It will take at least until Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor reaches pension age, obviously arbitrarily, and will cost manufacturers and other bodies far more eye-watering sums of money than Ed Sheeran’s earnings, but electric cars and other vehicles will eventually make up nearly all new sales registrations and leases.

EV-related headlines in recent years have been dominated by ludicrously fast and amazingly high-tech’ but relatively expensive models like the comparatively mainstream Tesla Model S and the niche Rimac C_Two hypercar at one end of the scale, tiny original pioneers like the electric Smart car and Renault Zoe at the other, and posh SUVs like the Jaguar I-PACE in the middle. They’re all remarkable vehicles in their own right, but hardly “the people’s car”, which is what Volkswagen happens to mean, VW founded with the aim of producing cars for two adults and three children, with price tags similar to motorbikes.

Volkswagen VW ID3 electric hatchback car EV - 1ST motor show

While there’s not much hope of finding a car costing that kind of money these days, some models can fairly be perceived as more people-oriented than others, with universally palatable designs, space for the average family along with its typical clobber and maybe a pooch or two, and a price that places it within reach of far more people than it precludes.

Volkswagen enters the family EV segment with a splash

Today’s breed of EVs from the likes of Hyundai with the IONIQ, Kia with the e-Niro, Nissan with the LEAF and soon Vauxhall with the Corsa-e are, to their credit, getting better and better all the time, but consumers can be a funny old bunch, refusing to break their sentiments over some brands’ products just being the best default choices, from the Apple iPhone and Dyson vacuum cleaner to Karcher pressure-washers and, when it comes to popular hatchback cars, the VW Golf. The brand’s TV commercials and slogans such as “Just like a Golf” and “Enjoy the everyday” sum up public perception adroitly, not arrogantly, perpetuating the model’s status. Heck, Volkswagen’s tagline was, for many moons, ‘Das auto’, simply meaning ‘the car’.

The Golf GTE might represent a stepping stone but has hardly had a people philosophy at its core, priced over £32,000 and offering a restrictive 272 litres of boot space and an electric battery range of 20ish miles in the real world, while the e-Golf that costs just marginally less is also still based on an internal combustion (petrol/diesel) engine platform and its zero-emissions range of 144 miles is hardly jaw-dropping, perhaps even alienating for some drivers. Over the summer, Auto Express magazine even described the VW e-Golf as “a really hard car to recommend these days”.

Volkswagen VW ID3 electric hatchback car EV - 1ST premiere

With genuinely unbridled excitement, then, we’re looking forward to seeing, testing and leasing Volkswagen’s new ID.3 all-electric hatchback, which we envisage becoming one of the most important cars not just of 2020 but of automotive history. Okay, the massive German car manufacturer might be a little late to the EV game, but having shifted over 20 million Beetle and 35 million Golf models, it knows a thing or few about cars that people want to drive, and we can’t see anything other than the ID.3 being lapped up left, right and centre by both private individuals and business’ company car fleets.

VW ID.3 – an EV from the ground up

The first thing that makes the fully-electric ID.3 a big deal is that, instead of shoehorning a hybrid or electric drivetrain into an existing conventional car’s platform, like VW did with the GTE and e-Golf that used VAG’s MQB platform and architecture, its newbie has been designed from scratch for electricity and sits on its own platform, aptly called MEB. It’s essentially a ‘skateboard’ architecture, similar to the approach of many other EV manufacturers, and part of Volkswagen’s plans to introduce an eye-watering 50 electrified vehicles by 2025, which will have snuck up on us before we know it.

Volkswagen VW ID3 electric hatchback car EV - battery pack chassis

Volkswagen ID.3 hatchback pictures

Looks-wise, the Volkswagen ID.3 electric car has kept pretty close to the forthcoming Mk 8 Golf, perpetuating VW’s lifelong ethos that conservatism sells cars. Compared to many alternatives, the Golf itself has always been styled relatively plainly, which is part of its appeal, and when it comes to the ID.3, even the VW badge on the bonnet has been simplified into 2D monochrome. Sitting between the Polo and Golf in terms of size, with dimensions that make it 1cm shorter than the latter but 2cm wider and 17cm taller with a clever wheelbase 145mm longer, the ID.3’s design has echoes of Beetle, Golf and Polo about it, with a stubby and cheerful-looking face, a steeply-raked windscreen, sharply sculpted lines down the sides and an achingly lovely blackened rear with wraparound taillights.

