Will this electric hatchback prove a successful successor to the Beetle and the Golf?

Why we’re running it: To see whether this electric family hatchback has the versatility to be Volkswagen’s new people’s car

Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with an ID 3: Month 4

Recharging your batteries at the pub is no longer a euphemism – in theory, at least

When you’re on a journey in an electric car, there’s nothing better than to be able to glance down at the range indicator after you’ve been driving for an hour or two and think “Wow, look how much range I’ve got left”, as opposed to “Flippin’ heck, where’s all the range gone?”

In my Volkswagen ID 3, it’s usually the former. Not only is the car now starting such trips with a longer indicated range on a full charge than it was over the winter, but that figure also drops at a reassuringly linear rate (unlike in some rivals), even at a 70mph cruise.

The current range of around 205 miles in warmer weather is still well short of what I believe the ID 3 to be capable of in ideal conditions. However, it’s good enough to make reasonably light work of the sort of day trips that I mostly do, as well as the occasional longer journey.

Clearly, a recent 250-mile round trip to the Cotswolds couldn’t be completed without at least one top-up along the way, but I didn’t mind. In any EV, my preference is to take quick breaks more often and earlier than I actually need to, rather than pushing on until the battery is nearly out of juice and risking a problem getting a top-up.

On the Cotswolds outing, I ended up adding juice twice to get back to 80% capacity, even though a single longer break would have sufficed. Neither of the 50kW public chargers (provided by Gridserve and Instavolt) were able to charge as rapidly as the ID 3 can handle, but they were available when I turned up, worked flawlessly and were easy to operate.

I had hoped to use a BP Chargemaster device located in a country pub car park instead, but at two locations I found that the solitary charger was already in use. Irritatingly, they can serve only one car at a time – even if the other car is a Nissan Leaf that’s hooked up to the Chademo connector rather than the CCS one I’d be using if I could.

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The only slight blemishes in the ID 3’s credentials as a long-distance cruiser are that it lets in more wind and road noise than some rival EVs such as the Citroën ë-C4 (although it’s still quieter than most petrol and diesel cars), and after a couple of hours behind the wheel, the driver’s seat no longer seems as comfortable as it does at first.

But in general, the ID 3 feels perfectly happy on the motorway, with plenty of performance, a comfortable ride and a planted feel. The ID 3 is equally proficient on country roads, especially if you switch to ‘B’ mode to activate the regenerative braking system.

This harvests energy under deceleration (to help eke out range) and slows the car more swiftly when you lift off the accelerator pedal, although it isn’t strong enough to bring the car to a complete halt. On a twisty road, this means you can drive for long periods without having to hit the brake pedal, making for smooth, flowing progress.

You’re always aware of the ID 3’s 1.8-tonne weight through corners, and it’s necessary to deactivate the intrusive lane keeping assistance to prevent it from butting in, but well-weighted, precise steering and good body control help to offset these things. It may not be fun per se, but the ID 3 is proving even more versatile than I was expecting.

Love it: Voice Control 

Although the speed of response could be better, a voice command is the best way to adjust the temperature inside the cabin.

Loathe it: Windscreen Smears

The huge windscreen is tricky to keep clean. The long wipers seem to struggle to avoid large smears on the top half of the screen.

Mileage: 5250

Life with an ID 3: Month 3

How did we feel going back to the EV after playing the field? - 30 March

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Taking part in a winter range test of 10 electric cars – from a Fiat 500 to a Porsche Taycan – really helped to put my Volkswagen ID 3 into perspective.

Although the ID 3 wasn’t among those being put through their paces, I’d driven up to the Millbrook Proving Ground in my car and felt surprisingly happy to get back into it for the drive home. I’m not suggesting that I’d take it over a Taycan, but I preferred it to three- quarters of the cars we’d been testing.

The reason why this came as a surprise is that I hadn’t been feeling all that upbeat about the ID 3 for a while prior to the Millbrook event, tending to focus on its shortcomings and struggling to feel any real sense of attachment. But this back-to-back comparison reminded methat beneath its flaws (and there are quite a few), the ID 3 is a very capable car. It’s just that it’s a bit too good at disguising that fact.

After a long day of going round and round in circles on Millbrook’s high-speed bowl, the ID 3 immediately felt roomier, quieter and comfier than many of the other cars we’d been driving, and the mostly motorway run back to London was dispatched as painlessly as any other journey in the ID 3, long or short.

Even on a very chilly day, range wasn’t an issue, and I found myself thinking: “For the money, what else is better?” Apart from the closely related Cupra Born (which has a smarter-looking cabin) and the excellent Kia e-Niro, there really aren’t any EVs in the ID 3’s price bracket that can match its combination of a good range, a well-judged ride-and-handling balance, strong performance and good space and practicality.

