Away from the understandably desirable premium choices from the Teutonic trio, few models have proved to satiate company car drivers quite like the Volkswagen Golf with its semi-premium interior, classless and subtly attractive exterior, frugal engines and the various technologies its 7.5 generations have showcased so far.
Although it will take decades, electric cars will eventually comprise nearly all new vehicle sales registrations and leases, but it’s fair to say that models like the Jaguar I-PACE, Tesla Model S and certainly hypercars like the Rimac C_Two will remain relatively niche at one end of the spectrum, and so will pint-size EVs at the other end, such as the Renault Zoe and Smart Electric. With a battery range of up to 340 miles and a starting price tag and hence P11d value likely to be sub-£30k, which will appeal to company car fleet managers and opt-out cash allowance-takers in equal measure, we envisage VW’s electric car, the ID.3, selling and leasing as fast as proverbial hot cakes after it’s released in the second half of 2020.
Volkswagen’s very etymology, “the people’s car”, inspired its founders to strive to produce a vehicle, priced similarly to motorbikes that were popular at the time, capable of transporting two adults and three children at 62mph. While there’s not much hope of finding a car costing that kind of money these days, some models can reasonably 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 alienates.
Selling over 20 million Beetles and 35 million Golfs since then, not to mention galactic numbers of the Passat and other models, VW has certainly got something right and is quickly evolving into one of the most exciting EV-producers on the scene, which will perhaps in some eyes and minds atone for the diesel-related clouds that have loomed over the OEM in recent years.
Company car fleet drivers have understandably been attracted by the taxation and relative green benefits of the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid, but its real-world battery range of around 20 miles has precluded many potential adopters, as is the case with many PHEV models, while the all-electric e-Golf hasn’t exactly weighed in as a resounding success in retail and contract hire markets, with a modest range of 144ish miles.
Today’s breed of relatively affordable EVs are, to their credit, getting better and better all the time, from the Hyundai IONIQ and Kia e-Niro, to the latest Nissan LEAF and Vauxhall’s imminent Corsa-e, but consumers can be a peculiar bunch, refusing to revaluate 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 succinctly, perpetuating the model’s status. Heck, Volkswagen’s tagline was, for many moons, ‘Das auto’, simply meaning ‘the car’.
Maintaining VW’s lifelong ethos that conservatism sells cars, perennial Golf buyers and leasing customers will wipe their brows in relief that the electric ID.3 has kept pretty close to the forthcoming Mk 8 Golf and, despite the giveaway signs that it’s an EV, it hasn’t been styled to resemble a fish. Size-wise, the ID.3 slots in between the Polo supermini and Golf hatchback, to which it’s barely any different dimensionally by way of its footprint, but it does cleverly manage to sneak in a 145mm longer wheelbase and a 170mm higher seating position. In and amongst the ID.3’s steeply-raked windscreen, sharply sculpted lines down the sides and an achingly lovely blackened rear with wraparound taillights, there are flashes of Beetle, Golf and Polo in there, and its cheery, grille-less face will win it plenty of fans.
Aerodynamically-designed alloy wheels also hint at the ID.3’s electric drivetrain, and the honeycomb decals concocted for the C-pillar are a lovely touch, but compared to Honda’s more radical ‘e’ with cameras instead of wing mirrors, Volkswagen’s electric hatch for the masses is pretty normal, which is a good thing. Employees choosing to opt out of company car schemes and take cash allowances to buy or lease a car should feel suitably chuffed if they plump for VW’s first proper EV.
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, the ID.3 has been designed from scratch as an EV and sits on its own platform, aptly called MEB, which is essentially a ‘skateboard’ chassis similar to the approach taken by many other EV manufacturers, enabling it to fit other body-styles on top in the future as part of Volkswagen’s plans to introduce around 50 electrified vehicles by 2025. Fewer mechanical components translates into simpler and less regular maintenance, which is music to the ears of fleet managers striving to reduce SMR bills and other costs while fulfilling their duty of care.
The interior of the VW ID.3 breaks free from the brand’s traditional ethos of swathes of soft-touch black plastics and rubbers, formulaic ergonomics and an aura of seriousness, but while it heralds a welcome new chapter of quirkiness, we can’t see it alienating prospective buyers and leasing customers. The car’s ‘Open Space’ vibe is contributed to by organically-shaped surfaces, soft curves and a bionic inspiration, but Volkswagen fortunately hasn’t gone all Woodstock and covered the seats in recycled dungarees, although the repositioning of the instrument display to a screen that juts up behind the steering wheel, and the relocating of the drive selector to a stalk will certainly strike VW loyalists and newbies as being very un-Germanic.
No doubt it will uphold the marque’s reputation for solidly-built cabins, anyway, and thanks to some of the benefits of electric cars’ layouts, the ID.3 is set to feel palpably roomy, its batteries positioned under the floor, the electric motor on the rear axle, and with no transmission tunnel for the middle rear passenger to straddle. While complaints haven’t exactly weighed down couriers’ mailbags or customer service teams’ 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 hatchback class, providing oodles of headroom and enough rear legroom for passengers to cross their legs, making it a sensible prospect for employees who regularly car-share as teams.
