Volkswagen gambled big on the ID.3 — but will it pay off? Part Two

Photo courtesy of insideevs.com

Last time, we looked at why the Volkswagen ID.3 is such a big deal for the company. In brief, the new hatchback is a test case for their bold plans to electrify their range. So after all the research, investment, promises and delays, does the ID.3 measure up?

When it comes to design challenges, nothing is harder than creating a successful mass-market hatchback. Supercars? Pfft. They only have to cater to a tiny, select group of customers with a limited range of needs. A hatchback has to do everything for everybody. It’s got to be economical, practical, nice to drive and provide creature comforts — and all without breaking the bank. No wonder that the European hatchback market is more cut-throat than an 18th century pirates convention.

Making any sort of mark in this over-crowded sector is monstrously difficult. Yet that’s what the ID.3 is up against, and it has to achieve this powered by an electric motor.

Whether the ID.3 can succeed depends on whether it meets five key criteria — the ones we’ve mentioned above. And we’ve been scouring the motoring journos and customer feedback (limited so far) to give you a verdict.

Economy and ownership costs

Let’s start with the easy one. Once you’ve stumped up the cash for the purchase, the ID.3 is going to be cheaper to run than any of its ICE (internal combustion engine) equivalents. This is mainly because electrons cost less than fossil fuels. Provided you do most of the charging from home and don’t have a terrible electricity tariff, powering the ID.3 should be considerably cheaper than filling up from the forecourt. You’ll also be free from road tax.

It’s anticipated that servicing and repair costs will be much lower for the ID.3 than a fossil fuel-powered car. As with all EVs (electric vehicles) , there are simply fewer moving components to wear out and fewer fluids to change. The service schedule on the ID.3 is set at 20,000 miles (or yearly).

Practicality

Practicality has been a major barrier to adopting electric vehicles, with range and charging time consistently rated as the main worries for consumers. Quite reasonably, most people won’t consider a car that needs charging every few miles, especially if that process takes forever. To some extent, this ‘range anxiety’ is overblown, given that the average car journey in the UK is less than 25 miles — but still, it’s good to feel that you can get across the country without packing a tent.

The official range for the 58kW ID.3 is 260 miles. The 77kW version bumps that up to a Tesla-bothering 340 miles. As they’re established on the WLTP protocol, we can have at least some faith in these figures, though they will vary greatly with temperature, driving style and so on. If you do need to recharge on the road, the 100kW fast charging option (assuming you can find one available) will add another 2oo miles in half an hour. We think that for the majority of users, that makes the ID.3 a practical proposition.

Of course, there’s more to practicality than range, and motoring magazines have been scrutinising the ID.3’s interior space, cupholder arrangements and so on. The overall verdict is that it does everything one would expect of a hatchback. Everything is laid out with typical Volkswagen efficiency and there’s plenty of space. Without an intrusive transmission tunnel, the rear passengers benefit from a completely flat floor, and the boot is a competitive 385 litres.

Driving

The ID.3’s electric motor delivers a more-than-healthy 200 bhp. On the other hand, at 1700kg, it’s a bit of a tank. How do these factors balance out? Pretty well, it seems. 0-62 comes up in just 7.3 seconds, putting it firmly in warm hatch territory. Around town, the instant torque from the motor makes it feel nippier still. As for the broader driving experience, Autocar has this to say:

Affordable electric cars don’t get much better to drive than this. The ID 3 is terrifically manoeuvrable – more so than the latest Golf – with a tempting eagerness to its actions that allows it to nip into and out of tight spaces and then stop and swivel easily into parking spaces with admirable nimbleness.

Other experts concur: the ID.3 is a peach to drive.

Creature Comforts

Nothing major to report here. The ID.3 First Edition includes such apparently indispensable features as heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry, keyless start, powered folding door mirrors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, parking aids and LED Matrix headlights. The infotainment system is identical to the Golf Mk 8, which has been generally well received. One innovation is a lighting strip below the windscreen that changes colour in order to convey useful information such as hazards ahead, battery charging status, incoming calls and so on. Call us old grouches, but our first thought was whether it was possible to turn it off completely.

One complaint from some reviewers is that VW have opted for touchscreen control of many functions, rather than buttons. This de-clutters the interior but makes simple adjustment to things like interior temperature unnecessary fiddly.

Affordability

As with every other car, the ID.3’s pricing varies drastically according to the trim. Carbuyer has a nice clear summary table of the options. The base level ID.3 Life comes in at £29,900 (after the £3,000 government grant), whereas the bells-and-whistles Tour version will set you back £39,290. That means that the middle or top spec models are equal or cheaper than EV offerings from BMW and Nissan. Lower spec models can compete with the new crop of EVs from the likes of Peugeot and Vauxhall.

But how does the ID.3 stack up with conventionally powered hatchbacks? The closest comparison would probably be VW’s own Golf Mark 8. The base model Life currently comes in at £23,300 — undercutting its electric counterpart by £6,600. That’s a hefty difference, but some of it will be offset by reduced running costs. Over, say, five years of ownership, the prices start to look more comparable. Also, remember that the ID.3’s performance puts it more in line with the Golf GTI, which starts at just over £33K.

Overall, it’s not a cheap car by any stretch of the imagination, but neither is it outrageously expensive by current standards.

Verdict

Taking everything into account, we do think VW is onto a winner with the ID.3. It easily fulfils four of our five key criteria for a successful hatchback. Our one major doubt is over the price tag. Are consumers really ready to pony up an extra £6k for the promise of lower ownership costs? The evidence is that they are, at least in mainland Europe where sales of electric vehicles are skyrocketing. So the demand is there and VW has produced a decent EV proposition — let’s see what happens next!

The Welsh VW Specialist blog covers a wide range of automotive topics, from the contentious to the light-hearted. We are an independent garage specialising (as the name suggests!) in all the VW group marques, including Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT. Welsh VW Specialists provide services, repairs and MOTs, delivering a main dealer level of care at affordable prices. To book your vehicle in, or for any enquiries, get in touch.