On the subject of space, the ID 3 has loads of it, not only for occupants but also for bits and bobs. Between the front seats, it has an unusually low-set console and individual fold-up armrests. This arrangement frees up lots of elbow room for the driver and front passenger and makes access to the storage cubbies exceptionally easy.

You can simply drop your left hand into any of them, rather than having to be a contortionist. Behind the two cupholders, there’s a handy compartment with an angled, adjustable, rubberised tray that’s ideal for stashing your phone and keys in; and at the back of the console, there’s a long bin with a retractable lid that, while not as deep as some, is still very useful. The front door bins are a good size, too.

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The only thing I’m not convinced about is the slender armrests. When they’re folded down, they feel a bit flimsy (I’m reluctant to put much weight on them) and not as plush under my elbow as a padded single armrest would be. When I’m driving, I tend to leave the armrests folded up and enjoy all that space.

Love it: Underfloor storage

There’s a good-sized compartment beneath the boot floor that’s ideal for a couple of coiled-up charging cables.

Loathe it: High set rear seats

Due to the height and angle of the seat bases, rear head room isn’t great, especially for a middle passenger.


Problems with a home wallbox - 23 March 2022

The compatibility issues I’ve been experiencing between the ID 3 and my home wallbox seem to be getting worse. On a couple of occasions, I’ve even seen the dreaded red light next to the port that says there’s a charging error and no juice will be forthcoming. The wallbox might be to blame, not the car, but it worked flawlessly with my old Citroën ë-C4.

Mileage: 4688

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ID 3 light show is little short of spectacular, but there’s a dark side to this car, too - 9 March 2022

More and more cars may be ditching halogen and xenon bulbs in favour of brighter LED headlight clusters, but the ones on my ID 3 are something else again.

They’re the matrix LED adaptive type, and until recently headlights such as these were the preserve of high-end luxury models or were available only as expensive options. So the fact that they’re standard on my Family-spec ID 3 – a relatively affordable electric family hatchback – is something of a coup.

Not only do they light up the road ahead brilliantly at night, but I reckon they’re also more animated than those of any other car I’ve driven. The main beams swivel smoothly with every movement of the steering wheel to ensure maximum visibility even on winding roads, with additional spotlights subtly contributing to the mix in tighter corners, and certain portions of them are blanked off when other cars are detected to avoid dazzling other road users while effectively remaining on high beam.

On a dark, twisty country road, the ID 3’s headlights provide a spectacular light show, with the beams changing their shape and coverage pretty much continuously and metaphorically turning night into day. I’m really quite, er, dazzled by them.

The lighting inside the car is on the flamboyant side, too. There’s bold ambient lighting across the dashboard and behind the door pulls that gives the cabin a neon-rich nightclub feel – if that’s the sort of thing you’re into – and there’s a choice of colours if you’re not a fan of the blue that my car is currently running. 

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The ID 3 also comes with a feature called ID Light. This is a narrow strip of 54 multi-coloured LEDs that runs across the full width of the dashboard, just under the windscreen, and is a visual manifestation of the car’s digital assistant. The ID Light uses different light pulses to indicate, for example, whether the car is ready to drive, the direction in which you should turn next if you’re using the sat-nav system, or whether the battery is currently being charged.

If you’ve got a digital assistant such as Amazon Alexa at home, you might find the ID Light’s presence welcome, but I can’t say that it’s been much help to me so far. Personally, I’d rather Volkswagen had spent less time on the gaudy lighting and more on the quality of the materials and user-friendliness of the controls.

Predictably, on the list of areas in which it’s possible to find fault within the ID’3 cabin, the infotainment system is close to the top. I seem to spend a frustrating amount of time waiting for it to boot up or respond to inputs, and on one occasion the rear-view camera went haywire during a quick three-point turn, with the on-screen image stuttering madly for quite some distance down the road and then forcing the whole system to shut down.

The knock-on effect was that the infotainment screen and digital instrument panel were completely blank when I started the car the next morning, and they stayed that way for several hours. The only thing I could still see was the ‘gear’ indicator on the side of the instrument panel.

I spent ages holding down various buttons in an effort to get the screens to reboot, and then, seemingly of their own volition, they came back to life. Hopefully this will remain a one-off incident.

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Love it: Cabin airiness

Light-coloured materials and a panoramic glass roof help to give the cabin a light and spacious feel.

Loathe it: Marks on seats

That light-grey seat upholstery is already showing signs of wear and tear, especially the velour on the sides of the seat bases.

