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BMW i3 vs. VW e-Golf - My personal test-drive experience and conclusion

Discussion in 'Electric Vehicles' started by AustinPowers, Jun 23, 2014.

  1. AustinPowers

    AustinPowers Total Smeghead

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    #1 AustinPowers, Jun 23, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2014
    So I finally got the chance to test drive both the i3 (pure EV version, i.e. without REX) and the new VW e-Golf - incidentally both on the same day :smile:

    Since I can't find a thread about such a comparison here yet I thought I share my experience.

    Let's start by saying that I am quite fed up with people comparing the i3 to Model S. Apart from the fact that they are "premium" EV's they have very little in common imho.

    The VW e-Golf is a far better contestant when comparing the BMW i3 as they are in a very similar league size-, price- and performance-wise.

    So, how did it go?
    I drove the e-Golf first that day, and boy was I impressed. To anyone who has seen Bob Llewellyn's review on Fully Charged as well as to Bob himself - I totally agree with him. The overall impression I got was "oh, that's nice".
    Everything was rock solid. Typical VW feel. Great performance, certainly better than a GTI, and quite easy to maintain an average consumption of around 13.5 kWh per 100km. What I particularly liked was the non-existant regen when lifting off the throttle which gave great coasting ability. As soon as you hit the breaks though, regen kicked it. Must be a software thing, but it felt very natural to a driver used to driving non-EV's.
    Update: I didn't have enough time to play around all that much with the settings, but I believe you can adjust the amount of regen effect, just as ItsNotAboutTheMoney said.

    Anyway, it was amazing how far you could coast without losing any speed and not using any energy at all. It was so effortless and fun. I think I wouldn't change the setting at all.

    As far as the safety features are concerned, the e-Golf offers just about everything (of course some as options), including ACC with auto-brake and emergency stop. That is for the German market of course, but I don't think VW would compromise on the safety features in other markets.

    In the afternoon I drove the i3, and even though I currently drive a BMW myself (and was setting some hopes on the Active Tourer PHEV supposedly available from next year on) I was VERY unimpressed. Actually, in that direct competition, the i3 lost to the e-Golf in almost every category. The i3 offers less room, especially in the rear, far less luggage space plus those awkward rear doors that are a real nuisance. And the most astonishing fact (at least for me): the i3 felt far less dynamic than the e-Golf, and very finicky. Not the least bit "planted". Where the e-Golf clung to the road almost like a sports car, the i3 with its high seating position seemed to roll and nick at every opportunity. Not the "joy of driving" I am used to in my 330 Diesel coupe. And the acceleration was also a bit "sluggish", compared to the e-Golf, which felt more like a small Model S in terms of performance.

    Even the interior didn't seem as luxurious as one is used to in a BMW. Of course, the eucalyptus wood looked great, but the rest didn't have a very "premium" feel about it. Not that the Golf was particularly luxurious on the inside either, but at least it felt like any solid top of the line VW. The touchscreen nav system is better integrated in the dash than in the i3 with its stuck on screens.

    Quick summary: after having driven four EVs now (Renault Zoe, Tesla Model S, VW e-Golf, BMW i3), my current favorite is the e-Golf (for my driving needs).

    Oh and I found a video about the e-Golf production in Wolfsburg:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhPtvOGR_vA

    Goes to show that the e-Golf is manufactured on the same line as all the other Golfs, which you can see in between some of the e-Golfs being produced during the course of the video.
     
  2. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    @AustinPowers, thanks for your e-Golf comments. It's not available yet in the US.

    So you are saying that when you lift off the accelerator the regen braking doesn't start until you touch the brake? That's disappointing to those of us who are used to driving EVs. Is there a setting that can change that so that lifting off the accelerator activates the regen?
     
  3. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Active Member

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    I think they refer to that behavior as "sail mode". I believe they have it as an option.

    2015 Volkswagen e-Golf Preview - CNET

     
  4. TonyWilliams

    TonyWilliams Active Member

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    Could you please find a Mercedes B Klasse ED to compare ?
     
  5. AustinPowers

    AustinPowers Total Smeghead

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    Sorry, but that model is not yet available in Germany, neither for sale nor for test drives.
     
  6. Realist

    Realist Member

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    I am surprised to read this.

    Performance wise the i3 is faster than the Golf, by quite some margin. There is no initial “push” off the line but above 30 km/h it feels so much more rapid than the Golf. The i3 has narrow tires so it tends to understeer early. Still, getting the ESP in Dynamic Mode and you feel the i3’s chassis to be more adjustable, more lively and more entertaining than the Golf. I also think the i3 has a much nicer interior with fantastic visibility and space in the front. The suicide doors have advantages. All in all the Golf is a much more conventional classic design. Objectively it might be better value but the i3 is just way more exciting to drive and own. To me this is the most interesting EV car.
     
