And I’m really looking forward to the Stromer. As a Polo driver, I’ve been a loyal VW customer for years. The idea of an affordable electric car appeals to me. And who could do that better than the largest German car manufacturer, which has already successfully occupied the mass market with the Golf and Beetle?
Quality, range, assistance systems – my expectations of the ID.3 are pretty high. After all, in terms of size, appearance and range, the ID.3 would definitely have a chance to replace my Polo on the commute to work.
My first meeting with the Stromer is therefore a bit of a disenchantment. Sure, the little car with the blue paintwork and the futuristic, shiny black rims is a real eye-catcher. But also smaller and more normal than I would have thought.
For Volkswagen, the ID.3 is something like the starting signal for a new future. A time in which combustion engines are being replaced by electric drives – and electricity should be affordable for everyone. Thanks to the environmental bonus, the basic model is available from just under 20,000 euros and therefore costs only slightly more than the best-selling car in Germany according to ADAC last year: the VW Golf. The claim is correspondingly high, despite the initial difficulties: The ID.3 is to become the first electric bestseller from VW.
But the initial euphoria after the announcement was followed by delivery delays, then software problems. The first test reports were cautious to say the least. The first Stromers from Wolfsburg have been rolling across the street since October and have been a topic of conversation for months.
With the key in hand, I inspect the car. The first thing you notice is the unusually short snout of the ID.3. The little Stromer no longer needs a long front, the electric motor and battery are in the floor of the car. No more comparison to the other electric vehicles that the group has built in its long history. Basically, all electric cars from VW were just converted combustion engines – from the Bulli T7 in the 1970s, which rolled the streets with a range of 70 kilometers, to the latest e-Golf.
Volkswagen has succeeded in striking the balance between the future and suitability for everyday use in the design.
For the ID.3 and three dozen other battery models, however, unlike some of its competitors, VW has developed a special modular electric car kit, the MEB. By the end of the decade, more than 20 million electric cars are to be produced for the masses.
Completely different from the Polo
In the design, VW has incorporated a few modern dangling and angular details. Here VW has designed a car that lives up to the brand name – and is intended to meet mass tastes. On the front, the revised Wolfsburg logo, as known from the other models, is emblazoned. A little home in the new world of electromobility.
It gets more futuristic when you open the car door. With a double press on the driver’s handle, the car unlocks without a key and greets me with an elegant LED beam along the windshield. It reminds me a bit of a car star from my childhood: KITT from the Knight Rider series. Except that the ID.3 flashes blue instead of red.
Since I personally drive a Polo myself, I know Volkswagen pretty well – at least that’s what I thought. In the ID.3, however, nothing is as usual: the dashboard is completely empty except for a single large touch display. I’m also looking in vain for the usual kilometer display; instead, a slightly elevated mini-display sits enthroned behind the steering wheel, next to which the gear lever is located. You feel immediately reminiscent of a certain e-car pioneer from California, only that it looks somehow more elegant there.
VW ID.3 from the inside
VW has mainly replaced the buttons and switches with touchscreens.
The ID.3 has little in common with the bestsellers of the past, such as the Golf, Polo or Beetle. You can tell that VW wanted to create something completely new here, yes, it had to. Unfortunately, new is not always better.
Here we are back to the high expectations: The Wolfsburg-based company has built an unusually large amount of plastic in the interior, only the steering wheel is covered with leather. The excessive use of hard plastic is likely to bother some VW traditionalists, but the price had to be saved somewhere. For me this is quite manageable.
What I find worse is that I have trouble getting along with the digital systems in ID.3 – although I belong to the younger target group. I spend minute after minute trying to find the menu in the first place. Because that’s not as easy as it sounds. After ten minutes and sheer desperation, an inconspicuous purple square caught my eye. Bingo.
However, I have to look twice to make sure that I didn’t actually end up at David Hasselhoff’s in the 80s by mistake. The display design is just as straightforward as the interior and consists of simple black pictograms on purple tiles. You can guess what VW wanted to achieve with it: simple, modern, clean, tidy. Unfortunately, it seems to me like drawn with Windows Paint.
The ID.3 is stronger when it is driving. Even when pulling out of a parking space, the short nose proves to be useful – the turning circle of the small electric vehicle is unbeatable. With a weight of 1.8 tons, it lies well on the road and in the corners and, like most electric cars, accelerates impressively, especially in the first few meters – and of course almost silently. No Golf can keep up with the driving experience.
And even if the outside of the car is smaller than expected: the spacious interior is positive. From the trunk to the legroom, you feel more like in a Passat than in a Golf.
