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A smart, electric offering from Volkswagen

If you were living off the planet you have probably never heard of Covid-19 or the Volkswagen (VW) ID3. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little; one isn’t very welcome, but the other certainly is.

Why 3? Because the first was the VW Beetle (total sales 23 million), the second was the Golf (total sales 35 million), and now their mass market electric car. And why ID? It stands for ‘intelligent design’. It is the most important car in recent times from one of Europe’s most trusted manufacturers (despite ‘Deiselgate’) and should storm the market. All’s well and good, but for a recent market upset, their Tiguan (actually based on the Passat platform) has recently outsold the Golf. All is not lost in the electric car world as the back-up plan, aka the VW ID4 arrives in January. This will share a lot of its gene pool with Skoda’s recently launched all electric Enyaq.

The ID3 is a smooth looking car and, to my eyes, obviously electric with the smooth bodywork and absent front grille. It is 20mm shorter than the Golf, but has a longer wheelbase, all the better for comfort. Interior space is very impressive with the flat floor. Inside the cabin it is very screen-forward, with large A pillars (as a cyclist I don’t like them, I feel they can hide us, but it’s the price of crash safety). The familiar VW touchscreen is central in the dashboard and I initially felt I needed to attend an evening class to operate this. Buried within the software you may opt to have simple coasting when you lift off the throttle or regenerative braking, which slows the car more aggressively as the motors turn to inverters to charge the battery. Or you could twist the gear knob on the dash. Gears, as in forwards, reverse, and neutral – that’s it.

Tell the ID3 you’re feeling too hot and it knows which side the voice has come from and blows cool air in that direction. It is similarly efficient with its heat distribution, using socialist principles, giving it to those areas needing it most. Ask and you shall receive, as it were. Of course, the old fashioned method of playing with the controls will also deliver.

German humour that provided us with a golf ball as a gear knob on the previous Golf GTi gives us ‘play’ and ‘pause’ logos on the throttle and brake respectively.

The first batch of ID3s will come with the midrange 58kW battery twinned to a 201bhp motor with a potential range of 420km. Later models include smaller 48kw capacity (lower price, range 333km) and another with a larger 77kw capacity (faster, range 550km). The mid-range model has a 0-60 time of 7.3 seconds, enough for a lot of people. This will also come with 100kw fast charge potential, enough to get 80 per cent of charge or about 290kms in 30 minutes using the right charger. VW will supply a charger for faster charging at home, but you have the potential for a full charge with your three-pin plug if left long enough overnight.

The first models have arrived in Ireland and I was lucky enough to be able to nab one for a quick drive. It is immediately impressive with its quiet, smooth progress. There’s no engine or gearbox, so little noise from down under. Acceleration is progressive and stepless, as if being pulled on the proverbial large elastic rope. Comfort is aided by the long wheelbase and cornering is helped by the low centre of gravity (a very big battery under the floor). Again, the rope analogy comes to mind; it is like it is anchored and swung by the rope around a corner, its attitude balanced and neutral. And herein lies the fundamental difference from the suck-squeeze-bang-blow engine; it is not immediately adjustable on the throttle as we hooligans play with the car’s balance.

The ID3 is apparently built more to a budget than other Golfs we have known and loved. The interior plastic quality has suffered, yet the standard equipment list is extensive with Sat Nav, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, keyless entry and start, parking sensors, and reversing camera.

Overall the ID3 has all the advantages of electric cars, from a trusted manufacturer, with sufficient range to answer the needs of the vast majority of motorists. If you’re even half thinking of an electric car, please go and have a look at it, then drive it.

Price: From €33,715

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