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Volkswagen Launches the People's Electric Car

Volkswagen brought over a few electric 2015 Golfs to the U.S. ahead of the December quarter launch. Earlier this week I became one of the first to drive these cars on U.S. soil.

For reference, in the days and weeks prior, I had spent time driving many of the competitors, including the BMW i3, Mercedes B-Class Electric, Chevrolet Volt, Cadillac ELR, Ford (F) Focus Electric and some of the other models vying for plug-in consumer interest.

In addition, I drove the electric VW Golf back to back against both the regular gasoline and diesel versions of this all-new 2015 model. This provided for yet another perspective on how different the electric Golf is.

Let's start with body and interior space: The good news here is it is identical to the regular 2015 Golf, which begins U.S. sales this summer. This car benefits from being perhaps the best-packaged car of anything in the market.

Let's run down the contest against the major competitors:

Front seat: Only the BMW i3 is a hair better but the eGolf is at least on par with the Mercedes B-class, and it's better than the Volt and Ford Focus. Much better than the Nissan Leaf.

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Steering wheel: Only the BMW i3 and Mercedes B-class are a hair better. The Volt, Ford Focus and Nissan Leaf are far behind.

Pedal space: The best, followed by the BMW, Mercedes and Volt. The Ford Focus and Nissan Leaf are behind.

Seating position: Slightly behind the BMW i3, basically on par with the Mercedes B-class and a bit better than the Volt and Ford Focus. Infinitely better than the Nissan Leaf.

Instrumentation: This is subjective, but I think the eGolf may have the easiest-to-master instrumentation in its class. This is a huge improvement from previous Golf models. In fairness, I don't think there is a lot separating the usability of the various instruments and infotainment systems among these cars. Neither is great by any means but they are all among the better in the industry. It is more a matter of taste than an objective victory here. That said, I put the eGolf at the top of this list.

Back seat: Best in class, on par with Mercedes B-class. The Volt and BMW i3 fit only two people, the Nissan Leaf has less headroom and the Ford Focus is just a little tighter overall.

Luggage space: Not as large as the Mercedes, a hair smaller than the Leaf and probably not ahead of the Volt but clearly better than the BMW i3. The Ford Focus is a catastrophe in the luggage department.

In terms of the cars just standing still, I give the nod to the Mercedes B-class. It's a taller body and has more luggage space. The Golf ties the Mercedes when you consider it's working with smaller outer dimensions. The BMW i3 has the comfiest front seat and driving position, but the rear seat only fits two and the luggage space is small.

OK, so what about driving the eGolf? How does it compare?

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