Volkswagen's Electric Product Parade Begins in Europe

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Volkswagen revealed the first of many upcoming EVs based on its modular MEB platform at the Frankfurt Motor Show this week. While the ID.3 resembles a Golf in both form and function, VW claims this is not business as usual. According to the manufacturer, the new hatchback “reflects the realignment of the Volkswagen brand” by offering full connectivity, maximum efficiency, and no local emissions.

While it’s not coming to America, other ID models will be. Taking a long look at the ID.3 could provide us with a better understanding of what those vehicles might be like and help us examine the general direction the German manufacturer appears to be heading these days.

“The ID.3 is an all-rounder that is suitable for everyday use. It is compact, as such offering the maneuverability of a small car with the interior space of a mid-range vehicle. It combines exciting design with innovative technology and significant range,” Silke Bagschik, ID’s marketing and sales boss, said before the Frankfurt debut.

That range is dependent on a few factors, however. The base ID.3 will come with a 45 kWh battery pack (tucked beneath the floor boards) good for an estimated 205 miles of travel using the WLTP test cycle. There will also be a 58 and 77 kWh version, the latter of which is said to manage 342 miles on a single charge. Unfortunately, Europe’s utilization of the WLTP cycle means those figures will probably come down a bit in practice. But the extended-range model’s operating area is still rather impressive for a small vehicle and VW said you can restore 180 miles of charge within 30 minutes if you can locate a 100 kW charging station.

The ID.3’s electric motor and single-speed gearbox are mounted to the rear axle, something VW said helped minimize frontal drag — important considering the ID.3 is nearly two tons in its lightest format. As for how that translates into performance, we’ve yet to find out. The manufacturer hasn’t provided us with any acceleration times but did say the car would be electronically limited to around 100 mph.

With 204 horsepower (150 kilowatts) 229 pound-feet (310 Newton-meters) on tap, we’re imagining the ID.3 shouldn’t feel terribly different from the Hyundai Kona Electric or Chevrolet Bolt with the hammer down. Zero-to-60 times should rest comfortably in the 7-second range, with the other models likely having a slight edge. Be prepared for an initial surge of acceleration, thanks to the electric motor’s instantaneous torque delivery, followed by an evolving lethargy as the model hits highway speeds.

Visually, the ID.3 seems to be an amalgamation of Volkswagen’s Up and Golf models. Its design is fairly contemporary, rather than futuristic. But there are sufficient exterior details to help you pin it as an EV (check out the graphics on the C-pillar). Overhangs are also quite short and the hood is stubbier than you’d expect to find on a gas-powered automobile.

That long wheelbase helps to maximize interior volume, which VW said would set a new standard for the segment — with seating for five. The interior design is rather bland, however. Neither the digital gauge cluster or central console have been integrated into the dashboard. Instead, VW has opted to leave both jutting out with most buttons being relegated to the steering wheel.

It’s a sort of back-to-basics approach tempered with a trunk load of technological inclusions (via the touchscreen) VW hopes will catch on. To be fair, neither the Bolt or Kona have stellar interiors either. But they’re more interesting and unique than the anonymous void Volkswagen has decided to install in the ID.3. However, if you dig the super basic design of Tesla’s Model 3, it might suit you — just know that Tesla’s singular oversized screen dwarfs the VW’s 10-inch center console.

Initially, the company will be entirely focused on producing the ID.3 1st limited launch edition. But regular pricing will start below 30,000 euros (about $33,150 USD), according to VW. Base launch edition models come equipped with a satellite navigation system, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, 18-inch alloys, and internet connectivity.

Plus models add a rear view camera system (something that would be mandatory in the U.S.), new interior designs/colors and colors, ambient lighting, exterior LEDs, 19-inch alloys, additional USB-C connections, keyless entry, and adaptive cruise control.

Max models incorporate a head-up display, Beats sound system, large panorama sliding/tilting glass roof, 20-inch light-alloy wheels, wireless device charging, lane keeping with assist, and comfort seats.

All told, that kind of makes base ID models sound a little too basic — especially if VW lightens content after those limited launch editions wrap. Despite automatically providing always-on internet (a double edged sword), navigation, some other niceties, it looks like it’s missing some of the kit you’re beginning to find standard elsewhere. Granted, the cheapest ID.3 does seem prepared to come in below its main rival’s price points but it doesn’t look ready to beat them outright (without going up in trim) or replace dirt-cheap, internal-combustion vehicles as the most affordable way to get behind the wheel.

We’re curious to see whether Volkswagen attempts a similar pricing structure when it releases the ID Crozz in the U.S. It seems like there could be a lot riding on how the company prices mid-level ID trims. And all of the systems going into the ID.3 are expected to appear in later MEB-based vehicles, including those planned for sale here. The Crozz is slated to arrive stateside during the latter half of 2020, followed by the microbus-inspired ID Buzz and a mystery model in 2023.

[Images: Volkswagen Group]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Whatnext Whatnext on Sep 10, 2019

    Nice! Another clean and elegant design from VW. I hope VW decides to bring this to Canada even if it won't make it to the US.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Sep 14, 2019

    The placement of the HVAC controls to the left side of the steering wheel, out of the reach of the passenger, is interesting. Seems wrong but I'm open to an explanation of why it is correct.

  • Jeff Self driving cars are not ready for prime time.
  • Lichtronamo Watch as the non-us based automakers shift more production to Mexico in the future.
  • 28-Cars-Later " Electrek recently dug around in Tesla’s online parts catalog and found that the windshield costs a whopping $1,900 to replace.To be fair, that’s around what a Mercedes S-Class or Rivian windshield costs, but the Tesla’s glass is unique because of its shape. It’s also worth noting that most insurance plans have glass replacement options that can make the repair a low- or zero-cost issue. "Now I understand why my insurance is so high despite no claims for years and about 7,500 annual miles between three cars.
  • AMcA My theory is that that when the Big 3 gave away the store to the UAW in the last contract, there was a side deal in which the UAW promised to go after the non-organized transplant plants. Even the UAW understands that if the wage differential gets too high it's gonna kill the golden goose.
  • MKizzy Why else does range matter? Because in the EV advocate's dream scenario of a post-ICE future, the average multi-car household will find itself with more EVs in their garages and driveways than places to plug them in or the capacity to charge then all at once without significant electrical upgrades. Unless each vehicle has enough range to allow for multiple days without plugging in, fighting over charging access in multi-EV households will be right up there with finances for causes of domestic strife.