  7. AustinPowers

    AustinPowers Total Smeghead

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    Well, the numbers agree with you that the i3 is a little faster 0-60 mph, but it certainly didn't feel that way to me. To me, driving an EV is exactly about that initial push, that the i3 doesn't seem to offer in a way that makes you feel the push. Even the Zoe felt faster off the line than the i3 to me. That combined with those thin tires and the high seating position all added up to make me feel quite uneasy, no matter what the ESP setting. The Golf for sure felt more planted, more in touch with the road. Of course, quite a lot of that is subjective, but at least for my taste, the e-Golf offered the better package - or the most "EV bang for the buck" if you will.

    Same goes for looks. Sure, the i3 is a head-turner, the e-Golf isn't. Some may like the shape of the i3, but up to now I have not come across many that do. The Golf design is not really exciting, that is true, but at least for many Germans I think the e-Golf offers a good opportunity (and quite good value for money) to "warm up" to EVs. Right now I am considering ordering one myself actually. Might be a good thing to bridge the gap until Gen III/Model E finally arrives.
     
  8. ManuVince

    ManuVince Member

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    I completely agree with AustinPowers that the e-Golf has much more EV-bang for the buck. The design is bit boring, but so familiar, and the practicality is the same as the standard Golf. I was very tempted by the e-Golf as a second car. Considered the i3 as well, but the look is too controversial for me, and it is too expensive, and not practical enough. the suicide doors are not an advantage at all when you have kids...

    At the end I just settled for the Renault Zoe, for some reason that have nothing to do with the quality of the e-Golf. First of all with the Model S already in the garage, fitting the Golf would have been challenging. The second is that the Golf isn't quite yet available in the Netherlands, while I could find a second hand Zoe very easily, for 15000 € less than the e-Golf. Even factoring the battery rent, and considering it is just city trips, the e-Golf couldn't win...
     
  9. Zapped

    Zapped Model S - PURE EV

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    Not sure when it arrived but the e-Golf is being sold here in Palm Springs. I'm taking a test drive tomorrow and will report back.
    In the assembly video it sure looks like a sensor similar to the Model S.
    e-Golf.jpg
     
  10. AustinPowers

    AustinPowers Total Smeghead

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    Looking forward to your report.
    That is indeed one of the sensors for the ACC.
     
  11. miimura

    miimura Active Member

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    The US e-Golf has only two versions and no optional equipment. The SEL Premium has standard cruise control (no ACC) and the Limited Edition which has no cruise control at all. As far as I know, ACC is optional on European e-Golfs.
     
  12. SabrToothSqrl

    SabrToothSqrl Active Member

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    What does the Golf plug into at home? On the site says something about buying a special 220 box...

    doesn't tell me to install a NEMA 14-50... and my buddy's looking at one.
     
  13. Zapped

    Zapped Model S - PURE EV

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    #13 Zapped, Jun 30, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2015
    Just finished a test drive. Very smooth, responsive and lots of power 0 - 50 mph. Stepping on the accelerator at 45 mph is a bit sluggish.

    e-Golf interior is just like the gas model. No room lost other than no spare tire ( seems to be the trend for new cars) but does come with tire repair kit and electric air pump.
    SEL Premium model is a step up from the Limited Edition. SEL has aluminum wheels, controls on steering wheel, leatherette seats, etc.( can't recall them all )

    The e-Golf only comes with a 120V charge adapter. Need to install a J1772 charger at home. VW sells a Bosch unit but I'm sure there are cheaper ones out there.
    If use the Schneider EVLink from Home Depot for $599.00 Schneider-Electric-EVlink-30-Amp-Generation-2-5-Enhanced-Model-Indoor-Electric-Vehicle-Charging-Station-
    Car is equipped with Level 3 SAE Combo Charging System.

    If you buy today at VW Palm Spring you can get $4k off the sticker price :cool: !! ( I don't work there, just say'in)

    IMO, the BMW i3 is a disappointment compared to the e-Golf
     
  14. spottyq

    spottyq Member

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    (emphasis mine)

    First of all, thanks for your comments about the e-Golf.

    Regarding your comment about the i3, I do not entirely agree. While I haven't tested nor the i3 nor the e-Golf (though I am used to the ICE Golf), I do like the fact that the i3 was built from scratch as an EV (+rex.) This translates to no central channel, and the gear selector is on the steering wheel. I also like (and this is an opinion) the fact that by default the regen of the i3 is strong and only on the go pedal, whereas you have to use the gear stick to change it on the e-golf, and that it is blended with the brake pedal.
    Also, and what I find quite important : the e-Golf does not have a liquid thermal management system (the i3 does.)