Volkswagen VW ID3 electric hatchback car EV - exterior front rear

Unlike its forthcoming rival the Honda e, the VW ID.3 hasn’t replaced its traditional wing mirrors with fancy cameras and its designers have taken neither a radically futuristic nor an introverted, retro approach, but it still quietly incorporates some tell-tale cues that it’s an electric car. Instead of a front grille there’s a smooth chin flanked by matrix LED headlights, while the alloy wheels are suitably closed-looking for aerodynamic reasons rather than featuring an array of spokes, and the C-pillar at the rear is printed with tasteful honeycomb graphics. VW have, in our view, got their hugely important all-electric car right when it comes to the visuals, resembling a cartoony, funked-up Golf that will turn a few heads but not make any brand loyalists reach for their sick-bags.

Inside Volkswagen’s electric hatchback

The VW ID.3’s interior will unarguably be even more of a talking point than its exterior and will immediately strike its tasters as remarkably roomy, which is significantly thanks to the absence of a transmission tunnel and indeed engine, combined with thoughtful positioning of the batteries beneath the floor and the electric motor on the rear axle – indeed meaning RWD handling fun.

Formulaic ergonomics and swathes of reasonably tactile black plastic and rubber traditionally set the tone inside Volkswagen’s well-built and technologically-rich cars. Not so in the ID.3, though, where the instrument cluster or ‘driver display’ has been repositioned to a screen that juts up behind the steering wheel, with the drive controller integrated as a toggle on the inner end instead of taking a gear-selector-style approach. Soft curves, bionic inspiration and organically-shaped surfaces contribute to VW’s airy ‘Open Space’ intentions for the car’s cabin, but prospective buyers and leasing customers needn’t worry that Volkswagen has gone all new-age with controls shaped like vegetables or materials that look like a hippy’s recycled cargo trousers.

Volkswagen VW ID3 electric hatchback car EV - interior

Like with a Tesla, there’s no switching the VW ID.3 on or off, as the car becomes ‘alive’ the moment it’s unlocked and simply waits on standby for the driver to set off. Similarly, most controls bar hazard warning light and electric window switches have been migrated over to touch-panel screens, the primary 10-inch infotainment display benefitting from over-the-air connected software updates. An upgraded Beats audio system can be chosen and inductive smartphone handset charging is unsurprisingly a thing, but one of the true highlights of Volkswagen’s new electric car has got to be the way in which it uses LEDs inside and out, with an internal ‘smart’ light-strip called ID.Light prompting the driver when to brake, change direction or plug the car in for charging, for example, while external LEDs communicate with other vehicles and people, even as far as a friendly human touch in the form of a stationery ID.3 fluttering its headlights’ eyelids at approaching drivers. This conjures images of equally cutesy Beetles occasionally seen sporting eyelashes.

A lesson in space backed by impressive tech’

While complaints haven’t exactly weighed down couriers’ mailbags or inboxes over the years, it’s never been possible to refer to the Golf as Tardis-like, but the electric ID.3 is set to fly the brand’s people-focussed banner like never before in the class, providing oodles of headroom and enough rear legroom for passengers to cross their legs. It’s a shame the boot will only offer 385 litres, though, which is a paltry 5 litres’ more than the current Golf, and the ID.3 doesn’t come with a front trunk or ‘frunk’ as the space under the bonnet is required for some of the infotainment hardware and the climate control unit. VW has families and other active drivers in mind as it has designed a towing bracket to enable its EV to pull a small trailer, transport a vertical towbar load of 75kg, or support a bike-carrier.

Volkswagen VW ID3 electric hatchback car EV - pedals

Technology oozes out of every nook and cranny of the electric Volkswagen ID.3, with a windscreen head-up display (HUD) that is not just larger than those in most comparable cars but also boasts augmented reality (AR), plus swipe functionality for its central driver display, USB-C ports, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility as standard, and countless ‘assist’ safety systems made possible by its various cameras.

An electric hatchback for the real world

Along with its modern and moderately indicative exterior styling and the car’s equally revolutionary yet not alienating interior, another of the primary reasons we believe that the Volkswagen ID.3 is “gonna be ‘uge”, as Donald Trump would say, is the genuine electric usability it’s set to offer. Various outlets talk of VW’s new EV as a rival threat to the Tesla Model 3 and we agree with them, partly because it will retain the semi-premium feel associated with the German giant’s models.

Volkswagen VW ID3 electric hatchback car EV - exterior dynamic driving Matrix lights flutter communicate

What range will the VW ID.3 offer?

