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Driven: Volkswagen ID.3. Image by Volkswagen.

Driven: Volkswagen ID.3
A highly promising family vehicle for an all-electric future, but reliability gremlins worry us.

   



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Volkswagen ID.3 58kWh 204

3 3 3 3 3

Good points: the looks and interior take some beating, drives sweetly too

Not so good: quite significant electrical woes...

Key Facts

Model tested: Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro Performance 58kWh 204
Price: ID.3 range from 29,260 (excluding PICG); Family Pro Performance 58kWh 204 from 37,650, car as tested 41,599.50*
Electrical system: 150kW electric motor, rear-mounted, with 58kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Transmission: single-speed reduction gear, rear-wheel drive
Body style: five-door EV hatchback
CO2 emissions: 0g/km (VED Band 0: 0 tax in perpetuity)
Energy consumption: 3.96 miles/kWh or 15.7kWh/62.1 miles
Range and charging times: 260 miles on a single charge; 30 minutes to 80 per cent state-of-charge (or 180 miles range, 60 miles/10 minutes of charging) on 100kW DC rapid charger, 9hrs 30mins to 100 per cent state-of-charge on 7.2kW AC domestic wallbox
Top speed: 99mph
0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
Power: 204hp
Torque: 310Nm
Boot space: 385-1,267 litres

Our view:

In the course of this job, we have reviewed lots and lots of cars. The way our site is geared up, this means that each test vehicle is normally with us for one week at a time; we're not an outlet known for long-term reports and so on. To that end, and bearing in mind that almost every car we've ever road-tested has been less than six months old with fewer than 10,000 miles showing on the clock, the vast, vast majority of the cars turn up, get driven, perhaps have some fuel (or electricity, whatever's yer poison) slung into them and then they go back. We ascertain how they drive and give you a report based upon that.

Every so often, however, cars turn up which aren't entirely problem-free. Sometimes it can be minor, niggling errors that don't significantly affect how the vehicle in question drives. Sometimes it's a problem that has come about by odd human error - like the Isuzu D-Max AT35 we borrowed in early 2018, which kept dying on us and refusing to start for no discernible reason. After it had done this a couple of times, we popped the bonnet and found the positive terminal for its battery wasn't properly tightened up. Rectifying the issue, it gave us no aggro again.

And so we don't feel like we can fairly report, in our articles, if a car has been problematic, given we are only short-term testers in the main. Any issues we experience on a vehicle could simply be a 'rogue' model and not indicative of the wider ownership experience; they could also be temporary aberrations with software or ECUs, which can be easily fixed with an update. So we don't feel it is appropriate to always tell you if we had a minor hiccup during our test period.

But, in the case of Volkswagen, and particularly this ID.3, we feel we can no longer ignore a series of events that culminated in this electric car deciding it no longer wanted to acknowledge it had a transmission. When the words 'Electric drive system failure' keep cropping up in a car which is wholly predicated on the basis of electric driving, then you start to get somewhat irate.

Was it just this ID.3 which was problematic, though? Well, that's where we're afraid, fans of Wolfsburg, that we must say it was not. We've already said we think that the Golf 8 shows that Volkswagen has prioritised developmental spend on the ID electric vehicle (EV) range over its long-serving, conventional hatch. This is because not only did the 1.5 TSI 130 Life we had on test feel a bit underdone in the interior finishing and dynamics department, it also spent its entire week and 170 miles with us doing its best impression of Blackpool Illuminations in the instrument cluster. We didn't once get in it without its dashboard flashing up failures of various electrical systems - at first, just trifling things like lane assist and radar cruise, but later in the week rather more alarming warnings of an inoperative electronic handbrake and defunct autonomous emergency braking.

We'd have been prepared to put that down to an isolated incident and just one aberrant car, if not for the fact the otherwise-splendid Grand California then turned up soon after for a week-long holiday in Norfolk, covering 530 miles as it went. Thankfully, our plan was never to sleep in it for the entire vacation, instead having a holiday home to use; this was a good thing, because on night one the Volkswagen's fancy touchscreen control unit in the living area of the van went into total meltdown and never recovered. Totally inoperative. Which meant we couldn't control its cabin temperature in the back, we couldn't access key functions, we could basically do nothing with it. This was an 82,000 contrivance, remember. Oh, and then, to cap it all, about 30 miles from home on the A17, on our way to Norfolk and fully laden with all our stuff for the days ahead, its engine management light came on. And stayed on for the rest of the trip... despite the fact the Grand Cali was running absolutely fine.

