Volkswagen is a huge and storied company. It’s also central brand that undergirds multiple other German (and non-German) automakers such as Audi and Porsche, so when they admit that a certain car of theirs is of great importance, it does carry a certain weight.
Specifically, VW says their new fully-electric hatch, the ID.3, is their most significant new model to carry the badge since the Golf. And that’s fair enough given that, ever since it emerged as a concept car, the company has been portending its status as the ‘Golf’ of the electric vehicle era.
Its name is also reflective of how Volkswagen themselves view the ID.3 in a wider context with the ‘3’ signifying their third milestone car - and therefore, a new age - after the Beetle and Golf. Built atop the modular and extensible MEB platform - an all-new, EV-specific architecture
- the ID.3 spearheads the VW Group’s assault on the volume-oriented electric vehicle market even across their subsidiary brands Seat and Skoda.
Surprisingly much of the ID concept’s visual cues and overall styling has been carried over quite successfully to the production-ready version shown here in Frankfurt. With this in mind, it’s also quite likely that this commitment to an original vision will be applied to the brand’s other EV concepts like the ID Buzz, ID Roomzz, ID Vizzion, and ID Buggy.
Unlike the steeply priced high end electric cars of today, Volkswagen intends to marry the economy, practicality, and general futuristic nature of EVs with their penchant for mass production through efficient use of material and operations at a large scale. Like the Beetle and Golf, VW intends for it to mobilise a generation onto zero emissions driving. With a projected starting price under €30,000 (AU$48,000), it sure has a shot.
It shares a similar footprint to the existing Golf, though with it lacking an engine and conventional drivetrain, the wheels were able to be pushed further to each corner, freeing up a lot more room inside. This also explains why there’s only enough distance between the front bumper and the windscreen for the illusion of a traditional bonnet.
Superimposed against VW’s most recent version of the iconic (fuel-powered) hatch, the ID.3 is revealed to be just 3mm longer overall and 10mm wider. Though, thanks to the stretched 145mm wheelbase, it promises Passat-like levels of interior volume. Despite this, the boot size mirrors the Golf’s at 380-litres.
Interestingly, the car’s drive axle is located at the rear along with the single electric motor. Buyers will have a selection of lithium ion battery capacities which also impacts power output. The smallest yet announced is a 45kWh unit which yields about 110kW and a 330km range.
Motor output is shared at 147kW for the mid-tier 58kWh as well as range-topping 77kWh varieties, though maximum average range stands respectively at 420km and 550km according to the WLTP cycle. Reportedly, peak torque of 310Nm and a top speed of 160km/h applies to all variants.
The inaugural batch of ID.3s will be dubbed First Edition and will be based on the mid-level 58kWh variant. Standard equipment include 18-inch alloy wheels, in-built satellite navigation, and heated seats, steering wheel, and armrests.
Meanwhile, a higher specified ID.3 First Plus will also be available, giving owners access to more premium features such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Keyless Access, and a rear-view camera (shocker!) in addition to 19-inch alloys and matrix LED headlights. Top dog of the First Edition cars will be the ID.3 First Max that adds a panoramic glass roof, 20-inch wheels, and a Beats stereo.
Inside, the ID.3 presents some familiar elements peppered alongside an otherwise somewhat alien cabin and driving experience. Sure, we see is a steering wheel directly ahead of the driver and there’s even two pedals where you’d expect them to be, but look closer and you’ll see they’re imprinted with play and pause symbols - a sign of times changing.
It’s a far more minimal cabin from what we’re used to seeing and there’s a near total lack of buttons save for ones located on the steering wheel and the few more arranged along the bottom of the central infotainment screen. Everything else is controlled via touch or the integrated voice assistant.
We’ll definitely hear more of the ID.3 as Volkswagen productions starts to ramp up and the new VW starts to populate its initial launch markets in 2020. For Down Under dwellers, though, we might have to wait until 2022.