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First purpose-built electric VW looks promising

Volkswagen ID.3 Hatchback (20 on) - rated 0 out of 5
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PROS

  • Up to 342-mile electric range
  • Standard fast-charging makes life easier
  • Golf-sized outside, Passat-sized inside

CONS

  • Pricier 1st edition models only to begin with
  • Styling isn't particularly adventurous
  • First deliveries not until mid-2020

PROS

  • Up to 342-mile electric range
  • Standard fast-charging makes life easier
  • Golf-sized outside, Passat-sized inside

CONS

  • Pricier 1st edition models only to begin with
  • Styling isn't particularly adventurous
  • First deliveries not until mid-2020

Volkswagen ID.3 Hatchback rivals

After what's felt like years of teasing with concept cars and camouflaged prototypes, the wraps have finally come off the fully electric Volkswagen ID.3 hatchback. It's impossible to understate the significance of this battery electric vehicle (BEV) for VW - the company itself already talks about it has having the same levels of importance to the brand as the original Beetle and Golf did - plus this zero-emission compact family hatch also marks a definitive line in the sand from the woes of the Dieselgate fiasco that blighted the whole company in recent years.

Although Volkswagen has already produced a range of electrified vehicles, namely the e-Up and e-Golf, as well as the Golf GTE and Passat GTE plug-in hybrids, the ID.3 is the first in the firm’s new electric sub-brand. These ID-badged vehicles will all ride on a shared set of EV-specific underpinnings, and the range is set to expand from practical hatchbacks to SUVs as well as more wacky offerings, such as a reborn version of the classic VW Microbus. 

Turquoise 2020 Volkswagen ID.3 Hatchback recharging

Set to be one of the most popular and affordable electric models, the ID.3 won't have things all its own way in what's set to be a major growth area over the coming years. Right now, competition primarily comes in the form of the well-established Nissan Leaf, plus there’s the Korean pairing of the Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric, both of which offer more than 270 miles of range in an SUV package. Then there’s the larger and pricier Tesla’Model 3, with a minimum of 240 miles of range – not to mention sports saloon-like performance. 

What is the ID.3’s range?

Usually the first question most people ask about an electric vehicle is how far can it go between charges? While it’s not set to be a gamechanger in terms of range, the ID.3 will offer plenty of choice for most customers.

All of the first wave of ID.3s will be a special 1st trim that only comes with the mid-sized 58kWh battery providing a claimed range of 261 miles. When the range is expanded later, there will be a smaller 45kWh battery with a 205-mile range and a higher capacity 77kWh option that VW claims will travel 342 miles between recharges. These figures all compare very favourably with the maximum 186-mile range quoted for the outgoing e-Golf.

Turquoise 2020 Volkswagen ID.3 Hatchback rear three-quarter driving

One of the factors that accounts for this vast improvement is an all-new BEV-specific platform Volkswagen calls MEB. While the e-Golf’s underpinnings were designed to accommodate petrol and diesel engines, the ID.3’s don't, meaning the compact motor and transmission can squat under the boot floor, with the batteries housed under the passenger compartment. What this means in practical terms is a car about the size of the Golf, but with the passenger space of a Passat, plus a 385-litre boot even with all five seats in place.

So far VW has confirmed that the ID.3 1st will have a 204hp motor generating 310Nm of instantaneous pulling power, but there's no official word on a 0-62mph acceleration time yet. Top speed appears to be electronically governed to 99mph in order to help prevent unnecessarily draining the battery pack's reserves. We'll reserve judgement until we drive it, but clearly the ID.3's not going to be a slouch - combine this with the inherent handling advantages of mounting the heavy batteries low down in the car and that it's the rear wheels that are driven like a traditional sports car, the omens are good for the electric Volkswagen being entertaining to drive.

How long does it take to charge?

All versions of the ID.3 will be equipped with 100kW fast-charging on-board, capable of adding more than 160 miles of range in just 30 minutes when connected to a compatible charger. In addition, the first models will be offered with 2,000kWh of free credits at public charging stations, including the fast-charging Ionity network. Think of Ionity as a rival to Tesla's supercharger network, but financially backed by a number of car companies including the Volkswagen Group. The number of its charging points will increase dramatically during 2020 and beyond.

Turquoise 2020 Volkswagen ID.3 Hatchback front three-quarter driving

For customers who prefer to top up at home, a high-output wall box will be available in a choice of two power levels, allowing customers to recharge the car overnight, controlling the timing of the charge via a smartphone app to coincide with any potential cheaper tariff during non-peak hours.

Smooth styling, but too Golf-like?

Those hoping for something radical along the lines of the BMW i3 are going to be disappointed for the ID.3 isn't wholly dissimilar to VW's Golf. The bodywork is smoother so as to cleave the air with greater efficiency, while the side profile reveals a large window ahead of the front doors rather like an MPV. While the bluff nose is distinguished by an LED light bar that links the headlamps - incidentally they have a welcome greeting that is reportedly like eyelashes being fluttered - the rear has an all-black glassy tailgate, rather like that on the Up city car. Additionally there are honeycomb pattern graphics in the rear pillars and disntinctive alloy wheel designs from 18 to 20 inches.

It's all very recognisably Volkswagen, but it's very much a case of evolution despite it being a revolutionary model for the brand. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the new VW logo that accompanies the car - no really, it is different. Same shape and font as before, with the V sitting above the W enclosed in a circle, but it's no longer three-dimensional - just a slimmer, flatter version of what's gone before.

2020 Volkswagen ID.3 Hatchback left-hand drive dashboard

Inside it also feels familiar, albeit with two large screens that display and control almost all of the ID.3's functions. In fact, the only physical buttons inside are for the electric windows and the hazard warning lights. Expect a very similar arrangement in the Mk8 VW Golf set to be unveiled before the end of 2019. There is a nod to Germanic humour, though - the brake and accelerator pedals are respectively marked with pause and play symbols as you'd see when watching video or listening to audio.

How much will it cost?

Volkswagen’s already opened pre-orders for the ID.3, so willing customers can put down a deposit of £750 to secure their place in the queue.

The brand has confirmed that the initial models – named 1st for first edition – will cost less than €40,000 (around £35,500) in Germany, but UK pricing isn’t yet available. Volkswagen says the price of the entry-level, 205-mile model will be less than €30,000 (circa £26,600), but again, we’ll have to wait to see how these figures translate once it hits the British market.

2020 Volkswagen ID.3 Hatchback brake and accelerator pedals

Other trim levels will follow later on in the model’s lifetime, but 1st-spec cars are set to be well equipped with sat-nav, LED matrix headlights and two-tone finishes inside and out. We hear there will be an ultra-modern digital dashboard, including head-up displays and augmented reality to overlay road traffic signs and sat-nav directions on to the windscreen ahead of the driver. You’ll also be able to unlock the electric VW by your smartphone.

Find out more about all electric cars here

Volkswagen ID.3 Hatchback rivals