Goodwood Test: 2021 Volkswagen ID.3 Review

The Volkswagen ID.3 is one of the most important new cars in the company's history...
19th January 2021
Seán Ward



The Volkswagen Golf in its basic, everyday, non-GTI form isn’t always the best car in its class to drive, yet a new one is always a big deal. Even if you don’t know much about cars you’re likely to have heard about the Golf, simply because it's been around for five decades, spanning eight generations with more than 35 million built. Now there’s a new car that may well become just as familiar to us. The Volkswagen ID.3.

The name ID.3, VW says, is so called because it represents the “third major chapter” in the company’s history, the first being the Beetle and the second the Golf. It is an all-new, all-electric car, built on a new platform, known as MEB, that’ll underpin all future electric VWs, and it is being built in a factory that has produced internal combustion engined cars since 1904 but from now on will build EVs only. It is, in short, quite a big deal for Volkswagen.

We like

  • Quicker than you might imagine
  • Feels like it has been designed to begin with to be an EV, because it has
  • Regenerative braking tech is very clever and incredibly useful

We don't like

  • A leap up in price from the old e-Golf
  • "Hello ID" voice control doesn't always do what you want
  • Touch sensitive controls don't add anything positive – buttons would have worked fine



What strikes you first is the ID.3’s size. In pictures it looks like quite a small thing, but in reality it’s just 23mm shorter, 3mm narrower and 77mm taller than the Golf Mk8. There’s something about the boxy, squared off nature of the car’s lower third that points towards it being an EV, too, the floor being the place where all of the car’s batteries are stored.

To my eyes it is instantly recognisable as a Volkswagen and I rather like it, although on a purely practical note the little indentations above the vents at the base of the bumper, that give some shape to what would otherwise be a blank, featureless space, are a right pain to clean. Filming cars on a rainy day is always entertaining.

Performance and Handling


There are a number of trims and specifications to choose from, and with each you’re treated to certain toys and options, but on a mechanical level there are three batteries from which to pick and one electric motor. On the battery front capacities range from 45kW to 58kW and 77kW, while the electric motor produces 204PS (150kW) and 310Nm (229lb ft), with a lower power motor due in the near future. The range varies from under 200 miles to 260 miles and 330 miles respectively.

The first 30,000 ID.3s built worldwide are known as ID.3 First Editions, which is what you see here, and in the UK they all come with the 58kW battery. The batteries, as mentioned previously, are all stored under the car’s floor, but the electric motor and the single-speed gearbox are mounted on the rear axle, making the ID.3, like the Beetle, rear engined and rear-wheel-drive.

Performance is brisk. Zero to 62mph takes 7.3 seconds and the top speed is 99mph, which is more than adequate, with a nice, not-at-all-jarring kick of torque off the line followed by a steadier rate of acceleration once the motor reaches a certain speed.

The gearbox is operated via a rocker switch that’s mounted to the top of the steering wheel along with a 5.3-inch display (more on that soon), and as well as drive, neutral and reverse there’s a ‘B’ mode which ups the level of battery regen from the electric motor, slowing the car down more aggressively if you lift off the accelerator than if you were in ‘D’. There isn’t much to say about the gearbox other than it works.

Start stringing a few bends together and there’s not much roll at all; you can feel the car’s mass is mostly low-down in the chassis, but it is still there (the ID.3 weighs a chunky 1,794kg compared to a 1.5-litre Golf 8’s 1,380kg). Agile? Perhaps not, but controlled certainly. The ride quality is good, and the steering and brakes are calibrated well too. The front tyres, meanwhile, do not cling on for very long in slippy conditions, but to a decent enough job in the dry.

Does the ID.3 feel rear-wheel-drive? For the most part not especially, as when the rear tyres do let go, and they will if you pin your foot to the floor from a standstill in the wet, the traction control is very effective at shutting that slip down. It’s all over before anything really starts.

Move between the car’s drive modes of Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual, you’ll notice the steering weight up ever so slightly, more regen from the electric motor and, most obviously, a much sharper throttle.



