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In-depth reviews

Volkswagen ID.3 hatchback - Electric motor, drive & performance

It may not be as quick as a Tesla but the ID.3 has the acceleration to worry a Golf GTI

Carbuyer Rating

4.4 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Electric motor, drive & performance Rating

4.5 out of 5

There’s really very little to fault when it comes to the Volkswagen ID.3’s driving experience – especially if you’re coming from a petrol or diesel car. It’s smooth, quick and quiet, and it’s even pretty responsive thanks to its zippy electric motor and rear-wheel drive layout. There’s only one version (and two batteries) currently on offer, but it’s the best of the bunch, so we’ve no issues in this respect.

Volkswagen ID.3 electric motor 

Volkswagen launched the ID.3 with a 201bhp rear-mounted unit powering the rear wheels. Although less powerful 143bhp and 148bhp versions were eventually offered, these have since been discontinued.

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With its instant shove, the ID.3 feels genuinely quick away from the lights, not only outpacing the Nissan Leaf and Renault ZOE but even making for an interesting comparison with a conventionally-powered Golf GTI. The ID.3 races from 0-37mph in just less than four seconds, aided by the absence of gearchanges. Most electric cars use a single-speed automatic system so there’s no need for gears like in a traditional car. Acceleration tails off somewhat above 50mph, but not completely.

Braking feels more natural than in many rivals we've tried, though at times we did notice quite a bit of pedal travel before the discs came into contact with the pads, which can feel a little disconcerting if you’re trying to slow down gently. One way of mitigating this is by selecting B-mode, which ramps up the regenerative braking and slows the car automatically when you lift off the accelerator. This sensation isn’t as aggressive as in some rivals like the Kia Niro EV or Tesla Model 3, but it’ll harness energy that would otherwise be lost – sending it back into the battery and topping up the car’s charge. VW says that if you regularly use this setting, an ID.3 may never need its brakes replacing.

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Despite being taller and almost a third heavier than a Golf, the ID.3 has a lower centre of gravity thanks to its low-slung electric powertrain. Volkswagen's engineers have been able to make it feel more agile and lighter on its feet than the Golf. That's with standard suspension too; our experience in a car with the adjustable setup showed it to strike an ever better balance between ride and handling.

In short, despite being inherently quite stiff, the ID.3 doesn’t tend to get unsettled by rough road surfaces, while the well-weighted steering is keen to turn in and offers just enough feedback to let you know what’s going on at the front wheels.

With no engine in the nose of the car, Volkswagen has had to work hard to ensure the ID.3 doesn’t suffer too much when it comes to wind and road noise – sounds that would otherwise be drowned out by a petrol or diesel motor at higher speeds. The result is a refined car that remains hushed even on the largest 20-inch wheels. 

Placing the motor at the rear has also allowed the engineers to increase the steering angle of the front wheels, giving the ID.3 a smaller turning circle that makes previously unthinkable manoeuvres possible.

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Andy is Carbuyer's managing editor, with more than a decade of experience helping consumers find their perfect car. He has an MA in automotive journalism and has tested hundreds of vehicles.

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