Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5
  • Has VW gone too far with the interior design?
  • Futuristic but not unfriendly inside
  • Lots of standard kit, but some quality concerns

While you may find that the exterior design of the ID.3 is subtle enough to pass without much comment from other people, the interior design is bound to make a big impression. Volkswagen has made some interesting decisions inside, not all of which will go down well with every buyer.

This includes the quality of some of the materials in places.

Minimalist and modern

The interior of the ID.3 is pared back, almost to extremes. There are few physical controls beyond the obvious essentials such as the steering wheel, and no ordinary dials or gauges – VW instead choosing to deploy a pair of digital screens to perform most functions.

Even the physical controls that do remain aren’t always located where you expect them. Instead of a normal gear selector, for example, there’s a rocker switch on the right side of the screen that serves in place of a conventional instrument cluster; you twist this to select Drive or Reverse. Meanwhile, the buttons that control the lights and the heated rear windscreen are in a touch-sensitive panel to the left of the instrument display.

That instrument display is attached to the steering column, rather than the dashboard, which means it moves up and down with the steering wheel when you adjust it. This alone, though not unheard of, instantly makes you appreciate you’re in an unusual car. It is also quite a small screen, and the things it shows make no apology for ignoring convention and focusing on the essentials.

To this end there is a digital speedometer, flanked by infotainment (such as sat-nav) on one side and safety on the other. You can choose to focus on one or other of these by cycling through the view options via the steering wheel. Some of us at Parkers were fine with this approach, others thought it was far too minimal. The panel can be supplemented by an optional augmented reality head-up display.

It’s a similar story with the central 10.0-inch touchscreen, which absorbs a lot of the ventilation controls as well as infotainment and the ever-increasing array of online services we have come to expect in modern vehicles. It operates in a way that’s reasonably logical but will require some familiarisation, especially if you’re stepping onto an ID.3 from a slightly older car.

Neat functionality includes a set of ‘smart’ controls for the air-conditioning, which means you can let the car get on with figuring out how to warm your feet or defog the windscreen by pressing a single icon.

Has VW gone too far?

As ever with touchscreen-dominated interiors, it is troubling that sorting out what you want to do often takes more concentration – and time – than using old-fashioned buttons. Volkswagen gets around this somewhat with voice control, allowing you to say ‘Hello ID’ and talk to the car to try and get it to perform many of the same functions; this doesn’t always work very well, however.

More problematically, where VW has resorted to separate controls these are mostly touch-sensitive, too. Which might be fine if they weren’t so laggy; often you press the button, such as the one for the heated rear window, then press it again because you don’t think it’s worked the first time only to discovered you’ve then turned the thing back off again due to the time delay.

Maybe you’ll get used to this. Or maybe it will continue to be annoying. We also wonder why it’s placed the controls for the lights and the heated screen so far from the driver’s reach.

ID Light

Another novel element of the ID.3’s interior is the ID Light. This is an illuminated strip just below the windscreen that’s intended to be a friendly additional form of information for the driver (and front passenger). This is gimmicky, but effective.

Using various colours and lighting patterns, it can alert you to direction changes in combination with the sat-nav, warn you of hazards ahead, playfully announce a phone call, and indicate the car’s charging status. It can also signal that the Hello ID voice control knows which person is talking to it, so if the front passenger says ‘I’m cold’ it will just turn up the temperature for them.

It also comes to life when the car is ready to drive, since the ID.3 only requires that you have the key and be sitting in the driver’s seat, without any need to press a starter button. An approach pioneered by Tesla, this is another way the ID.3 feels different to an ordinary Volkswagen, and something that only really makes sense with an electric drive system.

Standard equipment

All of the initial batch of UK cars are VW ID.3 1st Edition models – which means they come loaded with standard equipment and an accompanying price tag of just under £40,000 (before any incentive discounts such as the UK government Plug-in Car Grant). With these, the only factory option available is a choice of paint – everything else is dealer-fit accessories.

Highlight standard equipment items for the 1st Edition include 100kW fast charging capability, dual-zone air-conditioning, silver exterior styling elements, LED Matrix headlights, LED taillights with dynamic sequential indicators, illuminated front grille, heated front seats and washer jets, additional active safety, extra USB ports inside, and 19-inch alloy wheels.

In time, the ID.3 will be available in a range of trim levels and a selection of option packages. Even entry-level models will include 50kW charging, adaptive cruise control with AEB, climate control, alarm, 10.0-inch infotainment system with sat-nav, automatic lights and wipers, Lane Assist, LED lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a rear view camera – and that’s just scratching the surface.

Buyers of those models will have to make do with just 10 ambient lighting options, though, instead of the 1st Edition’s 50.

Is the quality good enough?

Most of what you routinely touch in the ID.3 does feel good quality. But when it comes to the price of those 1st Edition models in particular, there are some areas of the interior where you might think Volkswagen is being a little cheeky.

For example, while the door panel armrests are lovely and soft on the elbow, the upper panel and much of the rest of the door is a hard, slightly scratchy plastic. The point on the instrument panel where the drive selector seemed to be poorly fitted on our test car, while the design of the button areas on the steering wheel also makes them feel cheap and arguably quite nasty – which doesn’t help with their slightly awkward operation.

It’s almost as if VW has decided it’s okay to cut a few corners because this is an electric car – the electric drive components are undoubtedly expensive, so perhaps cost savings did have to be made elsewhere in order to keep the ID.3 relatively affordable.

Take a good look on the test drive and see if you’re happy with the compromise. On balance, we think we would be.