2020 Volkswagen ID 3 review: price, specs and release date

The Volkswagen ID 3 is the first of a new generation of VW electric cars, with a range of almost 350 miles. We've driven a late prototype to see if it's the game changer being promised...

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Matt Saunders
10 July 2019

Volkswagen ID.3 prototype front

Priced from £35,000 (est) | On sale Summer 2020

Hyperbole is commonplace in the car industry, but this new Volkswagen ID 3 genuinely represents the start of a revolution at the German manufacturer. You see, although it’s no stranger to electric cars, they’ve always been based on conventional VW models, whereas the ID 3 was designed from the ground up to be fully electric.

As a result, while the e-Golf which it indirectly replaces is heavily compromised, with an official range of just 144 miles, the ID 3 is said to be capable of travelling for up to 341 miles between charges. 

Three battery options will eventually be offered, with even the smallest and cheapest delivering 205 miles in official Government tests. Meanwhile, the mid-range ID 3 – which will actually be the first to go on sale – offers 260 miles.

Volkswagen ID.3 without camouflage

To put those figures into perspective, the standard Nissan Leaf manages 177 miles, the long-range version 239 miles and our reigning Car of the Year, the Kia e-Niro, 282 miles.

Later, there will be a whole family of ID models, including a luxurious saloon, multiple SUVs and even a Camper-inspired people carrier. But it’s the ID 3 hatchback that’s arriving first, and we’ve been for a drive in a late prototype which the engineer-cum-chaperone who accompanied us claimed represented a standard of production readiness “of between 70% and 80%”.

Volkswagen ID 3 on the road

Our test car had the mid-sized, 58kWh battery and the more powerful of the two electric motors that will be available, producing 201bhp. In this form the ID 3 delivers the sort of lively urban performance we’ve come to expect from electric models, while generating next to no noise, either from its motor or tyres.

Volkswagen ID.3 prototype rear

The fact that the front wheels turn farther than they do in most cars also makes the ID 3 feel ideally suited to city driving, because it gives it a very tight turning circle and means you never need two bites to get in or out of a parking bay.

Our test route didn’t allow us to get up to any great speed, but body lean seems to be well controlled, and the ID 3 has the sort of consistent, reassuring steering we’ve come to expect from Volkswagens.

On the other hand, the ride feels like it still needs development work. The ID 3 is available with wheels of up to 20in diameter, and on these the prototype was a bit jittery.

It will be a while before we have the opportunity to put the ID 3 through our Real Range test, but during this drive the car started on what looked like about a 90% state of charge, and after 40 miles of driving was down to around 75%. On that basis, being able to travel between 200 and 250 miles without recharging seems realistic.

Volkswagen ID.3 prototype charging

Buyers also have the option of getting 2000 kWh-worth of free charging for their ID 3 for their first year of ownership, if they use charging points connected to Volkswagen's We Charge app. The brand is aiming to have at least six charging points located every 75 miles along Europe's motorway networks. And it announced last year that it would be installing 2400 charging points at 600 Tesco supermarket locations across the UK.

Volkswagen ID 3 interior

The dashboard of our car was completely covered, making it impossible to judge its quality or usability. However, we can tell you that the driving position is reminiscent of that of an MPV, in that the windscreen is a long way ahead of you and the bonnet of the ID 3 quickly drops out of sight, making it harder than you might expect to judge where the front bumper ends.

Apparently, the main reason for the windscreen’s position is that Volkswagen needed a lot of space to accommodate the giant augmented-reality head-up display (below) that will be fitted to range-topping models. This superimposes computer-generated images onto the driver’s view of the road ahead to highlight potential hazards and help with navigation.

Volkswagen augmented reality

Even though the ID 3 is a fairly tall car, head room is no better than average; blame the batteries beneath the floor, which require the passenger compartment to be lifted up. However, there’s loads of leg room in both the front and the back, and the boot is a good size, despite the electric motor being mounted at the rear of the car.

Volkswagen ID 3 verdict

This early drive suggests the ID 3 has plenty of strengths besides zero emissions and the corresponding tax advantages. But then it needs them if it’s going to succeed.

Not only will it have to compete with the class-leading e-Niro and, in range-topping form, Tesla’s new Model 3, but Volkswagen is hoping to sell 110,000 ID 3’s a year. That’s more than double the total number of electric and plug-in hybrid cars it sold in 2018.

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The best and worst electric cars on sale today

If the you like the idea of an electric car, but don't want to wait for the new Volkswagen ID.3, the good news is there are already quite a few to choose from. But which are worth your money? Here we count our top 10 – and reveal the electric cars to avoid.

10. Hyundai Ioniq

 Volkswagen e-Golf

The Ioniq is really three cars in one – it's available as a conventional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and as a fully electric car. The latter we're including here has a range of 174 miles, and enough torque to make acceleration feel brisk around town. The interior is smart, too, and our recommended Premium models get sat-nav and heated front seats as standard.

Read our full Hyundai Ioniq review or see our latest Ioniq deals

9. Tesla Model X

On paper, Tesla's all-electric family SUV seems to be the dream all-rounder, combining the luxury of a Range Rover Sport with the green credentials of an electric car. In practice, its low running costs and practical interior are hard to fault, and even entry-level versions aren't short on pace, but parts of its interior do feel a little low-rent.

Read our full Tesla Model X review or see our latest Model X deals

8. Volkswagen e-Golf

Unlike purpose-built electric cars such as the BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf, the e-Golf is based on a conventional hatchback. However, this is no bad thing, because it means it has all the good points of the regular regular Golf, along with greatly reduced running costs. It's just a shame its Real Range is so limited.

Read our full Volkswagen e-Golf review or see our latest Golf deals

Next: more of our favourite electric vehicles >

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