The Volkswagen ID.3 offers an extremely refined, comfortable and responsive driving experience, along with a spacious, modern and minimalistic interior, and a driving range of 260 miles.
It feels like the Volkswagen ID.3 has been a long time coming, but it’s finally here – at least in 1st Edition form. Following on from the Beetle and then the Golf, Volkswagen sees the ID.3 as the third iteration of its ‘people’s car’ – and this time it’s electric. So should you think again about that Golf that you’re ordering…?
The Volkswagen ID.3 exterior styling appears to be heavily influenced by efficient aerodynamics (a theory that is supported by the impressive 0.27 Cd figure). The interior has a futuristic feel, and, like the exterior, there’s a minimalistic approach – more on that later. The white steering wheel and light grey interior trim of our 1st Edition test car accentuated the airy feel. And there’s a feature within the touchscreen to allow you to change the colour of the background lighting in the cabin, with choices including Infiniti, Eternity, Desire, Euphoria and Vitality.
The main element of the powertrain – the 58 kWh lithium-ion battery, supplying an electric motor which powers the rear wheels – sits in the floor of the car. This results in the ID.3 having efficient packaging, with a similar footprint on the road to a Golf, but with levels of space inside similar to a larger Passat, and the boot is also a decent size. So although its aerodynamic, it’s also a practical shape.
Like a Tesla, and seemingly like increasing numbers of the latest EVs, there’s no start/stop switch in the ID.3, you simply get in the car and it’s ready to go. All you need to do is select Drive, and you’re off. But hang on, where’s the gear selector? It doesn’t appear to be positioned where you would normally find it, ie. between the seats, because there’s just lots of storage space here. After some searching around it turns out that the gear selector is on the right hand side of the instrument display – hidden behind the steering wheel rim.
Once you’ve found how to select forward gear, you’re able to drive off and enjoy the smooth and instant responses of the electric powertrain. Most EVs are very refined, but the ID.3 seems to go one step beyond – it is a very, very refined car. And then there’s the ride – it has a very, very comfortable ride. There may also be a surprise: unlike most Volkswagens, the ID.3 isn’t front-wheel drive, it’s rear-wheel drive. Electric vehicles produce so much torque that front-wheel drive EVs struggle to control wheelspin and torque steer under heavy acceleration. So Volkswagen has gone down the rear-wheel drive route, and as well as being successful in banishing wheelspin from the front wheels, rear-wheel drive also delivers a much better handling experience (and of course the handling is helped by the battery sitting low in the floor). Although the ID.3 weighs 1,794 kg, it doesn’t feel that heavy.
However don’t think that you’ll be able to use all that torque to induce power slides; in typical Volkswagen fashion, the traction control system is engineered to mostly dial out any sporty, fun or exciting characteristics of rear-wheel drive, with the power being curtailed well before any slipping of the rear wheels occurs.
You also have three main drive modes to choose from: Eco, Comfort and Sport (as well as Individual), and whichever mode you select, it appears to stay in this mode next time you start the car. Using the gear selector, you can choose D, or if you want increased levels of brake regeneration, there’s a B setting – but there are no steering wheel-mounted paddles for adjusting the level of regeneration.
So overall, the ID.3 is a pleasurable, refined, quiet and comfortable experience whether you’re driving it around town or on a motorway. Noise, vibration and harshness is certainly a thing of the past with this car.
However, there are a few areas for improvement… In Sport mode, acceleration from standstill can be slightly jerky. The brakes can also feel sharp when you first touch them, but then after that they don’t feel as reassuring as a combustion-engined Volkswagen.
But the main issue we have is that a key factor in the enjoyment of driving is steering a car, and in the ID.3, as in most modern cars, the lane departure warning system takes control of the steering – even when moving over to the left lane on a motorway without indicating, despite Roadcraft, the Police Drivers’ handbook, stating that you don’t need to indicate in such a situation. Having the steering wheel wrenched from you impacts negatively on the driving experience, apart from potentially being dangerous, but in many cars it’s possible to switch the system off relatively easily.
But not in the ID.3. To access the controls for the lane departure warning system – and to access the controls for the majority of car functions – you have to reach over to the far left of the touchscreen and press a blue button. This takes you to a ‘home’ screen, then you need to press another button to select Driver Assist settings. Then a graphic comes up, which you have to swipe to one side. Then you need to press a button on another screen to switch off Lane Assist. This is a lot of button pressing, and we would suggest that you’re more likely to crash trying to look for all the buttons on all the different screens than if you didn’t have the lane departure warning system in the first place. (We should note that there is a voice control feature however we experienced mixed results with this).
So we would suggest that the fashion for minimalistic dashboard design has gone too far. The BMW iDrive system, with a rotary controller in a convenient place with shortcuts, is still the best solution, but the Honda e – with lots of permanently displayed buttons on its wide screen – is also a better system than having to constantly press lots of buttons in menus and sub-menus to do anything – including changing heating and ventilation settings (interestingly, there are separate temperature controls under the touchscreen, but these aren’t illuminated at night).
Perhaps the rear window switches summarise the approach to the interior. The driver has just two switches for the left and right windows. Then there’s a separate switch to toggle between these switches operating the front and rear windows. Once again, too much button pressing…
The official Volkswagen ID.3 electric driving range (WLTP) is 260 miles. In our relatively limited time with the car it was displaying a real-world range of 208 miles, but this is likely to be influenced by previous driving styles.
Charging time from 0 to 80% using a 100 kW (DC) rapid charger is 30 minutes (or 180 miles). Charging time from 0 to 100% using a 7.2 kW (AC) domestic wallbox charger is 9 hours 30 minutes.
The Volkswagen ID.3 1st Edition Pro Power 58 kWh 204 PS costs £35,215 (after the UK government £3,000 Plug-in Car Grant). Running costs of electric cars are much lower than those of petrol or diesel cars – with EV fuel costs being around one-fifth that of petrol cars – and there is currently zero Benefit in Kind tax on EVs for company car drivers.
The ID.3 Pro Performance (58 kWh battery and a 204 PS motor) will be available in six specification levels: Life, Style, Business, Family, Tech and Max. At the top of the range, the four-seater ID.3 Pro S will have the largest battery fitted (77 kWh and a 204 PS motor). This will be available only in Tour specification, with a 336 mile range. The lowest-priced of the models, the ID.3 Life, will cost £29,990 after the £3,000 plug-in car grant.
The Volkswagen ID.3 feels like it has been a long time coming. One outcome of this is that expectations for it may be high. If so, then the overall driving experience will please most people, being refined, quiet, comfortable, responsive, easy to drive, and with a decent driving range. Even the price is reasonable compared to some rivals. In our view, many people who drive a petrol or diesel Golf and then drive an ID.3 won’t be buying an internal combustion-engined Golf again.
However having to reach over and press a button on the touchscreen – and then typically having to press many other buttons – on a constant basis to control car functions is an experiment that doesn’t work in our view. Volkswagen has got rid of most physical buttons in the interior, but the outcome has been that the driver has ended up doing a lot more button pressing.
The Volkswagen ID.3 is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.