenerative braking modes to capture both your mood and wasted energy.
Step into the SE and you’ll find yourself first staring at the 6.5-inch color touchscreen display, featuring Volkswagen’s new-for-this-year MIB II infotainment system with USB connection and VW Car-Net App-Connect—a system that connects your phone to the car’s infotainment and works with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink. Also standard on the SE is keyless entry with push-button start, a rear-view camera, 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, a heated windshield, and heated cloth seats. Like last year, 2016 has not brought many available option packages to the lineup—the SE has precisely zero (at least you get to choose from 7 exterior colors).
Move on up to the comparatively posh SEL and you’ll notice a big difference staring back at you: the 8-inch color touchscreen running the same MIB II infotainment system as the SE’s. That touchscreen will also boast Discover Pro navigation, one of the SEL’s many standard features. Also on that list are things like full LED headlights, a multi-function steering wheel, leatherette seats, and park distance control. Happily, the SEL will be available with an option package: Volkswagen’s new Driver Assistance Package. If selected, the Driver Assistance Package will add forward-collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, and Volkswagen’s new Parking Steering Assistant—a system that will steer your car for you when parking (both parallel and perpendicular)—a very impressive amount of safety gear for a small car that already boasts front side-mounted airbags, front and rear head airbags, 4-wheel antilock brakes, and automatic post-collision braking.
Whichever e-Golf you choose, you’ll get a good-looking, versatile EV with plenty of room inside (52.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down) to live your daily life. Without a long list of options and packages to choose from, your biggest decision will be which trim (largely thanks to the different onboard chargers) fits your lifestyle best.