On Autos: Electric VW Golf delivers pleasant, thrifty experience

The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf combines the appeal of a smartly designed compact hatchback with 125 miles of all-electric range. (Brady Holt/The Current)

As electric cars continue to grow in popularity, their manufacturers have been making tremendous gains in battery technology. Most notably, electric vehicles have been seeing a huge boost in the available range per charge. Even a model you wrote off as impractical last year may have made significant progress since then.

That’s certainly the case if you considered the 2015 or 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf. This all-electric version of VW’s compact hatchback originally hit the market with a mediocre range of 83 miles per charge — enough to cover significant ground within D.C., to be sure, but without a great comfort margin for longer errands.

The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf is priced from $31,345 before a $7,500 federal tax credit. (Brady Holt/The Current)

The 2017 e-Golf, though, has made a major dent in that concern. Its range is now rated at 125 miles, and a weeklong test revealed that it can easily travel farther still — especially in city conditions, where braking can help recharge the battery as you drive. That range beats the best-selling Nissan Leaf and other similarly priced competitors, and while it’s not at the 200-mile-plus level of the Tesla or the Chevrolet Bolt, the e-Golf’s range is now more than sufficient for running around the D.C. area.

Charging takes about 5.5 hours on a 240-volt car charger or 24 hours with a standard household outlet. But keep the e-Golf topped off after each drive, and you’ll rarely bring the battery down to full zero. Of course, having a place to plug in with some frequency is a requirement with the e-Golf and other electric cars. The EPA rates the e-Golf’s electricity usage as 28 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which works out to a little over $2 per 100 miles at Pepco’s current residential rates.

The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf has the same cleanly styled and well-finished cabin of other Golf models. (Brady Holt/The Current)

On the road, the e-Golf’s peppy and nearly silent electric motor combines with the standard Golf’s composed ride and handling to make this Volkswagen fun to drive. The Golf also boasts a well-finished interior and a generous cargo capacity. Unlike many electric cars that have been created from gas-powered models, the e-Golf’s batteries don’t stick out in the rear seat or cargo hold.

In one nitpick, Volkswagen didn’t take advantage of the e-Golf’s large dashboard screen to simultaneously present lots of efficiency information about the vehicle — of interest to most buyers of electric cars. Drivers instead must select one piece of information to view at a time, needing to browse through lists or menus to see, for example, remaining range versus kilowatt-hours used.

Prices for the e-Golf start at $31,345 before a $7,500 federal tax credit. That’s in line with competitors that have a similar range, and thousands less than a Bolt or Tesla. Overall, Volkswagen has created an appealing blend of environmental friendliness with everyday comfort, utility and driving enjoyment.