Volkswagen ID.3 review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Volkswagen has usefully updated its trend-setting little ID.3 electric hatch. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

The ID.3 has changed the way we think about Volkswagen. And about affordable electric cars. But there's been quite a bit for the brand to iron out since this model first arrived on our market in 2020. This updated version is smarter, has a more up-market cabin, better media connectivity and charges faster. Time to give this EV a second look.

Background

So far, there have been three eras in Volkswagen's history. The first post-war period of the Beetle. The second modern era, dominated by the company's biggest-selling model, the Golf. And the third EV period, which started back in 2019 with this car, the ID.3, the first of many products from the Wolfsburg maker's new ID all-electric sub-brand.

Prior to the ID.3, we'd had all-electric Volkswagens before (the e-Golf and the e-up!) but they'd been based on the underpinnings of ordinary combustion models. The ID range was to be very different, created around a purpose-designed MEB electrified platform and built at a bespoke EV factory in Zwickau near Dresden. By early 2023, over 300,000 ID.3s had been sold, but all hadn't gone to plan. There were software development issues, problems with safety features and issues with screen-sensitive icons. Plus journalists often felt the cabin was finished rather cheaply.

All of which has led to Volkswagen rushing forward a package of mid-term updates just three and a half years after the car was originally shown for the first time at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. Is it all enough for this ID.3 to deserve a second look? Let's find out.

Driving Experience

There are no significant dynamic or engineering changes here. Let's cover what you need to know. To start with, there are two choices of powertrain for this revised ID.3, with battery packs rated at 58kWh (for the 'Pro') and 77kWh (for the 'Pro S'), allowing for respective WLTP-rated driving range figures of up to 265 and up to 347 miles. The primary electric motor option offers 204PS and takes the 58kWh version to 62mph in 7.3s (it's 7.7s for the heavier 77kWh variant). Expect a price-leading version with a smaller 45kWh battery and a 150PS electric motor along at some point. As before, all models drive the rear wheels through a single-speed auto gearbox. And all variants have the same limited 99mph top speed.

To fire everything up, you hit the starter button, then activate the gear selector, a rocker switch mounted on the steering column that twists in two directions: it's forward for 'drive' and the braking regeneration modes, And you twist back for neutral and reverse. Acceleration has been programmed to be linear and consistent rather than arriving all-in-a-rush. And weight has been kept to reasonable levels (1,670kgs is relatively light for an EV) which helps handling. As is compulsory for EVs, there's a pedestrian warning buzzer which works at under 12mph to warn pavement folk of your approach. The super-tight 10.2-metre turning circle is closer to that of an up! city car than a Golf.

Design and Build

The exterior changes here are subtle, but quite effective. There's a re-profiled front bumper with vertical air ducts. Plus a re-shaped bonnet, based around a completely new pressing that does away with the previous black panel below the windscreen to give the car a more elongated appearance and a sleeker drag coefficient. The tail lamps are different too, with distinctively-illuminating X-shaped daytime running lights and smarter scrolling indicators. Otherwise, things are much as before, which sees this as a slightly larger car than a comparable Golf. And this EV is 60mm taller than a Golf too, thanks to the need for battery installation in the thicker floor. There's a swept-back windscreen (raked to better accommodate the head-up display system).

Inside, the mid-life changes are much more evident, highlighted by a larger 12-inch central screen in place of the previous 10-inch monitor. This works with an optional cloud-based speech recognition system, now upgraded to provide faster reaction times, while the optional Head-up display now supports augmented reality functions. The animal-free triming seems quite a bit more up-market - and appropriate for the relatively high prices Volkswagen wants here. Higher-grade plastics feature on the lower part of the dash (not before time), while higher-specified variants get smarter materials for the upper part of the dash too.

As before, there are plenty of stowage cubbies and a decently-sized central storage bin resides between the front seats. Due to a 145mm wheelbase increase over a Golf, rear seat room is almost Passat-like, but you don't get a huge boot, though the 385-litre capacity will be sufficient for most.

Market and Model

Volkswagen's goal with the ID.3 was to make the switch to full-EV motoring more affordable for more people - but that's not going to happen until it's quite a bit cheaper than it is right now. Expect pricing to start at around £37,000 for the core 58kWh 204PS 'Pro' version with base trim. If that's a little much, then you might want to wait for the forthcoming 45kWh 150PS variant your dealer will shortly be able to tell you about.

All models get Matrix LED headlamps, keyless entry, diamond-turned alloy wheels of at least 18-inches in size, 'Air Care' 'Climatronic' air conditioning, ambient lighting and a removeable luggage compartment floor. A 12-inch centre-dash infotainment screen is now standard across the range and features a neat 'touch-sensitive bar', using which you can swipe across various screen zones to control both stereo volume and cabin temperature. Volkswagen's latest natural voice control system also features, enabling you to ask the car virtually anything as long as you preface it by "Hello Volkswagen". We'd want to specify the clever head-up display system, which projects augmented-reality navigation arrows, hazard alerts and pedestrian detection messages onto the inside of the windscreen in front of you as you drive.

The new model also marks the introduction of option packs, which are available for both trims and group together popular options according to personal preferences. The Exterior Pack, for example, allows new two-part LED tail light clusters on the tailgate instead of reflectors. When it comes to paint and trim design, there's a new colour - 'Dark Olivine Green', an iridescent metallic paint shade that changes appearance depending on ambient lighting conditions: one minute it looks an earthy green, the next it offers a warm golden glow, or a chic grey. The roof with this finish is completely black and the roof trim strip is finished in high-quality matt silver to emphasise the paint colour.

Cost of Ownership

The brand has increased the ID.3's maximum DC rapid-charging rate with the 77kWh 'Pro S' battery from 125kW to 170kW, but otherwise, there are no changes on the battery front (so the 58kWh 'Pro' battery still only charges at up to 120kW). As before, Volkswagen reckons that a typical ID.3 user will save about £730 a year in operating expenses over what they'd pay to run a comparable combustion-engined model. It's not only that your energy costs will be lower: you should also make savings in insurance, road tax and the fact that no oil changes are required. Volkswagen says that its aim is to make sure that the battery pack lasts as long as the car and, sure enough, that battery pack is warrantied to have at least 70% of its usable capacity after eight years or 100,000 miles.

As usual with an EV, around 80% of charging will be done via programmable overnight replenishment using owners' garage wallboxes - bespoke versions of these are available through Volkswagen. With the 58kWh version, a 7.4kW wallbox will charge the car in 9 hours 15 mins (12 hours 15 mins for the 77kWh version). Out and about, in the unlikely event that you find a 100kW rapid charger, around 180 miles-worth of electricity can be taken on board in just 30 minutes. The 58kWh 'Pro' model takes on 5-80% of charge in 35 minutes, while the 77kWh 'Pro S' needs only 30 minutes.

Summary

There are lots of things we like about the ID.3, but this mid-term update package was certainly much-needed. You'll appreciate the smarter inside finishing and the more sophisticated media systems, plus the charging time is faster and the exterior looks sleeker, though still quietly futuristic. Volkswagen's problem though, is that much the same kind of engineering can be had with arguably more appealing packaging with cousin CUPRA Born and Skoda Enyaq iV 60 models.

If it's the ID.3 that appeals though, you could find yourself liking this updated version much better than you might have done before. As previously, this really does feel like an authentic Volkswagen, with a rear-driven format that even has a few Beetle throw-backs. In half a century's time, there's just a chance that the ID.3 will command a place in automotive history alongside that seminal VW model. In the meantime though, the ID.3 has to sell well. And in this form, there's a much better chance of it doing just that.

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