The VW ID.3 will be sold and leased from launch with three battery sizes on offer, from the entry-level 45kWh base model through to the mid-range 58kWh variant and the 77kWh range-topper, providing up to 205, 261 and 340-mile maximum electric ranges respectively. In context, these electric figures from Volkswagen are very attractive compared to the Nissan LEAF, for example, which has a shorter electric range of 168 miles in base guise and an equally less flexible range of 239 miles even from the e+ version. The BMW i3 comes closer to the ID.3’s battery range, with 193 miles, but the Volkswagen is quite a bit cheaper to buy or lease, so it’ll depend how much the badge matters.

Volkswagen VW ID3 electric hatchback car EV - exterior night

For prospective electric car adopters comparing apples with apples, the ID.3’s shortest WLTP range of 205 miles is markedly better than the e-Golf’s 144 miles. All ID.3 range variants will comfortably cover the UK’s most recent average daily mileage figure of 25 miles by being plugged in just once each week. A large percentage of personal car lease contracts are taken out with 8,000 annual mileage limits, meaning that recharging hassle won’t be a prohibiting factor for those looking to switch to an electric car.

How long will the Volkswagen ID.3 take to charge?

Special edition ID.3 1ST launch models will come fitted with the 58kWh battery pack that is ready for 100kW fast-charging as standard, VW saying that 30 minutes will be enough to recharge its range to 260 miles. From flat, it’ll take around 8 hours to charge its battery to full using a 7.2kW (AC) domestic home charge point. The entry-level 45kWh version isn’t 100kW fast-charge-enabled as standard, with just 50kW capability, making the optional upgrade highly recommended unless you’re Louis Armstrong as far as time is concerned. Other trims will include 1ST Plus and 1ST Max, with adaptive cruise control (ACC), Kessy advanced keyless entry, matrix lights, the augmented reality windscreen HUD, Beats audio system and other equipment coming as standard dependent on the level chosen.

Volkswagen VW ID3 electric hatchback car EV - ID Charger home wall box charge point port

Real world electric motoring with the ID.3

The current 77kWh daddy of the range is equipped for 11kW AC and 125kW DC charging, so is the pick for drivers with higher mileage requirements and less patience. It’s a widely-known fact that variables such as the number of passengers, outside temperatures, traffic congestion and uphill sections of road all impact an electric car’s battery range, but the VW ID.3 certainly makes a strong relative case for itself. The ID.3 is fitted with two charging ports, a Type 2 AC connection and a CCS DC port, both located on the offside at the rear. Two versions of Volkswagen’s ID.Charger home wall box will be offered, which will unsurprisingly include smartphone app compatibility, and VW’s 8-year/160,000km battery warranty will provide reassurance, although this is less relevant to car leasing customers because PCH vehicles are typically kept for no longer than 4 years and are brand new with a manufacturer’s warranty anyway. ID.3 drivers will benefit from 2,000kWh of free charging using Volkswagen’s WeCharge network, with 600 Tesco supermarket stores offering them to shoppers, but its reach is admittedly relatively thin compared to Polar and the like.

The future no-brainer choice for electric hatchbacks?

Summed up by Top Gear as "the electric car that gives you the fewest reasons not to buy one" and with VW’s COO labelling it “as compact as a Golf, has the interior space of a Passat, and the performance punch of a Golf GTI”, the Volkswagen ID.3 will surely sell and lease as quickly as proverbial hot cakes.

Volkswagen VW ID3 electric hatchback car EV - 1ST steering wheel badge

The 148bhp iteration serves up the same power that Golf 2.0 TDI BlueMotion drivers have become used to, but the instantaneous, lag-free acceleration that is a hallmark of electric car operation will make it feel much quicker, while the 201bhp version will quench the thirst of typical customers after a modicum of usable grunt for UK roads. Both e-motor choices send power to the rear wheels, adding some fun to the mix, and each produces 229lb ft/310Nm torque. We’re excited over the eventual arrival of twin-motor and AWD ID.3s in due course.

Prices for Volkswagen’s new ID.3 electric hatchback are tipped to start from the £26,000-£27,000 region, with the 77kWh pick expected to cost close to entry-level Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus money. Lease prices for the VW ID.3 are currently unknown but by contacting CarLeasingPeople and registering your interest, we can keep you updated. One of the most compelling electric “people’s cars” coming to UK roads in the near future? We certainly think so.