Easy-going, comfortable, and nimble to drive. Seems well placed to grab the baton from the Golf
VW’s quest not to try anything too futuristic or scary has resulted in a car that’s not especially memorable
What is it?
The first fruit borne by the Volkswagen ID tree. Launched back in 2019, the ID.3 is a Golf-sized family hatch and the smallest member of the all-electric ID family, with the ID.4, ID.5, ID.Buzz having since joined the party – and more on the way.
It’s a crucial car for Volkswagen as it forges towards a new battery-powered era, seeking to clean up its oily reputation and silence the doubters who rage against the German giant for being too ponderous in taking electro-mobility seriously.
So, Volkswagen needs the ID.3 to sell in vast numbers, not simply virtue-signal from the corner of the showroom. As a result, there’s very little going on here that’ll alarm or confuse the traditional Golf customer.
Hit me with the basics.
The ID.3 is a five-door, five-seat hatchback, with a boot at the back and a motor beneath driving the rear wheels. The steering wheel and infotainment screen jump across from the latest Golf MkVIII. Sure, you can jazz up the paintwork with some Nineties hues and polka-dot graphics, but the overall silhouette is a streamlined monobox, kinda like an overgrown Up that’s off to Bonneville Speed Week.
The overhangs are short, the wheelbase elongated, because the front doesn’t have to accommodate a hefty engine and cooling system. The long wheelbase is good news for packaging the battery downstairs, and humans above. And the drag factor is a svelte 0.27, even though it’s a tall machine with door mirrors, not new-fangled cameras. So you have a car that’s compact in the city for parking, but roomy enough for family trips. A definite plus.
What's range like?
Because the ID.3 is based on a bespoke electric car-only platform (it’s codenamed MEB, and worth remembering as you’ll be hearing a lot more about cars spun off it in the coming years), VW can be agile when it comes to offering different versions.
Entry-level ID.3s offer just over 200 miles at best, via a 45kWh power pack (badged Pure Performance), mid-range models offer around 250 miles via a 58kWh battery (Pro and Pro Performance), while at the top of the range there’s a 77kWh battery version (Pro S), good for a Tesla-troubling 330-ish miles of range.
It’s rear-drive only – there’s an SUV-shaped ID.4 to fill the dual-motor niche – with VW’s performance arm boss Reinhold Ivenz telling TG in November '22 that it won’t be making an ID.3 R electric hot hatch. Shame.
How much power has it got?
Well, that depends on what size battery and power output you go for, with the rear-mounted electric motor available in either 143bhp, 148bhp or 201bhp guise. We’ve tested the mid-range and top variants so far and found it plenty competent as an everyday runaround – head over to the Driving tab for the full lowdown.
Costs? Volkswagen offers the ID.3 in a choice of five trim levels (Life, Style, Family, Max and Tour) – though chipageddon means that at the time of writing, the only VW ID.3 you can currently buy is the ID.3 Life Pro Performance, starting from £36,990. Full details over on the buying tab.
More rivals have arrived since the ID.3’s launch too, with competition now coming from the likes of the Cupra Born, Hyundai Kona, Kia e-Niro, MG 4, Nissan Leaf, Renault Megane E-Tech Electric and Smart #1, to name but a few – perhaps explaining the fast forwarding of the ID.3’s facelift to 2023.
Want to know what the best electric cars are? Click here for the top 20
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
VW makes no secret of the fact it considers the ID.3 its next definitive people’s car, after the Beetle and the Golf. And to please most people most of the time, the ID.3 is deliberately not an oddball. Digest its slabby-yet-slippery silhouette, get your head around the chunky drive selector, and the ID.3 has few surprises left up its sleeve.
That, of course, is exactly the point. This car is supposed to grab the baton from the evergreen Golf, which has become the benchmark over almost 50 years of gradual improvement and evolution. Scary cars tend not to sell in big enough numbers to change the world.
And based on the evidence, the ID.3 fills the brief of an easy-going family hatch. However, VW’s quest not to try anything too futuristic or scary has resulted in an EV that’s not that memorable, especially compared to those emerging from its Korean counterparts. It’s a sensible choice, but perhaps not an inspired one.