The VW I.D. is arriving late, but with impact. It’s intended to be the people’s electric car from the end of 2019: compact, spacious, with no-frills, but above all no more expensive than a diesel Golf.

VW is currently testing prototypes, known internally as Neo, in South Africa and has invited Auto Express to get behind the wheel for an early taste of one of VW’s most important ever cars.

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We’re joined by Frank Welsch, VW’s Development Director on the Board, who is sat in the passenger seat and is pretty happy with the way things have gone. “We are not competing with Tesla, not even with a Hyundai Kona”, he explains quietly. “We are offering e-mobility for everyone.” The aim: a price of about £22,500 for an entry-level model, which is intended to encourage customers to convert from petrol or diesel.

Three battery options will be available: 48, 55 and 62kWh. It translates to a range of 205 miles up to a maximum of 341 miles. All versions will use one electric motor and be rear-wheel drive initially, however, four-wheel drive and sport versions will follow later. 

Final testing is being carried out in Lapland and Cape Town before the model is officially revealed at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show. The I.D. is in disguise, but based on the I.D. concept car, we do know what the finished model will look like; the size of a Golf externally with the space of a Passat inside, says VW. 

The length of the I.D. is 4.25 metres, with short overhangs, a stubby bonnet, and roof spoiler on the steep rear end. It’s slightly higher than a Golf, but just as wide and there’s a noticeable 10cm of additional space inside because there is no engine.

A CO2 air conditioning system sits in the front with a heat pump, which means there’s no front storage space. But the boot of the five-seater will correspond approximately to that of a Golf, in other words from 380 to 1,270 litres. 

At the back to the right is the charging connection for CCS with up to 125 kW charging capacity. Depending on the battery size, it will take from 30 to 45 minutes to charge the battery up to 80 per cent. Wireless inductive charging is also in the pipeline.   

While we can’t show you any images of the cabin we can tell you it’s clean, narrow, modern and without any buttons; the only storage space is to be found in the centre console.

The starter button is located underneath the steering wheel to the side, while a rotary switch next to the digital display engages drive and reverse. In the middle of the dash panel there’s a second screen so you can swipe through the menus and access all of the car’s functions such as navigation and the media player. Here the driving modes – eco, comfort, sport and individual – will also be able to be selected at a later date. A large augmented head-up display will be optional.

On the move, three things quickly become apparent: the I.D. will not be a great sprinter, because it’s simply too heavy for that (probably nearly two tonnes, as the battery alone weighs 500kg and materials such as aluminium or carbon would be much too expensive). So the 170bhp electric motor in the boot has to work hard.

Secondly, the I.D. is very quiet inside; no humming or like you get on a Kona Electric. This was very important for VW, according to the engineering team. Thirdly: the response from the accelerator pedal is still very abrupt (both when accelerating and decelerating). VW is aware of this and is working on it.

There’s also no energy recuperation without pressing the brake. However, that’s what drive mode B is there for. If it’s activated, the I.D decelerates when the foot leaves the throttle and will allow the car to come to a complete stop. 

Eventually you notice how much the I.D. does for you; no-frills such as steering wheel paddles, where you can usually modulate the deceleration on EVs such as the BMW i3. No one needs that, it just costs money – says the VW engineers, although they express it a bit more diplomatically. 

At the end of the approximately 90-minute test drive in the prototype, the page with the minus points in the notebook remains empty. Yet, the word “fascinating” has also not been written down anywhere.

The I.D. will not be the most interesting, beautiful or unique electric car – but it will become the most sensible and financially viable when it arrives. Above all: with a lot of mass appeal and in times of a change in mobility, isn’t that already a benefit in itself.


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