Indeed, immediately after the ID.3's loan period, we had an Arteon Shooting Brake (on which we'll bring you a review imminently) and that, too, had more electrical woes. Nothing major, however, just minor quirks and so on, but it constituted a fourth vehicle out of four from Volkswagen which had clearly got gremlins in the wiring.

This is quite one thing when your car runs on fossil fuels like petrol and diesel, and a whole other matter entirely when the vehicle actually bloody drives on electricity in the first place. In short, the ID.3 repeatedly had a problem with its drive system. When the error message came up, the lights on the stumpy lever to the right of the steering wheel went out and you couldn't change from D to R or vice versa. The car would still go forwards if it had been in D before the event, and backwards if previously in R, but you could do nothing with it short of turn it off, get out, lock it, unlock it, get back in, fire it up and pray the drive system had come back to life. In the main, it did, but this trait proved particularly vexing when we tried to reverse on our drive one day and the system failed with the car stranded diagonally across the main road through our village. Neighbours weren't best impressed with the delay involved while we went through the 'reset process' outlined above.

Then a fellow journalist said his test ID.3's alarm kept going off at random times for no reason. And, lo and behold, as if it had heard him (or read his WhatsApp message, more likely; Skynet is real, people!), suddenly the alarm on our test car began to go haywire. It sounded once at 11am on one day, while we were standing on the drive just looking at it with the key about our person; OK, tiny irritant. It then did it again a few days later, this time at 2.45am; major rage.

Sadly, all of this overshadows precisely what a pleasant little thing the ID.3 is. Our car was a 58kWh, 204hp model with 260 miles of claimed range on a charge and a 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds. We love the way the car looks. We love the minimalist interior, even if the infotainment system controls absolutely everything (and joy to the world if that fails on you, by the way). We love the space in the back seats, and the sizeable 385-litre boot. We love the smooth way it drives and the impressive pick-up of the torque, and we like its cushioned ride quality.

We're not so keen, however, on the fact that that, as tested, this ID.3 clocked in at a whopping 1,805kg; the same weight as a BMW M3 Competition. Nor the fact that in this specification, and thanks to the Government's monumentally short-sighted moving of the goalposts in terms of the Plug-In Car Grant (PICG), the Family Pro Performance no longer qualifies for the 2,500 price reduction because it costs in excess of 35,000 as standard. And, with options, this exact car would therefore relieve you of 41,599.50 as tested. When that equally troublesome but at least 'still-driveable-when-it-buggered-up' Golf 8 we had on loan was 26,775. Ubiquity of EVs in the future will soon drive prices down, but it's a crying shame that at the moment, saving the planet seems to be such a mercenary job*.

And all of this colours our experience of the ID.3. In the end, its fragile drive system meant we only felt comfortable doing 82 miles in it during the week, because it was getting tiresome having to keep restarting it on journeys just to be able to select a gear. Fine enough, on first glance it looks like a more complete, more intriguing option than the ho-hum Golf 8. But if we'd paid more than 41,500, in a lump sum or on PCP or otherwise, to own a slice of futuristic zero-emissions motoring, only to find that it repeatedly and arbitrarily refused to acknowledge the existence of its own gearbox, we think we'd be rightly pretty peeved. And so would you be, as valued VW customers looking to make the saintly switch to electric.

So that's how we have to end this review. We'd be keen to try another ID.3 and see if it was anything like as problematic, and we're also still wanting to drive the bigger ID.4. But while one irksome car might have been a flash-in-the-pan, four in a row suggests Volkswagen has some serious work to do with both its quality control and its electrics. Therefore, we cannot mark this ID.3 any higher than we already have done... and, if you've had an example of the German EV which does the same to you, then we reckon you might think we've been rather generous to the VW in the final conclusion as it is.

* = prices at the time of writing correct. As of May 2021, Volkswagen UK adjusted ID3 prices to bring many models below the 35,000 PICG threshold.

Alternatives:

Mazda MX-30: Mazda approaches affordable, electric, family transportation from a whole different angle - quite literally - with this crossover. Which has an interior slathered in cork. No joke.

Nissan Leaf: this Japanese electric car is not as interesting to look at as the ID.3 and it certainly can't match the VW for cabin quality, but we're ready to bet Nissan's electricals are a whole lot more robust than Wolfsburg's.

Peugeot e-208: the alteration of the UK PICG rules will push families from larger hatchbacks, like the ID.3, into electric superminis like this e-208. It's not the end of the world, as this French car is excellent, but if you need space and range more than anything, the Peugeot is not the best answer.


Matt Robinson - 8 Mar 2021



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2021 Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro UK test. Image by Volkswagen.

2021 Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro UK test. Image by Volkswagen.2021 Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro UK test. Image by Volkswagen.








 

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