Faster than Hyundai and Renault, but slower than Tesla
After a few minutes, however, it gets quite cool, so I press the voice control button and ask to turn on the heating. The ID.3 seems to take a long time to find an answer, only to tell me that this function is unfortunately not available. That can’t be, I think and ask a friend in the passenger seat to turn on the heater. No success. The car stays cold.
In the heating menu, we finally find a small power symbol on the left edge of the screen. We look at each other, shrug our shoulders and press on it, the heating starts. I had never heard of the fact that the function had to be switched on first. It annoys me that you can hardly find standard functions without the manual.
Opening the panorama roof via the touch panel is just as difficult: I need two minutes to find the right combination of strokes. The voice control works well, but it feels like it takes forever to execute a command. When it comes to what programmers call User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX), VW has a lot of catching up to do.
The ID.3 is strong in the areas in which it can draw on the extensive experience of one of the largest car companies in the world. The driving assistants are flawless. In “travel mode” the ID.3 drives me safely on the motorway. He recognizes whether he has a car, a truck or a motorcyclist in front of him and automatically slows down if the speed limit change is overlooked or the exit is reached faster than expected.
When it comes to braking, the VW is more based on the Porsche Taycan sibling than on the Tesla Model 3. It does not recuperate when you just let go of the accelerator, but only when you hit the brake. The group does not want to expect its customers to have the typical driving experience of an electric car. A unique selling point in its class is likely to be the maximum speed of 160 kilometers per hour (km / h). Many e-cars such as the Hyundai Kona and Renault Zoe do not reach this speed, while the Model 3 from Tesla is significantly faster.
Small and compact
The ID.3 offers significantly more space inside than you would expect.
With the ID.3, on the other hand, you can do a short sprint on unlimited sections of the route. However, it shouldn’t take too long, otherwise the range will melt away. This differs noticeably depending on the model.
VW is currently only delivering the “First Edition” ID.3 Pro with a battery of 58 kWh and a standard range of 420 kilometers. Even fully charged, there are significantly fewer in the test. At the beginning of 2021, VW also wants to offer a basic version of the ID.3 with a 45 kWh battery, whose standard range should then be sufficient for 330 kilometers.
For those who like to drive longer distances, VW is planning a version with 77 kWh. It should be significantly more expensive – but it is also unrivaled in the class. With a range of 550 kilometers, the ID.3 would leave competitors like the Nissan Leaf or the Hyundai Ioniq well behind.
In principle, the Volksstromer is also ready for the long haul. It charges with up to 100 kW at fast charging stations. This means that the battery is at 80 percent in around 30 minutes. On a standard 11 kW column, however, it takes longer if the battery is completely empty: According to the display in the test, charging takes six hours.
Trunk of the ID.3
The trunk of the electric model is even larger than that of the Golf.
A few teething troubles remain, however. At the start of delivery in October, the ID.3 still needs retrofitting. Because the software was only ready shortly after the planned sales launch in September, it will only be installed subsequently on the first models that have already been produced.
For this, the buyers of the bearer of hope have to go to the workshop again. VW is still a bit away from the over-the-air updates known from Tesla.
Two functions are also still missing: the remote area of the head-up display and the smartphone integration. The corresponding update should follow in the first quarter of 2021. Comforts such as the really well-functioning assistance systems, a range-enhancing heat pump and the fast charging capacity are only available at an additional cost, as is customary in the industry.
The Stromer may disappoint some quality fanatics and there are still several little things annoying that VW should get under control as quickly as possible. The customers still seem to be impressed by the overall concept: the compact Stromer has been pre-ordered almost 40,000 times since June. That is significantly less than the Tesla Model 3, which collected around 500,000 pre-orders within a few weeks.
VW ID.3 from behind
At the rear, the ID.3 is reminiscent of its group siblings – but of course the exhaust is missing.
Nevertheless, the ID.3 has so far been the e-car with which I have drawn the most looks by far. Everyone wanted to know how they drive, even in the parking lot in front of the hardware store people stop with their own cars to ask how they are doing.
Many are enthusiastic about the appearance – and so am I. But in the end, a range of 420 kilometers is a bit too little for a commuter like me for the price. After the big promises, one would have expected a little more from Volkswagen.
Five-door, five-seat sedan in the compact class
- Length: 4.26 meters
- Width: 1.81 meters
- Height: 1.55 meters
- Wheelbase: 2.27 meters
- Boot space: 385 liters
- Electric motor; 150 kW / 204 PS
- maximum torque: 310 Nm
- Rear wheel drive
- Automatic entrance
- 0-60 km / h: 3.4 s
- Vmax: 160 km/h
- Battery size 58 kWh
- Range 420 kilometers
- Consumption: 13.5 – 15.4 kWh / 100km
- CO2 emissions: 0 g / km
- Emission standard: Euro 6d-temp
- Efficiency class: A +
- Price: from 39,995 euros
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