That logic also applies to the driving experience. We've long marveled at how the Golf is a singularly engaging compact, no matter if it's powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder, an in-line five-cylinder, or a small turbo-diesel. It turns out that's true even when there's no combustion engine at all. That means excellent steering, handling, and ride, despite a hefty curb weight of about 3400 pounds (about the same as a Leaf and some 400 pounds heavier than a Golf with a five-cylinder gasoline engine and automatic transmission). Weight balance has actually improved to about fifty-fifty thanks to the load of batteries hanging off the tail, but a few quick passes through a roundabout on factory grounds revealed a tendency toward understeer along the lines of what we've experienced in diesel-powered Golfs.
There are, of course, traits unique to an electric drivetrain, but here, too, execution is up to the elegant standards we've come to expect of Volkswagen. The brakes suffer from little of the sponginess we're familiar with from hybrids and EVs. Like the Volt and the Leaf, there are multiple modes for regenerative braking when the driver lifts off the accelerator pedal, but the Golf offers more adjustability. Using a steering-wheel-mounted shift paddle cleverly co-opted from DSG-equipped Golfs, a driver can select one of three drive modes. The first, best suited for highway driving, has very little regen braking. The second and third modes introduce the liftoff braking we've become used to in hybrids and electric cars in increasing increments, but we'd like more aggressive braking in the highest mode. In all modes, the Golf reduces friction losses by decoupling the motor from the one-speed transmission and "sailing" whenever you lift off the pedal. One disconcerting side effect of this feature is that the car will roll backward on an incline, as if it were equipped with a manual transmission.