VW ID4 review: The electric mainstream

(Pocket-lint) – When VW launched the ID.3 it was the start of a massive move for the company. The ID.4 is perhaps more anticipated, moving into the largest selling sector of the market – the family SUV.

In that sense, the ID4 – yes, sorry Volkswagen, but that ‘dot’ break in the name won’t be appearing here on in – is the car that VW expects to have big appeal, with families looking for the convenience of space, with the choice of ranges and models to help them move to electric.

Designed to be electric

Rather than popping out models based on existing cars, VW knew it had to change things up. That resulted in a new platform – shared across the VW group – known as MEB, found sitting under a range of models (including, of course, the earlier and smaller-scale ID3).

You can see the resemblance to the Skoda Enyaq, with the VW ID4 sharing some hints of interior design to that sibling, while the Audi Q4 e-tron sits on the same platform, but is distinctly Audi in its appearance.

Pocket-lintVW ID4 photo 1

From the exterior there’s immediate appeal to the VW ID4, offering those SUV looks, a good ride height, and on the 1st Edition (as reviewed here), huge 20-inch wheels. This limited edition also gets a black roof and darkened rear windows and roof rails to add to the visual appeal.

It’s very much par for the SUV course, offering sensible seating for five passengers in relative comfort, with a respectable boot space of 543 litres. That’s enough to pack up for a week and head off on your holidays – and it’s the size that’s likely to be the biggest draw in a market that doesn’t have a huge number of larger cars. Yet, anyway.

With the addition of some plastic bodywork there’s a slightly rugged look to things, with wheel arches and skirts that give the illusion of something a little tougher than the ID4 perhaps is – all while helping it look sporty too.

Pocket-lintVW ID4 photo 7

The 1st Edition pictured here (£40,800) is a limited initial run, with VW now expanding to offer City, Life, Style, Family and Max trims, covering the best part of £15K difference in pricing from bottom to top, with most looking similar – but larger wheels definitely helping to give the car more character.

A whole new interior

One of the key changes on VW’s ID models is stripping down the interior to remove a lot of the clutter that VW cars have been associated with in the past. That means there’s a much simpler look to the dash and the core infotainment controls – and we’re generally in favour of these changes.

The look is very much the same as the VW ID3 on a bigger scale, but you can immediately see that these models have been popped out of the same mould.

The controls are centred around the driver, making full use of haptic touch controls on the steering wheel, while the drive selector on the side of the driver’s display means there’s no need to hang onto a faux gear selector, leaving the centre of the car free for other things.

VW has also done away with a separate parking brake button – that’s on the side of the driver display, giving a futuristic and seamless interaction.

Pocket-lintVW ID4 photo 41

There’s the advantage of being able to offer a flat floor on these electric models and that’s really felt in the rear of the car – there’s no bump for the middle passenger to straddle. Indeed, it’s the perfect patch of floor to plonk your coolbag into on a long drive so it’s sat completely out of the way. It also means it’s really easy to slide across and exit via whichever door you need to – useful when it comes to dropping off the kids.

The rear seats offer the space to be comfortable with both head and knee room, so carrying four adults is comfortable, while children will have space to pack in all their essentials for long journeys. Door pockets are all large enough to accommodate water bottles, while the centre rear arm rest houses two cupholders and gives access into the boot too. There are two USB C sockets for rear passengers too.

The seats are comfortable, and on the 1st Edition offer manual adjustment rather than electric – but there are a range of options available. One interesting detail is that the rear of the seats have two stowage pockets, the top an ideal size for mobile phones.

Pocket-lintVW ID4 photo 40

The overall quailty we’d say sits somewhere in the middle on this 1st Edition. There are harder plastics and the seats use a cloth rather than leather – Audi will have you covered if you want more premium materials – but we feel that there’s a nice balance here, fitting the car’s positioning.

Infotainment and technology

Every car manufacturer is currently trying to make in-car systems as easy to use as smartphones. Increasing screen sizes, a leaning towards touch controls, and increasingly dynamic systems are appearing everywhere.

The VW ID4 has the same system as the ID3, based around a home button at the side that you can tap to return to the main “menu” of functions, with each function or area running a little like an app. We much prefer this arrangement to some of the cluttered tiered systems out there and generally it’s a breeze to use.

There are some stability problems – we once found that no volume could be adjusted; the navigation instructions vanished from the driver display on one other occasion – but on the whole it’s easy to live with around the core functions of navigation, phone, music and getting information.

VW keeps some buttons physical – the parking menu, climate control, driver assistance and driving mode. How it decided these functions warranted their own buttons we don’t know, but it does lead to some interesting interactions – some of which you can access through the touch display anyway. For example, you can tap on the displayed climate control information and you’ll access the full menu just as if you’d pressed the button.

The “Assist” option is rather fiddly, using a graphical display to show off various things the car is able to do, so you can tap through and adjust the relevant settings. We can see how it came to be, but at first glance it’s not obvious where you’d find those controls.

Pocket-lintVW ID4 photo 20

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are supported and wirelessly. That means after first connection, you don’t need to plug in your phone – you’ll have the option to punch the button for the service you want and it will be there and running.

One of the nice touches is that we found Android Auto navigation directions were passed through to the driver display, so they’ll appear on that screen too, which is rare. What they don’t get access to is the ID Light – the LED strip below the windscreen that will illuminate to direct you when you need to turn which you get from the native system. The ID Light will also give warnings in red, charging alerts in green, and so on.

