Answering why VW went for such a ‘fast’ windscreen on such a compact car aside from the obvious aerodynamic reasons, our chaperone told me they simply needed a lot of space on the top of the dashboard to accommodate the car’s giant-sized head-up display. That will be used to project augmented-reality navigation arrows, hazard alerts and pedestrian detection right onto the underside of the windscreen in top-of-the-range versions.
Much as it would be over-simplifying to suggest that sounds like putting the cart before the horse where car design is concerned, it’s certainly evidence that we’re now well and truly in the age of the all-pervading primacy of in-car technology. At the time, I couldn’t think of another example of driver display technology influencing the exterior design of a production car in quite the same way – and I still can’t. And at that cost, I’d want it to be the very best augmented-reality head-up display in the world. Since it’ll be the only one such system, we can at least take that for granted.
The ID 3 is quiet, brisk, responsive and particularly easy to drive around town, which is exactly how the vast majority of EVs that we report on are. The 201bhp and 229lb ft outputs produced by the electric drive motor feel like plenty to get the car up and away from low speeds quickly. But, because that torque is so accessible and motor response is so good, you seldom use more than half-throttle in the car. Oddly, the ID 3’s urban performance superiority actually ends up just allowing you to relax and take it easy the vast majority of the time – and that suits the general vibe of the car very well.
The car has medium-paced, fairly light steering, although because it has such a lot of steering angle, there’s approaching three-and-a-half turns between locks. This makes it feel ideally suited to car parks, traffic islands and junctions. With that much steering angle, you never need two bites to get in or out of a parking bay, and seldom need to reverse either when needing to U-turn at a T-junction. The ID3 is a real champion of manoeuvrability.
It’s also an agile car at town speed, with strongish grip levels and good lateral body control, and is well capable of a keen change of direction when you need one. It doesn’t quite match the darting, gap-grabbing fleet-footedness of a BMW i3, but is still well at home in city traffic. Moreover, it also has that sense of measured, natural responsiveness in everything it does that so often marks out a VW, and that makes for such easy, top-level drivability.
Fluent but effective vertical body control and a supple ride are also dynamic qualities you also expect from a VW, but they’re not always to be found in smaller electric cars with lots of mass to keep in check. They were hard to assess on our short, low-speed, trunk-road test route, but there was enough evidence to suggest that there’s still work to be done to make the ID 3 – which comes on wheels up to 20in in diameter – hit the company’s familiar high standards on ride sophistication. Our test car had a slightly busy, though not overly noisy, secondary ride, though the fine-tuning of its dampers could well have been an outstanding item on the engineer’s to-do list.
Real-world battery range is another facet of the car’s performance that’ll have to wait to report on with any certainty. Our 58kWh test car started our test with just over 300km of range indicated on what looked like about a 90 per cent state of charge. But it may have been estimating that range conservatively, having been driven fairly hard – because when we finished our test, which lasted about 40 miles in urban traffic, the battery was still showing around 75 per cent charge, and around 280km of available range. On that basis, everyday autonomy of between 200- and 250 miles, depending on specific usage pattern, seems realistic. And that's from the middle-sitting battery size, remember: the 77kWh version ought, on this evidence, to be a 300-mile EV with plenty of room to spare.