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Volkswagen e-Golf EV makes official North American landfall

This is the e-Golf – an all-electric Volkswagen that originally debuted at the Geneva Auto Show this spring. Next week, however, it’ll make its North American debut at the 2013 LA Auto Show. The e-Golf based upon the all-new Golf, the Mk 7, which has yet to debut here Stateside. You can consider this unveiling, however, the beginning of the all-new Volkswagen onslaught about to head Stateside.

Before we dig under the bodywork, let’s pause and enjoy the visual aesthetics of the thing. Scroll through the images above, and I think you’ll agree the e-Golf is perhaps the best-looking, sub-$50,000 EV yet. As dashing as the compact EV hatch might look, however, its performance figures don’t quite match.

Volkswagen fitted the e-Golf with an electric motor that produces 115-horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. Feeding the peppy little motor is a 26.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, which has been mounted under the back seat. The e-Golf, unlike its quick-footed standard Golf brother, will make a crawl from 0-62 MPH in 11.8 seconds.

Where the e-Golf lacks in get-up-and-go, it soars in emissions-free accessibility.

The e-Golf will feature three driving modes: Normal, Eco, and Range. Normal, as you might expect is the standard set up. Eco drops horsepower output to 95, which will increase driving distance. And Range takes Eco one step further and limits the e-Golf top speed to 59 mph.

In spite of its less than inspiring 0-62 time, I figure the e-Golf will be an absolute blast to drive – at least on curvy roads. With the batteries mounted low and in the middle of the car, we can only presume the e-Golf will have great handling characteristics. I drove the mk7 Golf GTI in Napa Valley this summer and the all-new MQB platform that underpins both the GTI and the e-Golf is a wondrous thing indeed. While the e-Golf might not get out of its own way very quickly, in the curvy bits of road, it’ll likely be a well-planted driving dream.

The range of the e-Golf should be comparable to the Nissan LEAF around 70-80 miles. Similar, too, will be the recharge time: the five to seven hour mark on a level two 240V charging port.

What’s extra clever about the e-Golf is that although batteries have been stuffed into the compact hatch, rear cargo space has only decreased by one cubic foot. This means unlike some of its competitors – the Ford Focus Electric for example – customers won’t have to sacrifice carrying capacity in order to enjoy a zero-emissions drive.

We don’t know for sure but we presume that this cute new VW EV is a compliance vehicle, much like the Honda Fit EV and the Fiat 500e. California recently passed laws stating that all automakers that wish to sell cars in the state must sell at least two-percent EVs by volume.

This means even automakers like Honda that don’t believe much in EV futures must build and sell an EV – at least in California. Since VW has been dedicated to diesel technology for so many years, it would stand to reason that without this legislation, the e-Golf might never have existed.

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