The ID Light is worth a little greater exploration. If you’re about to run into the back of someone this will flash red to grab your attention and braking will kick in if you get too close. It can be fooled, however. Covering suburban speedbumps, it couldn’t handle the accelerate-brake approach, giving us warnings as we accelerated toward the slowing car infront; it also detected parked cars on the side of the road on a fast bend, convinced we were going to drive into them. We didn’t.

The reverse parking system will pull a similar trick, slamming on the brakes if it thinks you’re about to hit the car behind. Squeezing into a tight space it will stop the car, even if you know there’s still an inch to go because you’re watching the camera display and listening to the beeps.

Pocket-lintVW ID4 photo 44

Adaptive cruise control works nicely, though, with a lane keeping system that’s designed to support if you’re drifting towards the edge of the lane, but it doesn’t provide level 2 autonomy, i.e. it won’t do the steering for you.

The native navigation is actually pretty good, with good mapping, and usefully VW lists charging points and their respective charging rate as a point of interest on the maps.

One strange integration looks like a hangover from combustion vehicles, with the listing of certain branded fuel stations – Esso, Shell – highlighted on your route. Totally pointless on an electric car and we’d much rather have easier access to charging stations.

Indeed, finding a charging station is OK on VW’s system, but not great: you have to select search on the map and there’s a shortcut for charging stations, but it seems limited to a couple of brands. Indeed, it didn’t provide any details about chargers on the UK’s motorways, only listing Polar Network (now BP Pulse), suggesting that it’s pulling from an information list that’s out of date. You’ll want to use Zapmap instead, no doubt.

Pocket-lintVW ID4 photo 34

There’s a voice control button on the steering wheel that links to VW’s system – which is as good as useless and after a few failed attempts you’re much more likely to use phone-connected systems from Google or Apple instead.

Overall, however, VW has created a system that’s useable and could be improved via software updates: we often criticise systems with no buttons as they get too fiddly, but VW is on the right track. Fundamentally, this is a good in-car system.

The core battery and range specs

One of the big factors that gives the VW ID4 models a wide price range is the battery options. There’s also the potential for confusion, so make sure you know what model you’re looking at.

The VW ID4 1st Edition here has a 77kWh battery and 150kW motor, but you’ll also find 45kWh and 58kWh battery options, as well as different power motors – and that’s before you get to the top GTX model, which has twin motors.

Pocket-lintVW ID4 photo 47

Essentially, there’s a lot to navigate, but VW is positioning the ID4 rather conventionally, so you can choose power options and trim to find the combination that fits your budget and requirements.

The 77kWh battery of the 1st Edition is a welcome size, with a cited range of 310 miles (500km). The long-term average reported by the car was 3.7 miles per kWh, which would equate to 285 miles of realistic range (460km).

That figure certainly rings true when driving long range with a loaded car, but with considered driving in eco mode. Remove the passengers and take to city streets and you’ll easily elevate that to 4.6 miles per kWh – or 354 miles (565km). It’s driving style that has the biggest impact on the range and speed (or more erratic driving) will drain it faster – but it’s not hard to get decent range from this bigger battery.

VW offers two drive options, D and B, the latter offering regeneration on lift-off for a result more like one-pedal driving, which is our preferred option. There are also driving modes, with an individual option letting you choose what you prefer. We like that once you pick a mode it stays in that mode when you return to the vehicle. It means you can stick it in eco and leave it there.

Pocket-lintVW ID4 photo 17

That will make things a little more sedate: indeed, with a 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds the ID4 is not the fastest car on the road – and not a patch on the Tesla Model 3 performance, the car that’s likely to be considered the biggest non-SUV rival.

The ID4 ride is quiet and smooth, with the suspension able to soak up the worst of the bumps for a smooth ride. It’s generally a pleasure to drive, incredibly easy, and exactly what you want in this segment – which is all about practicality rather than tyre-screaming cornering.

Verdict

The VW ID4 is practical thanks to the 1st Edition’s 77kWh battery giving it the range to compete with the best (note: other lower capacity options are available). The technology offered is generally good, too, meaning there’s a huge amount of appeal from this Volkswagen – and we suspect you’ll see a fair number on the roads as a result.

There are things to consider though. While the starting price will come in just over £32K, that’s for the lowest trim and a smaller battery capacity – so range will be the compromise. The larger battery models (as reviewed) will push the asking price over £40K, which is a lot of family SUV – you can get a fully loaded Tiguan for less, minus the electric aspect of course, or consider an EV like Skoda’s Enyaq (which is roughly the same car).

Overall, the appeal of the comfortable drive, the generous space, and the considerable range, puts the ID4 up there as one of our favourite family electric cars.

Also consider

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Tesla Model 3

The Tesla Model 3 sits around the same price and offers a similar range, but with much increased performance when it comes to speed. It’s a smaller car overall, lacking the convenience of the SUV styling, but offers an infotainment system through a huge display that’s a lot more ambitious in scope.

Pocket-lintalternatives photo 2

Skoda Enyaq iV

Yes, it’s essentially the same car, with the advantage of offering much the same for a little more money, but wearing a Skoda badge and a slightly different design.

Writing by Chris Hall. Editing by Mike Lowe.





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