First Drive: The Volkswagen ID.4 is the practical future of EVs

What is it?

Volkswagen ID.4 First Edition
(VW)

It could be argued that the dramatic shift towards electric vehicles in recent years was driven by Volkswagen. Its dirty diesel scandal brought car emissions into the public eye, and being the massive car manufacturer it is, was well-placed to lead the subsequent electric vehicle offensive.

Its new ID sub-brand is the result, and the ID.4 SUV is the second vehicle to be released, following the ID.3 hatchback. It’s expected to be a big-seller for ID, with the German firm hoping it becomes the go-to mainstream electric vehicle provider.

What’s new?

Volkswagen ID.4 First Edition
(VW)

With this being only the second model built so far on Volkswagen’s dedicated electric vehicle platform, known as MEB, it’s pretty much brand new from the ground up. The platform allows the batteries to be positioned low in the car, maximising cabin space and optimising weight balance.

It’s not just its zero tailpipe emissions that are environmentally friendly, either. VW wants to be CO2 neutral by 2050, and part of achieving that is using renewable energy at the Zwickau plant where the ID.3 and ID.4 are built, while the firm says pilot programs are working on recycling the car’s batteries at the end of its life, or reusing them in other applications.

What’s under the bonnet?

Volkswagen ID.4 First Edition
(VW)

Our test car is a First Edition model, which comes with the larger 77kWh battery and a 201bhp electric motor driving the rear wheels. The result is a range in excess of 300 miles, though based on our few days with the car, mid- to high-200s seems more realistic in mixed driving.

This is a fairly big, heavy vehicle, so 201bhp isn’t a huge amount. Sure, you get that initial kick of acceleration that’s typical of EVs, but it’s not as punchy as many of its rivals. That’s almost certainly deliberate, though, with the ID.4 designed to be just your everyday family commuter. With that in mind, its performance is more than adequate.

What’s it like to drive?

Volkswagen ID.4 First Edition
(VW)

So we have to forget about the punchy EV thrills, but that doesn’t mean the ID.4 is disappointing. Where it excels is the silky smooth power application, which makes bumbling about town a breeze – the accelerator pedal is brilliantly judged so you pull away without a jolt and simply surge up to your cruising speed.

Once you’re up to motorway speeds it’s quiet and refined, too, with minimal road and wind noise, while bumps in the road are dealt with with minimal fuss. But despite being comfort-focused, when the corners come, the ID.4 isn’t flustered. It’s hardly fun, but the low centre of gravity and excellent balance means it holds its own in the bends.

How does it look?

Volkswagen ID.4 First Edition
(VW)

If the driving experience didn’t make it clear this is meant to blend into the mundanity of everyday life, the styling certainly does. The ID.4 is smart but unexciting, with the rear in particular lacking the sparkle we’ve become used to from brands trying to make their EVs exciting and appealing.

The ID.4 also lacks some of the elegance of the ID.3 hatchback. The front is its best angle, with the chunky lower bumper and thick headlights at odds with the more recent trend for sleek, smooth styling – but it works.

What’s it like inside?

Volkswagen ID.4 First Edition
(VW)

The interior is smart, with its minimalist design ethos working well in the modern era. However, it all feels a little cheap, erring on the side of ‘basic’ rather than modern, while getting used to the lack of switches takes some time.

Then there’s the capacitive buttons on the steering wheel that control functions such as the infotainment volume. They feel bizarre to use, like they’re sticky, and using them is irritating. How they made it to production is anyone’s guess.

All that being said, it’s generally a nice place to be, with the large windows making it light and airy and the simple design making it feel big and spacious.

What’s the spec like?

Volkswagen ID.4 First Edition
(VW)

The ID.4 range starts at £34,650 in City trim, meaning it falls just under the cap for the government’s plug-in car grant. For your cash, you get the 146bhp motor and smaller 52kWh battery, with equipment including steel wheels, LED headlights and heated front seats.

Our test car was a First Edition model, which starts at £40,800. It has the larger battery and 201bhp motor, as well as 20-inch alloy wheels, tinted glass, gloss black exterior parts and some special First Edition badging.

The top-spec Max starts at £49,990 and has black 19-inch alloy wheels, Matrix LED headlights, panoramic glass roof, head-up display and 12-inch infotainment display.

Verdict

Volkswagen ID.4 First Edition
(VW)

We’ve become a little spoilt by electric vehicles. They tend to be well-specced with punchy motors that provide a thrilling driving experience, so it’s easy to be a little disappointed by the ID.4. But that’s the point of this car. It’s not supposed to wow and excite and shout about its eco credentials, it’s just supposed to be a good family car.

And with that in mind it’s great. The driving experience is smooth and calming, the cabin is spacious, and running costs should be incredibly low. Sure, the cabin isn’t the best piece of design out there, but if you just want an EV that’ll slot into everyday life without issue, the ID.4 will do so with zero fuss.