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First drive: Volkswagen ID3

Date: 18 December 2020   |   Author: Simon Harris

The first of a new generation of electric cars from Volkswagen could be a big success with fleets.
Standard equipment:
LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, Car2X, voice control, front and rear parking sensors, sat-nav with 10in touch-screen, keyless start, driver profile selection, climate control, interior alarm and adaptive and auto-swimming LED headlights, over-the air software update capability
Electric: 204hp with 58kWh battery; 204hp with 77kWh battery
Equipment grades:
Life, Business, Family, Tech, Style, Max, 1st Edition, Tour

Several years ago, Volkswagen's electric car strategy was to create EVs as a member of an existing range.

There was the E-Golf and the E-Up, and the latter still exists. But building a car platform to accommodate one of a number of different power sources (the Golf was also offered as a plug-in hybrid GTE, as well as in the mainstream petrol and diesel options) requires huge investment to build in the flexibility.

Then, five years ago there was some issue with diesel emissions, giving Volkswagen a reason to review its electric vehicle plans and plot a bolder course.

While the E-Up continues alongside petrol variants, there is an emerging trend with new city cars - as they tend to be used for mostly low-mileage journeys - to embrace electric power, even at the expense of petrol engines. The Up's Seat cousin the Mii is only available as an electric vehicle, and the Fiat 500e has relaunched the iconic model with only electric motors.

While the latest Golf has a choice of petrol, diesel or plug-in hybrid variants, the role of an electric family car falls to a new model for the Volkswagen range, which will see a number of EVs spun off the same architecture.

The ID3, if Volkswagen is to be believed, is a new benchmark for the brand in the same way that the Beetle, and the original Golf were.

Competing in the lower-medium sector alongside the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Ioniq, the ID3 certainly isn't shy of looking futuristic and different. It immediately stands out when some other brands have been trying to give their EVs a more 'regular car' appearance.

It's a difficult call to predict how customers react, but there seems to be growing enthusiasm for electric cars, especially as a deadline has now been set for the ending of sales of cars powered only by internal combustion engines.

And the ID models will be made carbon neutrally at VW's Zwickau, Germany, factory, which will be appealing for many.

The ID3 is even more avant-garde inside, with drive selected by twisting a control to the right of the steering wheel, a small information screen in front of the driver, and a central dashboard touchscreen.

Lots of hard plastics around the cabin are essential to keep weight to a minimum, and something that would have raised eyebrows if this was a new E-Golf. It can get away with it as it's a new vehicle with a different and more focused purpose.

There are quite a few equipment grades in the range, although the entry-level Life is priced at just under £33,000, with the price of the car dropping below £30,000 when the government grant for electric cars is applied. The Tour version comes with a higher-capacity battery than standard, enabling that model to travel well in excess of 300 miles on a full charge, although the 260 miles offered by the other versions (probably closer to 200 miles in this chilly winter weather) is satisfactory for the money. 

The ID3 is rear-wheel drive, so there's no unpleasant squirming from the tyres at the front when max torque is unleashed. The standard-capacity battery model will accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds, but the slightly heavier Tour will cover that benchmark in 7.9 seconds.

Driving the ID3 is pleasant enough, but I was surprised at the low level of energy regeneration when B mode is selected. Of course, for the uninitiated, the so-called 'one-pedal' driving offered by the Nissan Leaf could be disconcerting, but it's also a missed opportunity to return recaptured energy to the battery and increase the distance between charges.

But overall the ID3 is a welcome addition to the electric vehicle sector, as we look forward to more from Volkswagen.

Volkswagen ID3 First Edition 

P11D: £38,825

Residual value: 39.6%

Depreciation: £23,449

Fuel: £2,178

Service, maintenance and repair: £1,818

Cost per mile: 45.7p

Range: 260 miles

CO2 (BIK band): 0g/km (0%) 

BIK 20/40% a month: £0/£0

Boot space: 385 litres

Engine size/power: 204hp/58kWh


  • Distinctive styling
  • Simplicity
  • Decent value
  • Energy regeneration too weak