This is the all-new Volkswagen ID.3, a bespoke electric car designed to be the company’s third big influence in modern motoring after the Beetle and the Golf. The first of those mobilised a generation, the next defined the C-segment hatchback. And the ID.3? Volkswagen is hoping it will open up electric mobility to the masses with an affordable battery electric vehicle – one that it is betting on will genuinely be able to replace an internal combustion car for a majority of road users. It might not strike the traditional chords with us, but it is a significant car at a significant time, and one of the first full-scale reactions to our changing automotive landscape.
In typical Volkswagen fashion it hasn’t held back, the ID.3 being part of a £7.2billion investment into EV development which will cover a wide range of electric models, all based on a single electric platform called MEB. The ID.3 is the first of the ID family and represents, as the Golf does, the centre point of a range that will spread across incoming SUVs and saloons, to people carriers, commercials and even niche vehicles signalled by concepts such as the ID. Buggy. It will be spread across the wider Volkswagen Group too, with Audi, Skoda and SEAT all ready and waiting with their own MEB-platform models. But for now, the 2019 Frankfurt show is home to just one – the ID.3.
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The ID.3’s cab-forward design and tall roofline gives it a distinctive silhouette, one driven by the completely different technical package afforded by its underlying chassis design. Rather than being a derivative of an existing package like that seen in the Peugeot e-208 or Renault Zoe, the ID.3 uses a skateboard-style chassis, with the batteries mounted underneath the passenger cell. As a result, designers were able to push the windscreen forward, unlocking more room in the relatively compact footprint. At 4261mm long, the ID.3 is a mere 3mm longer than a current Golf, but its wheelbase is 145mm longer, leading to its wheel-at-each-corner stance. It’s also 60mm taller, and 10mm narrower than a Golf.
Power is sourced from an electric motor mounted on the rear axle, technically making the ID.3 both rear-engined and rear-wheel drive (sound familiar?) and will be available in time with three different battery capacities. Volkswagen is claiming a WLTP range of 205, 260 and 341 miles depending on capacity – extremely high numbers for an electric vehicle of this size and price. Volkswagen curiously has hesitated to mention power outputs or acceleration data, but we suspect this won’t be a Tesla Model S rival in terms of outright performance. Instead the ID.3 will appeal as a commuter car, and it will indeed be the price that’s the defining factor, with an expected figure starting at under £27,000 for basic versions. With a charging capability of up to 100kW, recharging those battery packs shouldn’t take a huge amount of time either, although it does lack the headline recharge figures found in more expensive electric models such as the new Porsche Taycan or Tesla Model S.
The interior has also been through a total reimagination, with a stark, open and simple design dominated by a large touchscreen interface that will eventually find itself in the next Golf and its derivatives. The high-mounted gear selector and floating screens are joined by what Volkswagen calls a new augmented reality head-up display that will be standard across most high-specification models.
Is there room for a performance derivative? As a company famous for turning what would otherwise have been nothing but a small commuter car into the GTI phenomenon, we wouldn’t put it past Volkswagen. But for now the standard ID.3 represents Volkswagen’s immediate future, one that will need to start paying back its enormous investment. Over 30,000 pre-orders have already been taken by Volkswagen, with deliveries beginning in Germany mid-2020 and other markets following soon after. Time will tell whether the ID.3 will live up to VW’s expectations.