It's still a Golf; it just happens to be electric
* Will cost just under €30,000 n Arrives here in July * Watch out also for sizzling GTE plug-in hybrid version
AFTER all the talk and hype it boils down to a couple of simple questions.
The first one is: would you buy an electric, yes electric, Volkswagen Golf with a range of 190kms (118 miles)?
The second is: would you pay just under €30,000 for it?
Most people will probably say no. I'm one of them but – have we thought this through?
I wouldn't buy because it wouldn't suit me. I don't want to have to charge a car once or twice to get up and down to the midlands.
Like most of you I am NOT in what I call the 'electric mindset'.
But there are many who are, or who could be. They don't need a diesel or petrol. The shopping centre, school, tennis club or golf course is only 30km or 40km of a round trip.
And the main family vehicle is likely to be a large executive or people carrier (diesel) to take them to Kerry or Donegal.
Even if your work involves a daily 100km round trip, you can stay in the 'mindset' because you can charge it at home or at work (an all-in-one charging lead comes with the car). So maybe it is a bit premature to dismiss it on range alone.
And it is a Golf; unspectacularly different from your petrol or diesel version. I'd say that is reassuring for many people. We Irish like our Golfs. There is a modified grille because you don't need air intake for an engine and tweaks have improved aerodynamics by 10pc but other than that it's . . . a Golf.
They are saying it will cost under €30,000 when it arrives in July and it will be a mix of Comfort and Highline spec, so you are paying a premium of €4,000 to €5,000 over a decently-decked diesel.
Alternately you could compare it with a Nissan Leaf (more than 70 sold this year) at SVE trim, which costs €26,319 (entry level €20,980), or a BMW i3, which costs €34,010.
None will dispel range anxiety. This is real life. We don't have 600km batteries yet.
The Golf's battery pack is under the cabin between the axles, and robs the boot of up to 100 litres. Charging can take a long time if you plug it in on the home socket (13 hours); eight hours on a special wall box in your garage and 30 minutes for an 80pc charge on street stations.
They reckon you will cover 100kms for €1.22c, whereas the equivalent diesel Golf (with DSG automatic transmission) will cost €5.5 and the petrol €8.
I think they are being hugely optimistic comparing average savings over a 30,000km year, because there is no way an e-Golf buyer will cover that distance. But on those figures they say the e-Golf will cost €366 in 'fuel', the diesel €1,755 and the petrol €2,400.
You would close the price gap fairly quickly on that basis but you'd be busy charging batteries (eight-year warranty or 160,000kms).
So what is it like?
I drove it around Berlin in all its modes – you can have Normal, Eco and Eco+. The latter two lower the power output and extend your range. I would say Eco+ plus (least power used) is best for city driving.
You can also set how much regenerative braking you want. At full tilt level it was akin to solid braking when I lifted my foot off the accelerator.
Really there was little difference between this and a conventional Golf in the cabin except it was quieter and had a huge screen with sat nav (standard).
You notice the boot, which has an underfloor, is more shallow. And they have low-rolling resistance tyres.
One criticism I had was that the air con was poor. It was 20 degrees in Berlin and I wanted it on low. It works off an integrated heat pump designed to save the battery. Even on full strength it didn't cool me enough.
My e-Golf came with its own iPhone so I could, if I wished, pre-cool the car among other things. Initially just the one dealership (in Dublin) will look after the e-Golf.
Now I know we're not queuing to buy electric cars and range anxiety is a factor. But I think, just maybe, the Golf will help revive interest.
I think price is crucial. Sticking my neck out I could see 50 to 100 buying one in a full year. Maybe more. I just have a feeling about it.
What do you think about electric cars?
Let me know.