Two of Seat’s smallest cars get new tech and sharper styling
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The Top Gear car review: Volkswagen ID.3
On the inside
Layout, finish and space
If you’re reading this at BMW HQ, consider yourselves sincerely flattered. Your i3 may not have been the epoch-changing sales success the suits hoped for, but the cabin design clearly won a few fans over in Wolfsburg.
It’s not just the lofty driving position and airiness in here that’s cribbed from an i3: so’s the twin screen layout, and the drive selector behind the steering wheel. However, with its climate controls mostly hidden in the standard 10-inch touchscreen, the ID3 feels more minimalist inside. Great if you hate buttons. Not so clever if you value usability – but VW has a dodge for that.
You sit fairly high – closer to crossover altitude than a Golf’s seat – which carves out room for the low-slung batteries which give the ID3 that classic low centre of gravity behaviour. With the split A-pillars ahead of you and the steeply raked bonnet, it feels more MPV than SUV from inside, and pleasingly glassy. What’s good for visibility is also pleasing to passengers, and provokes more altruism from your driving, because you’re ‘on display’. Only the slim rear window and thick pillars out back hinder the ID3’s goldfish bowl experience.
The main touchscreen media centre with the touchy-feely heater and volume sliders on the shelf that juts out below, is lifted wholesale from the Golf Mk8. Or is it the other way around? Either way, this means you’re going to be a doing a lot of jabbing and swiping instead of prodding switchgear. And in the Golf, we’ve found that less than intuitive.
However, the ID3’s driving assistance systems are some of the best we’ve yet come across. Don’t mistake this for a self-driving car, because no such thing exists regardless of what Elon Musk or his Twitter army tells you. But the manner in which the ID3 steers itself is so well calibrated, it’s far less fraught operating the monitor in here than it is in the ID3’s internally-combusting cousin. The mirror controls, mounted on the driver’s door, are exceedingly fiddly, however, and worse than a Golf’s. Hope they don’t catch on.
Another piece of Volkswagen v2.0 heralded by the ID3 is the ‘ID’ light. What at first appears to be a gimmicky strip of Christmas tree lights wrapping around the cabin is in fact a sort of AI driver alert system. It’ll subtly gesture its firefly-esque glow in the direction the nav is pointing you, or flash red if you need to make a brake intervention. When charging up, it represents the battery level so it can be spotted at a distance, and it pulses as you converse with the ‘Hey ID’ voice assistant, which is VW’s shortcut for the missing tactile buttons. How very 2020. Or should that be Nineteen Eighty Four?
In the back, cinema-style seating (the row behind is higher up, there’s no sticky popcorn on the floor) offers a useful view ahead for rear passengers and there’s more space than a Golf, if not the Passat-sized accommodation VW claims. The door trims do look a tad cheap, but you’ll not want for stowage, as the flat floor has been filled with a generous central stowage bay with a phone holder, cupholders and a netted pocket up front.
All very useful, but you get the sense VW could’ve been braver with how it detailed this cabin. It hasn’t gone ‘full lounge’, like the Honda e, or really rammed how the open-space, flat-floor architecture like an i3. It feels very normal, played safe. It’s a bit of a chicken korma, y’know?
The boot’s as big as a Golf’s and there’s underfloor stowage for your mucky cable. No secret compartment under the bonnet though, as that’s full of air-con and head-up display gubbins – the ID3’s screen-projected info is extremely comprehensive. It’s a wonder the instrument screen wasn’t done away with altogether. The HUD isn’t part of UK 1st Edition spec, but will arrive on UK ID3s later on.