The march to electrification takes another significant step with the launch of VW’s ID brand, which will spawn a full range of EVs in the coming years.
On the road
On the road
The new ID.3 is a really big one for Volkswagen, which has piled on the pressure by lumping its new EV in with the legendary Beetle and Golf as the three main pillars of its evolution as a brand.
It’s the first electric car to be based upon the new underpinnings developed by the Volkswagen Group specifically for EVs, and one that the brand hopes will seat 20 million vehicles in the next eight years. It will be used by a range of Audi, Seat, Skoda and VW models in the coming months and years.
The ID.3 is, within a few millimetres here and there, the same size as a Golf hatchback, hence the demise of the electric Golf, but VW claims that the packaging on its new platform allows for Passat levels of interior space.
1. The turning circle really is excellent. VW claims it’s the same as the Up city car’s and Its a very useful attribute in urban settings.
2. The cabin has a minimalist charm to it, but the dash display is too small compared to the detail offered by almost all modern cars, and doesn’t give the information drivers are now used to.
3. The light bar below the windscreen scrolls to indicate direction of turn when the nav is set. It’s neat, simple and clever.
At launch there is one electric motor, which puts out 204hp, but two battery choices, with six of the seven rather baffling trim levels coming with the ‘Pro’ 58kWh battery that offers an official range figure of 263 miles, while the top Tour model gets a ‘Pro S’ 77kWh battery that pushes the official range figure out to 336 miles. A 45kWh battery with a 205-mile range will be added, offering a cheaper entry price that will open up the ID.3 to a wider audience. The fact that it has a range figure of more than 200 miles will be key for adoption, with industry research finding that the double century is an important psycological milestone.
That slightly confusing number of trim levels – six all with the same Pro battery – seems to have been designed to give choices of tech to almost eliminate optional extras. However, you don’t really ascend the range in a linear fashion, where each would add a bit of extra kit over the last. It’s more a case of picking the combination that ticks the right boxes for you. While a nice idea, it does lead to a bit of to-and-fro as you try to work out which of the Life, Business, Style, Family, Tech, Max and longer-range Tour models get which equipment for what money.
The ID.3 certainly turns heads as a new car, although the styling is a bit opinion-splitting. The very short bonnet and comparatively elongated body is slightly different from existing shapes, and takes a touch of mental adjustment. The front in particular doesn’t have enough design cues to make it instantly recognisable as a Volkswagen, which may be why the VW badge is so big on the nose. Indeed, it’s almost like a car that’s been deliberately anonymised for an advert in which the company doesn’t want to use an identifiable model. Still, it’s the first in a line of ID products, so that’s likely to be a short-term issue. It’s not unpleasant in any way, although that could depend on thoughts about the aero hubcaps on the steel wheels that sit as standard on all bar the longer-range model. They’re undeniably easy to clean and cheaper to repair/replace than alloys, but they’re not the prettiest.
The cabin is unlike that in any other Volkswagen, and spectacularly bucks the trend for increasingly large dashboard screens ahead of the driver to display more and more information. The one in the ID.3 has the absolute basics, and all the trip and efficiency information, for example, is moved to the central information system. It doesn’t exactly give the car a premium feel, and that’s not helped by VW’s latest infotainment software, which, as experienced elsewhere in the group’s portfolio of products, has the ability to cause frustration in performing some basic functions.
But that’s not to say the ID.3 isn’t clever. For a start there’s a light bar under the windscreen that sweeps in the direction of a turn when the navigation is set, and illuminates in red to highlight dangerous situations. It will also indicate battery level during charging.
The car will also communicate wirelessly with other Volkswagen models fitted with the Car2X technology that launched on the new Golf last year, to warn of hazards in the local area.
Volkswagen’s claim of Golf GTi-rivalling off-the-line acceleration is instantly apparent from the first pull-away, and it’s clear that this ID.3 has more power than price-matched rivals with a bigger footprint, such as the new Citroen e-C4, Hyundai Ioniq or the Kia e-Niro. All offer slightly different strengths in terms of packaging and range, but all have prices within just over £1000.
While doing the sensible things well enough, with a decent-sized 385-litre boot and perfectly acceptable rear space for passengers, the ID.3’s real strength is in the performance it offers. It’s more than two seconds faster from 0-62mph than any of its £33,000-ish electric rivals, and feels significantly perkier.
It also controls body roll very well, and feels like a lighter and smaller car than it actually is, given it weighs more than 1700kg, which is more than the Kia, Hyundai or Citroen electric rivals. However, the quick steering isn’t completely conducive to faster driving, and the ride quality deteriorates at higher speed.
Still, the ID.3 is good over speed bumps and lower-speed imperfections, but seems to develop a bounciness at higher speed that can almost have you out of your seat over crests or big lumps in the road. But in town the light steering and really very excellent turning circle are boons, as is the big and airy windscreen and what it does for forward visibility.
