City runaround: the VW e-Golf


Price: £25,845
Engine: AC electric motor
Gear box: Single-speed mechanical
Top speed (MPH): 87
Range (miles): 118
0-62 MPH: 10.5

The VW Golf may be ubiquitous, but this is a Golf with a difference: it's the first ever model to do away completely with the internal combustion engine. That's right, VW has dived headfirst into the booming electric car market.

This isn't just any electric car, though. It offers up 113bhp to the front wheels, making it a nippy number, which, aside from a reduced travelling range, is practically identical to a "normal" Golf in every regard. It will set you back £25,845 (including a £5,000 Government subsidy) and will manage to hit 87mph flat out if you absolutely need to take it to a German Autobahn for speed testing.

Of course, with a claimed range of 118 miles (I got nearer 100 miles), getting to the continent could be tricky, and hitting the top speed will batter the range, but that misses the point. As a city runaround, this car is just as practical as a supermini.

For the sake of fairness I should confess to a fondness for electric cars. In London, where I live and am lucky enough (unlike many) to have a spot at my flat to charge one, they make some sense. For example, I can park it in the car park near my office at a reduced fee, and don't pay the daily congestion charge. I also feel smug that I'm not fouling the capital's already disgusting air like other drivers.

The problem is that I'm not sure how many people there are in my position with a desire to buy one – when not testing electric cars, I happily take the Tube or cycle to work. Then there's the price, which is £5k more than the standard (fairly clean) petrol model.

Still, something about the e-Golf suggests that it will find a market. Driving across south London on a cat-ferrying mission (the e-Golf ride is smooth, but not smooth enough to prevent feline vomiting), I was hailed down at some traffic lights by a young chap in a tracksuit. He was driving a "rude boy" Golf with alloys and go-faster stripes. He gesticulated wildly for me to bring my window down, pointed at the subtle e-Golf badge and breathlessly asked me "what will it do".

I replied that it would, if driven carefully, do about 100 miles from an overnight charge. He seemed impressed. Normally, speed-lovers only flag me down if I'm driving something fast. Something with a spoiler, not a charging socket. It looks like that's changing.

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