Volkswagen ID.3 review – electric hatch tested in the UK

By topgear, 08 September 2021

2021 Volkswagen ID.3 test drive


Welcome to the first fruit borne by the Volkswagen ID tree. There’ll be a family of all-electric IDs including the ID.4 and other SUV-shaped ones, a saloon and at the heart of the range, this Golf-sized family hatch. The ID3 (VW calls it the 'ID.3', but it looks clumsy, so we'll forget the decimal point) is a rival to the likes of the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3, but it’s also a crucial car for Volkswagen as it forges toward a new battery-powered era, seeking to clean up its oily reputation and silence the doubters who rage against the German giant for being too ponderous in taking electro-mobility seriously. 
So, Volkswagen needs the ID3 to sell in vast numbers, not simply virtue-signal from the corner of the showroom. As a result, there’s very little going on here that’ll alarm or confuse the traditional Golf customer.


The ID3 is a five-door, five-seat hatchback, with a boot at the back and a motor beneath driving the rear wheels. The steering wheel and infotainment screen jump across from the latest Golf 8. Sure, you can jazz up the paintwork with some Nineties hues and polka-dot graphics, but the overall silhouette is a streamlined monobox, kinda like an overgrown Up that’s off to Bonneville Speed Week. The overhangs are short, the wheelbase elongated, because the front doesn’t have to accommodate a hefty engine and cooling system. The long wheelbase is good news for packaging the battery downstairs, and humans above. And the drag factor is a svelte 0.27, even though it’s a tall machine with door mirrors, not new-fangled cameras. So you have a car that’s compact in the city for parking, but roomy enough for family trips. A definite plus.


Because the ID3 is based on a bespoke electric car-only platform (it’s codenamed MEB, and worth remembering as you’ll be hearing a lot more about cars spun off it in the coming years), VW can be agile when it comes to offering different versions.

Entry-level ID3s offer just over 200 miles (321km) at best, via a 45kWh power pack (badged Pure Performance), mid-range models offer around 250 miles (402km) via a 58kWh battery (Pro and Pro Performance), while at the top of the range there’s a 77kWh battery version (Pro S), good for a Tesla-troubling 330-ish miles (531km) of range.

It’s rear-drive only for now – there’s an SUV-shaped ID4 to fill the dual-motor niche – but it’s possible VW will add a twin-motor ID3 to the range later on, in the form of an ‘ID3 R’, VW’s first electric hot hatch.


Well, that depends on what size battery and power output you go for, with the rear-mounted electric motor available in either 143bhp, 148bhp or 201bhp guise. We’ve only tested the latter variant so far but found it plenty competent as an everyday runaround – head over to the Driving tab for the full lowdown.

Costs? Volkswagen offers the ID3 in a choice of five trim levels (Life, Style, Family, Max and Tour), but it’s worth noting that the first three are eligible for the government-funded £2,500 (RM14k) discount, whereas the last two are not, meaning there’s quite a variant in price. In cheapest Life trim, the ID.3 starts from £27,135 (RM155k) (inclusive of PiCG), rising to £38,815 (RM222k) in top-of-the-range Tour spec.



“Inoffensive, well thought-out and easy to use. So, just like a Golf, but happens to be electric”
VW makes no secret of the fact it considers the ID3 its next definitive people’s car, after the Beetle and the Golf. And to please most people most of the time, the ID3 is deliberately not an oddball. Digest its slabby-yet-slippery silhouette, get your head around the chunky drive selector, and the ID3 has few surprises left up its sleeve. 

That, of course, is exactly the point. This car is supposed to grab the baton from the evergreen Golf, which has become the benchmark over almost 50 years of gradual improvement and evolution. Scary cars tend not to sell in big enough numbers to change the world. 

That’s not to say the ID3 isn’t clever. It’s space efficient, nimble on its toes and tech-wise, it's on the ball. What’s arguably more impressive than the car itself is the engineering might behind it, tooling up for huge volumes of production, a trim level for everyone, and soon, an ID model for everyone too. Even the factory that builds the ID3 is apparently carbon neutral.

On first impression, the ID3 fills the EV family hatch chasm between the bravely brilliant BMW i3 and the disappointingly unambitious Nissan Leaf. After all, regular Golfs have never been thrillers packed with derring-do, but they’ve tended to be a yardstick against which the pretenders are judged.


The ID3 ‘feels’ rear-wheel drive. This is a surprise, and a pleasant one. On the way out of a roundabout, the car squats down and you sense it’s being propelled from the rear, while the steering’s uncorrupted. It feels well-balanced, and though the slim (but 20-inch-tall) tyres chirrup with protest, there’s plenty of grip. Because the boxy ID3 is easy to place on the road and it’s responsive, it’ll be a good town car. Spot a gap, and have the confidence to go for it, even in the 143bhp Pro.


Against the clock, the ‘fastest’ ID3 will do 0-100kph in 7.3 seconds, with the ‘slowest’ taking 9.6 seconds. Flat out, all versions will do 159kph. Which isn’t particularly exciting, but for your usual 0-30mph traffic light grands prix and keeping out of your own way on the town bypass, all the ID3s seem briskly fit for purpose. It’s not a drag-race hero type of EV. Try the old Carroll Shelby trick of betting your passengers they can’t reach a fiver stuck to the dash as you accelerate, and you’ll be destitute within the week. 