As mentioned, rear space is good considering the compact dimensions, and Volkswagen has done a great job of packaging the car to maximise practicality. Boot space is five litres up on the Golf and beats the larger-footprinted e-C4 and Ioniq, although the e-Niro and Nissan’s Leaf both offer significantly larger luggage areas, if that’s a major consideration.
All cars get a decent amount of standard equipment, including wireless connection for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, single-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and heated front seats and steering wheel. The step up from the entry Life trim driven here (although the pictures show the special 1st Edition model) is at least £3730 to the next model, but all others add keyless entry, a panoramic sunroof, rear privacy glass and a host of other kit. The entry-level car isn’t exactly sparse, but its appeal is very much in the performance it can offer for the lower price, rather than its lavish kit.
Running cost are any electric car’s forte, and the ID.3 lives up to this. Next to a 150hp Golf R-Line mild hybrid, the company will save almost £3500 in company National Insurance over three years, as well as the obvious fuel benefits, although the Golf is significantly cheaper to insure. And then there’s the driver Benefit-in-Kind, which goes from zero to 1% in April, giving 40% taxpayers a monthly bill of just under £11, while the Golf will be £285.
Obviously the same equation applies to the growing band of more affordable electric vehicles that are coming through.
Still, the ID.3’s performance, decent practicality and, in the entry trim level at least, cost-efficient status, all make it a car that will undoubtedly grab fleets’ attention. It’s right in the heart of the Venn diagram of pricing, practicality and range, and with the very perky performance likely to enhance the appeal for some drivers moving across into electric for the first time, there’s plenty to be positive about with this first of a family of electric Volkswagen ID models.
The ID.3 is Volkswagen’s first purpose-built electric vehicle, developed from the ground up on the group’s new Modular Electric Drive platform that is set to underpin 20 million vehicles across the various VW Group brands by 2029.
VW has set itself the goal of becoming the “world market leader in electric mobility” and has committed to €33 billion of investment across its brands by 2024.
The ID.3 is so named for two reasons, one to position it in a range that will welcome various models including the ID.4 crossover later this year, and also because Volkswagen is touting the car as the beginning of the third major chapter in its history, following on from the era-defining Beetle and Golf models.
The ID.3 was first signposted in 2016 with the unveiling of the I.D. Concept (pictured) at the Paris motor show, and Volkswagen has since shown concepts including the ID Buggy beach buggy, ID Buzz MPV, ID Cross and Crozz II crossovers, ID Roomzz SUV and ID Space Vizzion estate model as it explores ways of expanding the ID line-up.
The ID.3 is built at a carbon-neutral plant powered by renewable energy in Zwickau, Germany.
What they said
What They Said
“The ID.3 has proved to be a ground-breaking car, with nine awards to its name already. It meets all the needs of fleets and company car drivers, too, through its intelligent design.
“Thanks to the electric-only platform, it offers more space inside than its exterior dimensions suggest, while benefiting from its net-carbon neutral status and also low running costs.
“We’ve just launched the ID.4 SUV, too, and throughout the year more battery and electric motor choices will become available, ensuring that there really is an ID vehicle for every budget.”
Nick O’Neill, head of fleet, Volkswagen UK,
Need to know
Three things we like...
The central stowage area is big and has various useful sections
Gear selector takes a second to get used to, but is then intuitive
A rear-mounted charging port helps for people wishing to reverse into spaces
...And one we don't
The infotainment system isn’t intuitive and can easily cause frustration
The ID.3 is undeniably rapid in a straight line, and has good body control in corners.
A very useful range figure of more than 250 miles, although the battery is larger than rivals’.
The boot isn’t too bad, and beats a Golf for volume, while rear-seat space is certainly acceptable.
This is the entry model so misses out on some niceties, but still gets some premium features.
There’s a sense that it looks more attractive in brighter colours, and the ID.3’s styling definitely works better from some angles than others.
Comfort and refinement 7/10
The ride quality is certainly on the lumpy side, particularly when hitting bumps or crests at higher speeds. It takes the likes of speed bumps pretty well, but has too much bounce as pace increases.
There is a minimalist feel (bordering on spartan) to the clean cabin, with everything loaded into subtle slider bars or the touchscreen system.
Not the ID.3’s strongest suit, with the latest VW infotainment system not being the most user-friendly, and the screen controlling most of the functions.
Whole life costs 9/10
For an electric car, the entry ID.3 is well priced, has a decent residual value and the tech means running costs and tax are low.
CCT opinion 8/10
A new arrival that brings focus and attention to the sector, and makes most sense in this spec.
The long-awaited ID.3 arrives as EVs are building momentum. It looks like an excellent all-rounder at a time fleets will relish such
a cost-effective option.