It was a slow ramp-up but three years ago this month Volkswagen started manufacturing its first mass-production EV.

Slightly smaller than the lower volume and older e-Golf (as well as the 4,284 mm long Golf VIII), the 4,261 mm long hatchback is different in all manner of ways.

Golf-sized but oh so different

As well as the bespoke electric platform, the ID.3 offers way more interior space as well as quite a different driving experience.

Changing all the proportions of a normal C segment car so as to maximise room and position the battery below the cabin allows a lengthy 2,765 mm wheelbase. This plus that weighty pack of cells greatly help with ride comfort while parking’s dead easy thanks to very short overhangs.

Has the car dated since its arrival just shy of three years ago? Not really, although certain elements still aren’t finding much love, the controversial touch screen being the number one offender to some. Still, some prefer it over the many physical buttons which VWs used to feature.

An ID.3 SUV is coming

Last month, Thomas Schäfer stated that an SUV based on the ID.3 was in development.

Volkswagen’s CEO also confirmed that a revised version of the hatchback would arrive in 2023. That’s likely to consist of a mild facelift and some possible major changes to software. There may even be some lovely old-style VW switches and dials too. And the haptic steering wheel buttons are to be ditched, apparently.

As for the SUV, no launch date was announced. And educated guess says it will likely arrive between 2024 and 2026. Will this be a rival for the e-SUV built by Ford of Europe that’s to be based on VW’s MEB architecture? Probably.

A few days ago I was shown Ford’s future vehicle but am not allowed to disclose anything about it. The company itself has put certain information into the public domain at least. Including where and when it will enter production: the Niehl plant in Cologne during mid-2024.

Speaking of brands which are going electric-only in Europe, Volkswagen itself will be that way as at 2033. That was also stated by Thomas Schäfer a few days ago, the CEO confirming that this timing applies to production of all passenger cars in the region.

…and a couple of smaller EVs

The ID.3’s number and size have always suggested that at least one other, smaller EV could be launched below it. Now, Volkswagen’s boss has gone public with the wish to position an electric model around the 25,000 euro level.

Eighteen months ago, the now former CEO said the brand would launch a small electric car some time after 2025.

Ralf Brandstätter did not explain why it would take so long for an e-up! replacement and rival for the larger Renault 5 and Fiat 500 to arrive. The platform will be MEB-K, the shorter version of VAG’s e-architecture. This swaps rear-motor and RWD for front-motor and FWD.

There is also a chance that a stretched and rebodied version of the small electric hatchback could replace the Polo. Would Volkswagen really do that though? Well, Ford is killing the Fiesta , the top selling vehicle last month in that brand’s largest European market. So stranger things have happened.

Some believe that the ID.1 or ID.2 will be a crossover rather than a five-door hatchback. That then calls into question the future of any petrol-powered replacement for the T-Cross and Taigo. As with the Polo, these small SUVs have zero electrification and sell very well indeed.

There could also be an ID.1 X or ID.2 X – more of an SUV than the less expensive crossover. As for launch timing, the first one would appear in 2025 followed by the SUV a year later.

What we now know officially comes again from Thomas Schäfer. Marking his first 100 days in the job, he also told the media last month that there would indeed be two small EVs positioned below the ID.3.

All of this means that around the mid-decade mark, the European line-up of EVs should consist of ID.1, ID.2, ID.3, ID 3 SUV, ID 4, ID.5 and ID. Buzz.

Big electric VWs also coming

Then in perhaps 2026 (earlier is possible though) comes a saloon and an estate to replace the Arteon. In 2027 we should see the second generation ID.3. That car which might even succeed the Golf.

Volkswagen won’t yet be getting anywhere near finalising the specifications and design of ID.3 two point zero: the current model has multiple years remaining. And where not too long ago it seemed a bit revolutionary for a VW, now it’s contemporary.

ID.3 – the driving experience

Getting into the small EV, all manner of clever things happen. That starts – literally – with a foot touching the brake pedal. This action activates the ignition and to move forward or rearward, the driver simply twists a controller to the right of the instrument cluster’s surround. When stopped, select P and that also applies the parking brake.

Progress is fairly rapid and also near-silent. You don’t get anything like the fun factor of a Polo GTI yet it’s a different style of car by design. The view out isn’t dissimilar to the New Beetle in that there’s a vast windscreen a long way ahead of you. It almost feels as though you’re in the middle of the car. Roominess is a real strength of this and all other ID. models.

There’s a bit of frustration for an enthusiast that the rear-drive chassis doesn’t feel like one. The ID.3 isn’t alone in that – many other EVs which are propelled by one or more motors on their back axle feel similar. It isn’t so much that the pace is inadequate – far from it – more that electronic nannies prevent any slidey-oversteery joy.

Batteries and plants

Depending on the market, buyers can choose from three batteries, capacities being either 45 kWh, 58 kWh or 77 kWh. Cars for the UK and other nearby countries have their cell packs supplied from Volkswagen’s Braunschweig plant.

The European region ID.3 itself is mainly manufactured in Germany at the Zwickau-Mosel factory, supplemented by additional build at Gläserne Manufaktur in Dresden. The other global location is SAIC Volkswagen’s Anting Auto City site in Shanghai.

Summary

Now that the microchips crisis is starting to be solved, we’ll finally see what the natural level of demand is for VW’s small EV. For those who want an electric hatchback in the 4.2-4.5 m size class it’s certainly one of the best looking and roomiest choices.

Next: a GTX

An ID.X concept was revealed in May last year. Although not all details were revealed, this grey car with fluorescent green detailing was said to have all-wheel drive, 245 kW from two motors and a 77 kWh usable capacity battery (82 gross). VW also claimed it weighed 200 kg less than other ID.3s. Four months later, news was announced that it would be put into production. The car will likely be called ID.3 GTX. We should expect it in 2023, arriving as part of the mid-cycle facelift changes.

The as-tested ID.3 Life Pro Performance 58 kWh 204 PS is priced from GBP36,990. Zero to 62 mph takes a stated 7.3 seconds and top speed is 99 mph. The WLTP maximum range is 258 miles.