But ask yourself, beyond the novelty of a ‘watch this’ show-your-mates moment, how much warp drive does a family hatch need? Of course, it’s quiet, seamless, and smooth. Even without an engine to mask, unwanted suspension clonks or wind rustle, the ID3 is a capsule of calm and serenity. 


Very. It’s ‘on’ when your bum hits the seat and drive is engaged via a very BMW i3-esque rhomboid selector that sprouts from the instrument display connected to the steering column. Twist forward for Drive or Brake mode, or backward for reverse. To make the ID3 feel uncomplicated, VW hasn’t bothered with paddleshifters for extra regen modes, or much of a ‘one-pedal’ sensation. However, the actual pads only ever meet the discs after the regen has harvested all it can, so even when you have to cop out and tread lightly on the brakes, the ID3 is doing its damndest to be efficient.

Even so, the pedal response is unreassuringly virtual. Given how pure, natural one-pedal driving in the likes of the i3 and Nissan’s Leaf quickly becomes, it’s surprising Volkswagen hasn’t featured it. Simplicity reigns. 

You get three driving modes – Eco, Comfort and Sport – but the differences are subtle. You’ll leave it in Comfort where the steering is lightly weighted but sharp enough, and you’ll marvel at the balletic turning circle that’ll get the ID3 facing back the way it came before a Golf driver has had chance to select reverse during their three-point turn. It’s all thanks to the rear-wheel drive layout allowing more steering angle to be packaged up front. 


Well enough. It’s clearly been designed with comfort in mind, and the ride on everything from the 18- to the 20-inch wheels over speed humps and drain covers is damped just-so. Could it have been lighter? Perhaps, but lighter cars take longer and cost more to engineer. And VW needs its electric halo-wearing car now, at a price that won’t make floating voters baulk…


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. Shame VW didn’t take cues from BMW on the quality of the materials – the base-spec ID3 Life is full of scratchy plastics. 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 much like in the Golf, it’s less than intuitive, too.

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 and window 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 2021. Or should that be Nineteen Eighty Four?



Cinema-style seating (the row behind is higher up, there’s no sticky popcorn on the floor) offers a useful view ahead for 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.


Prices for the ID3 range line up with well-specced Golfs. They stretch from £27,135 (RM155k) (including PiCG) for a base-spec car to £38,815 (RM222k) for a toppy 'Tour' (the other trim levels are Style, Family and Max).

The simple add-on packs that differentiate the trim lines make it easier for VW to focus production on the variants that are most popular, to reduce waiting times, which have been a real bugbear for EV adopters in recent years. Handy for wading through the resale market in years to come, too.


VW offers 100kW charging capacity on the ID3, something that's standard across the line-up in the UK. This can add 290km of range in half an hour – if you can find an operational 100kW charger, that is. On a UK-spec 7.4kW wallbox, for a full charge you’re looking at seven and a half hours for the 45kWh battery, nine and a half hours for the 58kWh battery, or around 13 hours for the 77kWh battery. Need a quick top up? It’ll take around four hours for 160km. 

If you’re struggling to get your head around all these numbers, you’ll be relieved to hear that VW has handily simplified its battery line-up jargon. The entry-level 45kWh battery and 148bhp electric motor is branded as ‘Pure Performance’. Next up is the 58kWh battery, known as the ‘Pro’ when combined with the 143bhp electric motor, and ‘Pro Performance’ when combined with the more powerful 201bhp unit. Last but not least is the top-of-the-range 77kWh battery and 201bhp electric motor combo, which VW has nicknamed ‘Pro S’. Got it?


We’ve tested the Pro Performance variant in both freezing winter conditions as well as searing summer heat, with predictable results.

On a cold, frosty, dark December day, against an official range of 418km, the readout predicted 160km, which dropped into the 170s when we were forced to use the heater to avoid losing our fingers to frostbite. Our fault for not pre-conditioning the heating to warm up the cabin before we set off, resulting in a rate of 2.8 miles per kWh of electricity consumed.

It fared slightly better in milder climes. We say milder… the temperature readout was north of 34 Celcius. Sweltering. And with the full-length glass roof fitted, we had no choice but to run the air-conditioning at full blast just to keep the cabin atmosphere bearable. Good for avoiding heatstroke, but a range-killer.

In those conditions, our ID3 displayed a starting endurance of 354km versus 416 claimed, and consumed charge at a rate of 3.2 miles per kWh, giving a nominal range of 298km in ultra-hot weather, mainly on A-roads. With more urban use, a minimum of 322km between charges would be within reasonably easy reach.

We’ve also run an ID3 Pro (with its 58kWh battery and 143bhp) in ‘normal’ British summertime weather – i.e. on drizzly days with temperatures in the mid-teens. With the climate control firmly off and the ID3 in Eco mode, you’ll get much closer to 4.0 miles per kWh and the WLTP range of 425km