The 385-litre boot is nothing to write home about, though, matching the current Golf hatchback, so may prove limiting to staff who often transport equipment, luggage or other items, and there’s no storage under the bonnet, which is one advantage of a Tesla Model 3 albeit a saloon. The ID.3’s tow-bar is handy for towing a small trailer, though, and can support a bicycle-carrier or a vertical load of up to 75kg.
Tesla-like minimalist principles have been introduced to a Volkswagen for the first time, the ID.3 always ‘on’ and ready to be driven, the majority of its controls migrated to touchscreens, and the software behind its 10-inch main display and other systems benefitting from over-the-air updates.
An Alexa-style light-bar features inside the ID.3 and communicates various prompts and info to the driver, while the car’s LED headlights even flutter their luminary eyelids at oncoming vehicles in an effort by VW to bestow a human touch to its mainstream electric car. A wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones unsurprisingly features, too, and an upgraded audio system appears on the options list from Beats, a name that some Polo drivers will be familiar with.
Other technology highlights from the Volkswagen ID.3 include one of the industry’s first head-up displays (HUD) featuring augmented reality (AR) whereby information is projected onto the wider windscreen, along with swipe functionality, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay mirroring as standard, USB-C ports and a wide range of ‘assist’ systems to keep drivers safe, which today’s company car and grey fleet managers are well aware of.
The ID.3 from VW will offer drivers genuine real-world usability with zero-emissions ranges spanning from 205 miles up to 340 miles promised, spread across three battery variants comprised 45kWh, 58kWh and 77kWh, meaning that even the entry-level base Volkswagen provides, on paper, a smidgen over 30 miles more than a standard Nissan LEAF and around the same as a BMW i3, while the e+ version of the former with its 239-mile range doesn’t hold a candle to the range-topping ID.3’s 340-mile pledge. Compared to the e-Golf, the ID.3 moves not just VW’s game on massively but the whole of the electrified segment. A large percentage of contract hire and leasing deals are capped at 8,000 miles per year, while the average UK driver covers just 25 miles per day, so the ID.3 could easily be charged just once each week, placing less of an onus on employers to install charge points at their premises.
It’s worth noting by any drivers, companies or other organisations who can’t afford the time getting bogged down by recharging times, though, that the 45kWh version isn’t enabled for 100kW fast-charging as standard, its battery replenished at 50kW unless the optional upgrade is specified. The 58kWh version of the ID.3 does come with 100kW charging capability, though, and the 77kWh model is 125kW-enabled, meaning that they can make use of the growing number of rapid public chargers found at fuel forecourts and other locations.
Power outputs for VW’s ID.3 will initially come in the form of a 148bhp motor, which is similar to that of a Golf 2.0 TDI BlueMotion diesel, or a 201bhp version, both producing 229lb ft/310Nm torque and sending their instantaneous torque to the rear wheels, adding some fun to the mix. Anyone deliberating whether to lease or buy a Tesla Model 3 or to wait for the Volkswagen ID.3 will be glad to know that VW will be introducing a twin-motor AWD model in due course.
Trim levels for the VW ID.3 will eventually include 1ST Plus and 1ST Max variants, the latter featuring adaptive cruise control (ACC), matrix headlights, the augmented reality HUD windscreen, Kessy advanced keyless entry system and Beats audio, but the car will be launched in simply ‘1ST’ guise with a 58kWh battery, good for topping its range up to 260 miles in half an hour, perfect for a business catchup over coffee. All ID.3s will sport a pair of charging ports located next to each other at the rear of the car’s offside, covering both Type 2 AC charging for domestic home solutions such as Volkswagen’s very own ID.Charger wall-box, plus rapid CSS DC connections more commonly found in public such as in certain Tesco stores’ car parks thanks to a partnership between the supermarket and VW.
With VW’s COO describing the ID.3 “as compact as a Golf, has the interior space of a Passat, and the performance punch of a Golf GTI” and with Top Gear calling it “the electric car that gives you the fewest reasons not to buy one” Volkswagen’s first ground-up EV is unarguably going to prove a hit amongst personal leasing customers including opt-out cash allowance-takers, and also for company car fleet drivers keen to enjoy EVs’ zero rating in terms of benefit in kind (BIK) tax for 2020/21, a government move we welcomed. The ID.3 will also be exempt from the London Congestion Charge and ULEZ, able to enter Clean Air Zones without attracting fees, and will be zero-rated for road tax, formally known as vehicle excise duty (VED), although this is built into BCH and PCH prices anyway.
Although ID.3 leasing prices are still in the pipeline, the 77kWh 210bhp variant is expected to cost around the same as a Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus, so it will be interesting to see whether the German can lure the American’s prospective customers away and prove to be the default choice for electric hatchback drivers. To be updated with ID.3 news and prices, contact Vehicle Consulting and register your interest with our contract hire consultants.