Mileage: 4515

Not the easiest to manoeuvre - 23 February 2022

I don’t find the ID3 an easy car to park. It’s chunkier than you might think and the rearward view is poor, so I sometimes struggle to position it accurately when backing into a space – even though it has a rear-view camera. 

At least the rotating gear selector on the side of the instrument binnacle means I can flip between forward and reverse in a flash.

Mileage: 4255

Chills aren't an issue - 9 February 2022

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Irregular commutes mean I haven’t been taking full advantage of my ID 3’s heat pump, which can warm up and demist the cabin prior to departure on frosty mornings. But I’m still glad I’ve got it. 

Even if the car is covered in ice and I decide I need to go grocery shopping, the windscreen clears surprisingly quickly when I whack the temperature up to ‘hi’ and hit the ‘max demist’ button.

Mileage: 3830

Life with an ID 3: Month 2

Battery reveals itself as a fair-weather fan and keyless entry system isn’t keyed in - 26 January 2022

In my experience, running an electric car becomes a lot easier if it can cover at least 200 real-world miles between charges. That sort of range means I can pretty much go where I like whenever I like. And that’s what my Volkswagen ID 3 was giving me in the early days, happily dispatching around 220 miles before needing a top-up. But now, with the weather having turned colder, its efficiency has dropped from 3.8 miles per kWh hour to barely 3.0, reducing the indicated range to around 190 miles and the actual distance I can cover between charges to 175 miles at best.

To be fair, most EVs suffer a similar drop-off in battery performance in cold weather, so it’s no surprise. And this doesn’t mean I can no longer do some of the drives I would usually do. A 175-mile range is still respectable in comparison to what most other small EVs can manage in the same conditions. But that earlier sense of freedom has been diminished a bit, over the winter months at least.

When I’m charging it at home, the ID 3 doesn’t always want to start the process straight away. On one occasion recently, having arrived home with the battery almost flat and wanting to replenish it without delay, I spent what seemed like an eternity repeatedly attaching and detaching the cable, locking and unlocking the car, cursing under my breath and even rebooting my wallbox (just in case) before the car decided it was ready. I got the distinct impression that it wasn’t through any of my efforts that the green charging light eventually came on. Thankfully, such delays don’t happen all that often.

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A more consistent problem was that the keyless entry (standard on Family trim) wasn’t working when my ID 3 first arrived. It’s worth mentioning that it wasn’t new then, but it was still in as-new condition.

With the appropriate settings turned on within the depths of the touchscreen, the doors were meant to unlock as I approached with the key or, alternatively, touched the handle. But none of that was happening.

I could have continued locking and unlocking by manually plipping the key (oh, the hardship), but keyless entry is a feature that I find very handy, so I was keen to get it sorted.

A couple of days in a Volkswagen workshop ascertained that the car had lost communication with the spare key and this was limiting the keyless entry function, even though I had been using the other key. The solution was to recode both. With that done, the keyless entry is now functioning normally.

Love it:

Easy starting The ID 3 turns itself on as soon as I slide into the driver’s seat. All I have to do is select ‘D’ and I’m off.

Loathe it:

Noisy heat pump The heat pump is surprisingly loud when running, plus it sends small vibrations through the pedals.

Mileage: 3085

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Life with an ID 3: Month 1

Doesn’t feel very premium - 5 January 2022

While the cabin is impressive for its roominess and airy feel, interacting with it is another story. The controls on the dash and steering wheel feel weird to operate, and even opening or closing a door is a tactile turn-off, because the parts of the armrests that you grab are covered in hard plastic. At least the leather-wrapped steering wheel rim feels good.

Mileage: 2625

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Gets better with time - 1 December 2021

Adjusting to the ID 3 from my previous Citroën ë-C4 took longer than expected. The ID 3’s steering is slower and heavier than the ë-C4’s and the car feels more ponderous. But now that I’ve got used to it, I’m really starting to appreciate the ID 3’s well-judged ride-and-handling balance and the smooth, uncorrupted feel of its steering.

Mileage: 1545

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Welcoming the ID 3 to the fleet - 24 November 2021

As electric cars glide quietly yet inexorably into the mainstream, the Volkswagen ID 3 might well become the car that defines the family hatchback class in the new era, in the same way that the ubiquitous Volkswagen Golf has done for a good portion of my lifetime. Although the Golf itself isn’t ready to be pensioned off just yet, it surely won’t be long before the ID 3 surpasses its stablemate in the sales charts and takes over as the people’s car for the zero-emissions age.