There’s a welcome lack of frippery in the ID.3’s cabin. In the slightly smaller Honda e, for example, there are door-to-door screens across the dashboard and cameras and screens instead of wing mirrors. The ID.3, meanwhile, has a 10-inch display in the middle of the dash, the aforementioned 5.3-incher on the steering column (which moves with the wheel as you adjust for your driving position), some funky lighting and seats made with recycled materials. It feels relatively normal, as familiar and as undaunting as a Golf. It’s spacious too, and the driving position is good, although the front of the seat could be angled up a little higher. The only actual gimmick is the inclusion of pause and play icons on the brake and accelerator pedals.

What works less well are some of the controls. You operate the mirrors and the lights, for example, with touch-sensitive controls rather than buttons. They work fine enough but there’s no feeling of connection, the only sign that your input has done anything a light illuminating in the control icon. As a result you can’t tell by touch if you’ve actually done anything and have to really look at what you’re doing. The driver’s window controls, meanwhile, are operated with just two switches – just two for the front and back combined, with another button marked ‘Rear’ to control the rear windows and the option of doing down all of the windows in sync. Short of saving about two square centimetres of space, and as nice of an idea as that is, is it really necessary?

Technology and Features


No, you can’t plug in a Nintendo and play Mario Kart in the ID.3, unlike the Honda e, but there’s some really useful tech that you’ll notice and find helpful every day. On the smaller instrument screen there are three little panels, with the one on the right showing navigation instructions, the one in the centre your speed and the one on the left your cruise control and whether the car has detected lines on the road. Most often, though, that left panel shows an icon for an approaching roundabout, junction, sharp bend or speed limit change and an accompanying foot and pedal icon. Lift off the accelerator and the ID.3 will, given enough space, start to reduce your speed at the appropriate time by upping the level of regen, bringing you to the correct pace for what lies ahead. It is incredibly useful. You can also tell the car to heat the seats or de-ice the windscreen at a certain time, a common feature in EVs nowadays but no less useful.

You can also chat to the ID.3. Voice controls have been around for yonks, but the fact that the ID.3’s “Hello ID” feature can differentiate between different passengers is impressive. That said, it doesn’t always do exactly what you want it too, and particularly enjoyed giving me Isle of Wight Radio when I asked for pretty much everything but.

Not all of the tech is flawless, however. The traffic sign recognition system once tried to tell me that the speed limit on a dual carriageway was 110mph. The touch controls for the volume and temperature are exactly where you might rest your hand if you were trying to touch the screen above. The navigation and infotainment system itself isn’t the easiest to get to grips with either. But enough of it works that the overall experience is rarely a frustrating one.

What’s included with the ID.3 First Edition? A fetching set of 19-inch wheels, keyless entry and go, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera, parking sensors, heated front seats, ‘IQ Light’ LED matrix automatic headlights, LED rear lights, automatic wipers, forward collision warning, blind spot assist and quite a lot more. You do get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but they must be accessed through VW’s ‘App Connect’ system which, to be honest, is irritating.



The ID.3 feels very well sorted and thoroughly engineered. No, its rear-wheel-drive powertrain does not in the slightest mean you’ll be sliding hither and thither, but the car offers a decent drive, albeit one that won’t excite, and a lot of useful tech. It also gets you thinking.

The Golf’s place in Volkswagen’s range has never been under threat, and yet now it seems its days could well be numbered. As the push towards electrification continues, and as VW has permanently discontinued the e-Golf with the introduction of the ID.3, I can see a time on the horizon where the Golf name is put to pasture and the ID brand picks up the mantle. As much as I like Golf GTIs and Rs, as an everyday car this is a more interesting creation than the latest Golf.



Single electric motor, 58kWh Lithium-ion battery


204PS (150kW)


310Nm (229lb ft) @ 16,000rpm


Single-speed gearbox, rear-wheel-drive

Kerb weight



7.3 seconds

Top speed


Range, efficiency

260 miles, 3.96 miles/kWh

Charging time

9 hours 30 minutes to 100 per cent with a 7.2kW charger, 30 minutes to 80 per cent with a 100kW rapid charger


£35,215 (£35,835 as tested)

Our score

4 / 5

This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.

  • Evo
    3.5 out of 5
  • Autocar
    4 out of 5
  • Top Gear
    3.5 out of 5