Volkswagen ID.4 SUV review
"The Volkswagen ID.4 is a fun and practical zero-emissions SUV"
- Good to drive
- Competitive range
- Great practicality
- Frustrating infotainment
- Expensive top versions
- Some cheap materials
The Volkswagen ID.4 is a vital model for the German brand marking its first entry into the rapidly growing electric SUV class. Not only that, but unlike the smaller Volkswagen ID.3 hatchback, VW is hoping the ID.4 will conquer America, and take on the Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang Mach-E globally.
It's a blossoming class that already includes models like the Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge, Kia e-Niro and Jaguar I-Pace. However, most early entrants have been premium models, with upscale prices to match. The ID.4 is one of the first mainstream electric SUVs that’s designed to be a viable alternative to a diesel or plug-in hybrid model.
Sitting between the Volkswagen Tiguan and seven-seat Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace in size, the ID.4 shares its design theme with the ID.3. It gets a much bolder and more modern look when compared to the conservative Tiguan, with smooth lines, large alloy wheels and coast-to-coast front and rear lights. The ID.4 also boasts trendy SUV-style plastic wheelarches and side skirts, while a silver graphic above the side windows helps it stand out from the masses.
The interior has a simple design, dominated by a new infotainment setup with a large central touchscreen above the dashboard with a smaller driver's display behind the steering wheel. It should be as easy to use as a smartphone, so it's a shame the system isn't particularly intuitive, with too many steps required to operate rudimentary functions. It mostly feels sturdy inside, but the presence of some cheaper plastics hints at cost cutting in places.
Around ten trim levels are expected, but the earliest ID.4's to arrive will be First Edition models with 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, heated seats and a rear-view camera. A less luxurious version with a 52kWh battery is expected to cost from around £35,000, but First Edition models are expected to cost well over £40,000.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The ID.4 is underpinned by the same MEB platform as the ID.3 hatchback, albeit stretched to suit its bigger proportions. Battery sizes are eventually expected to span from 45kWh to 77kWh, with the larger size fitted as standard in the First Edition versions, like the one we've tested.
The largest pack is capable of a WLTP range of 324 miles from a single charge, which far exceeds the 260 miles offered by the rival Volvo XC40 Recharge P8. It also has 125kW charging capacity, so if you can find a fast enough charger, it can be replenished by almost 200 miles in half an hour. The Volvo gets 150kW charging as standard, but it is a more expensive car to buy in the first place.
During our testing, we found a range of around 250 miles to be more realistic, but this is still competitive against rivals and should be adequate for the vast majority of journeys.
Engines, drive & performance
It may come as a surprise, but the ID.4 proves pretty great to drive. The car’s driving dynamics are helped by the low centre of gravity of its battery, and the rear-wheel drive version we tested has an ideal weight balance between the front and rear.
This helps a fairly large and heavy SUV handle respectably well, with impressive body control and driving manners. There are other benefits to the lack of an engine up front, including a sharp turning circle of just 10.2 metres. Thanks to the front wheels being able to turn more acutely with no engine in the way, driving in town and parking manoeuvres are made much easier.
With a rear-mounted 201bhp electric motor, the First Edition ID.4 can get from 0-62mph in a nippy 8.5 seconds. Meanwhile, its top speed is limited to 99mph, making it a relaxed cruiser at the 70mph motorway limit. Basic entry-level models will get just under 150bhp or 168bhp, while a more powerful version with dual motors and four-wheel drive is expected to arrive in 2021.
The ID.4 also has some tricks up its sleeve when it comes to energy recuperation. For instance, when the driver approaches a slower vehicle, the car can automatically use the slowing effect of regenerative braking to match the car in front. There's also a 'B' mode along with the usual 'D' for the gear selector, which increases the braking effect in normal driving. However, Volkswagen has stayed away from 'one pedal' driving where the car will brake heavily and even stop if you come off the accelerator, as the brand felt this could be off-putting for drivers who are new to electric vehicles. That's a shame, as we've found it possible to adapt quickly to this style of driving.
Interior & comfort
Like the ID.3, Volkswagen's all-electric SUV has a minimalist interior, with very few physical buttons or knobs. Yet, the ID.4 is clearly also meant to be a touch more upmarket, so there are some more premium materials in the mix. Being high in the range, the First Edition also benefits from luxuries like a panoramic sunroof that floods the interior with light, attractive seats with integrated headrests and an augmented reality head-up display that provides useful navigation instructions.
There are some cheap plastics that hint at efforts to cut cost and possibly weight, but they aren't quite as obvious. What is unfortunately still an issue, is the confusing software for the infotainment display, which measures either 10- or 12-inches in size. Even some simple tasks are now buried deep in confusing menus, and it's hard to feel it is anything but a step backwards for a manufacturer that's previously led the field in logically designed dashboards.
Practicality & boot space
Measuring 75mm longer than a Volkswagen Tiguan, the ID.4 is a sizeable SUV. Not only that, but it also benefits from having a 'skateboard' platform, with most of the powertrain slung underneath the car. This gives designers a big advantage, allowing them to match the spaciousness of larger petrol and diesel models, and there's certainly lots of space in the front seats.
In the back, passengers are better able to spread out thanks to the lack of a central transmission tunnel, providing more foot space. The rear seats are also elevated slightly, giving a good view ahead and boosting legroom, while head room is still plentiful as well.
The boot comes in at 543 litres behind the rear seats, or 1,655 litres with them folded down. It's also a neat touch that there's a space for charging cables under the boot floor, so they aren't in the way of your shopping, or sliding around in the back as you drive.
Reliability & safety
While it's too early to say if the ID.4, or even the ID.3 it's based on, will be reliable, electric cars should in theory be simpler and much easier to maintain. There are far fewer moving parts, and there's no engine oil or filters, cambelts or timing chains or clutches to wear out and have to replace. Volkswagen has even fitted the ID.4 with rear drum brakes instead of conventional brake discs, because regenerative braking means they have far less work to do than in a similar petrol or diesel SUV.
There are some novel safety features too, kicking off with a narrow strip of light beneath the windscreen that can illuminate to warn the driver, or indicate which direction to turn when the sat nav is running. This should help keep attention on the road more of the time, and help the driver react more quickly to hazards. The ID.4 is also available with LED Matrix adaptive headlights that can control the beam of light more accurately for different road and traffic conditions.
While the ID.4 hasn't been tested by Euro NCAP yet, it's reassuring to note the smaller ID.3 achieved a five-star rating in late 2020. It was awarded 87% and 89% for adult and child occupant protection respectively, along with a score of 88% for its safety assist features.