    So, I think the i3 is a better EV than the e-Golf, but the e-Golf is probably a better car than the i3.
     
  15. AustinPowers

    AustinPowers Total Smeghead

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    Well, unfortunately, the fact that the i3 was designed as an EV from the start doesn't result in any advantages over the e-Golf apart from the slightly lower weight.
    The i3 has less interior room, less cargo volume, less "oomph" from 0-30 (which is the acceleration bandwidth most people who use commuter EVs like the i3 or e-Golf notice and value), plus it has those awkward rear doors that are a complete nuisance in everyday use, for example when dropping off the kids at school.

    Sadly, the i3 is neither a better car, nor a better EV than the e-Golf. On the contrary, I think it is remarkable what a great EV effort VW was able to accomplish by not even using a dedicated EV design but only their standard Golf. Think what they could achieve with a dedicated BEV platform (not that they actually need to at the moment, as the e-Golf seems to be selling quite well).
     
  16. Zapped

    Zapped Model S - PURE EV

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    Here's a very comprehensive updated review on the 2015 e-Golf ( for some reason the comments are still from 2014 )
    The VW sales person said SEL was designed for cold climates and the Limited Edition was not.
    I agree with you on the regen braking and AFAIK the setting needs to be engaged every time you start the car, but I was able to set it to emulate the same accelerator pedal "feel" as the Tesla Model S which I find convenient.
    The i3 that I test drove had a very noticeable amount of engine and regen whine, unlike the e-Golf. The handling of the i3 was quite different and felt to me to oversteer and body roll was significant when changing lanes. BWM i3 clearance also seems high and narrow tires look a bit unconventional.
    Just my opinion but that's it. I'm certainly spoiled by the Model S
     
  17. pmadflyer

    pmadflyer Member

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    Wait, pardon my ignorance, but how many US cars don't have cruise control standard?
     
  18. wws

    wws Member

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    One of the differences between the SEL and the LE is that the SEL has a heat pump - which of course would be desirable in a cold climate. Another difference is LED headlights vs halogens.

    I have test driven an E-Golf at the dealership, and also a friends (non-REx) i3. I though the i3 was a lot perkier. When merging onto the freeway in the E-Golf, it was sluggish until I nearly floored it - and then it really took off! However in fairness to the E-Golf, we may have accidentally had it in Eco mode during the test drive. Although I could get used to the i3s looks (I actually like the side view), the E-Golf seems like a somewhat better value. I think VW needs to work on their lease pricing - a lot - though. The advantage of the i3, IMO, is the availability of the REx version. Sorry - I'm not a purist.
     
  19. AustinPowers

    AustinPowers Total Smeghead

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    That is a big difference between Germany and the US: we don't have different Versions of the e-Golf. We have the "standard" e-Golf which is quite well equipped (LED headlights for example are standard here, as is the premium satnav and various other goodies), and we have lots of optional extras, especially when it comes to safety and comfort features. ACC is one of them, the heat pump another. A fully loaded e-Golf tops out at around 44k Euro that way.
     
  20. tkizzy

    tkizzy Member

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    I've never driven an i3, but I had the chance to test drive an e-Golf while i took my GTI in for a warrantied water pump. First of all, the car is nowhere near the GTI or Golf R (and obviously the model S) in performance, not even remotely. Very solid construction and paint quality (VW have been doing this a long time and this car is no different). The interior feels a little watered down compared to the mk6 GTI, the standard seats aren't as good. Lots of shiny plastic and a touch screen which, after having experienced Model S, can only be described as miniature. That said I did enjoy it. It was quicker than I expected, but in no world could the performance be described as anything other than average at best. The electric drive makes it preferable to some of its comparably performing peers in performance. Handling is good (golf platform...), but you can feel the instability of the thinner tires and smaller wheels compared to the GTI.

    It felt very much like a normal car. the engine's in the bay. power gauges sit where the tachometer used to sit. I didn't get to test its range, but I think its sub 100 mile range makes it barely good enough for some people as their only car. Other than the stupid looking wheels, it's fairly inconspicuous.

    The first electric golf actually happened in the 70s.
    Electric mobility: The history of the e-Golf - Volkswagen

    Looking at the i3, without having tried one, it just doesn't look very exciting. I'm guessing - again, based on nothing but what I've read and seen about the i3 - I'd have the golf. But actually I'd have neither. I'd have the GTE with it's hybrid engine, which SHOULD BE but isn't as fast as a standard GTI. Actually I wouldn't have that either, I'd still have the GTI, at least until the performance of the GTE and e-Golf are as good or better.

    But the Model S is in another league altogether.
     

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