Given the significance of the car to both Volkswagen and the multitudes who still buy family hatchbacks, I’m fairly excited about the prospect of joining the fast-growing club of ID 3 owners. On the face of it, this is a car that ticks a lot of boxes, being strong in a number of key areas, from range and performance to interior space and practicality.

That excitement is tempered by a certain amount of trepidation, though, mainly due to the sheer volume of criticism that has been heaped on the ID 3 (and the latest Golf) over the quality and functionality of its interior.

Certainly, anyone expecting to see plush materials in the ID 3 is going to be sorely disappointed. Plenty of rivals are fancier inside and have more user-friendly dashboard layouts. However, I’m willing to give the ID 3 a chance to see what it’s like to use every day before I weigh in with any sideswipes of my own.

My ID 3 is a Pro Performance model, which means it comes with a 58kWh (usable capacity) battery and a 201bhp motor that drives the rear wheels and delivers a 0-62mph time of 7.3sec. You can get an ID 3 with a smaller or bigger battery, the latter promising a headline range of up to 340 miles. My mid-ranger can officially cover 260 miles between charges in the Family trim I’ve gone for – still a very respectable figure.

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A maximum charging rate of 100kW means the ID 3 can get from 10-80% capacity in about half an hour via a suitably powerful public rapid charger, while a full charge from a typical 7kW home wallbox would take about nine and a half hours. However, I’ve got only a 3kW wallbox in my garage, so the same fill from near-empty will be an overnight job. That’s fine for my needs, though.

Because its list price is less than £35,000, my ID 3 qualifies for the government’s £2500 subsidy for EVs, with a competitive post-grant price of £32,475 putting it in the same ballpark as the upmarket BMW i3 and high-spec versions of the Citroën ë-C4 and Nissan Leaf. It’s also a similar price to Kia’s more practical e-Niro and Soul EV crossovers.

Although there are quite a few trim levels to choose from, there’s surprisingly little variety when it comes to interior colour; most versions offer only the two-tone grey scheme that my ID 3 is sporting.

The Family also gets front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, keyless entry and a panoramic glass roof. And there’s a host of advanced driver and safety aids, including adaptive cruise control.

Most ID 3s come with steel ‘aero’ wheels, which I think look cheap, so I’ve splashed out £650 on 18in two-tone ‘East Derry’ alloys that go nicely with the Stonewashed Blue metallic paint (£645) and standard black roof and tailgate.

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The other option I’ve added is a heat pump (£1000). This is an energy-efficient way of heating and cooling the cabin and reduces the climate-control system’s impact on the car’s range. It also allows me to warm up and demist the interior remotely before I set off on a journey.

From behind the wheel, the ID 3 has a slightly MPV-like feel, in that the windscreen pillars are pushed a long way forward, with sizeable quarterlights between them and the doors to aid visibility at junctions, and the base of the screen feels like the front of the car. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no denying that you get an excellent view forwards and to the sides and that the cabin feels very airy.

It’s already obvious that there have been some lapses in logic when it comes to the layout of the dashboard, and the infotainment system can be frustrating, but it remains to be seen whether these things matter all that much.

I’m far more interested in whether my ID 3 can deliver anything close to the range it promises. As long as it’s well north of 200 miles in real-world use, I will be happy, because that will give me the freedom to go places without too much effort. That will play a big part in how usable it turns out to be – and whether it deserves to be considered the people’s car of the EV era.

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Second Opinion

I recently tried an ID 3 back to back with a Golf, and the biggest surprise was how similar the two felt. The ID 3 was more spacious and a touch smoother, but it didn’t feel much like a bold leap into the future like some EVs. I’m not sure that will be a problem for ID 3 buyers, who are likely to be seeking a car for 2021 rather than a taste of 2031.

James Attwood

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Volkswagen ID 3 Pro Performance Family specification

Specs: Price New £32,475 (after grant) Price as tested £34,770 (after grant) Options Heat pump £1000, 18in East Derry alloy wheels £650, Stonewashed Blue metallic paint £645

Test Data: Engine 1x electric motor Power 201bhp Torque 229lb ft Kerb weight 1805kg Top speed 99mph 0-62mph 7.3sec Range 263 miles CO2 0g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Add a comment…
xxxx 4 February 2022

True test please. Just how hard can it be to record the mileage and Khw used so as to work out an approx mpg equivalent. It is afterall one of the main strengths of a BEV.

scotty5 5 January 2022

The article is dated 27th Dec but I was under the impression ( perhaps wrongly ) that the EV grant which is now £1500 and only applicable to a list price of £32000 here in the UK. In other words the car tested is now around £2500 more exapnsive.

I believe only the most basic ID3 is eligible for the grant. ( Unless of course VW reduce the list prices ).

Cehe 28 December 2021

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