The People’s Car goes electric
THE GOOD
  • Refined, well-tuned suspension
  • Quiet cabin
  • Impressive array of standard safety tech
THE BAD
  • Hard-to-use interior touch controls
  • AWD model carries steep price premium
  • Base RWD model less than ideal for Canadian winters
  • Expensive point of entry

Volkswagen has made quite a fuss about its adoption of electrification, redesigning its famous logo to better represent its futuristic new image and even introducing a dedicated sub-brand.

The first to fly the flag of the future is the 2022 Volkswagen ID.4. With its avant-garde styling, refined electric powertrain, and impressively large lithium-ion battery pack, the ID.4 is a uniquely Volkswagen take on electrification. But it also carries a steep price premium over the gas-powered Golfs this brand is known for.

Power: 7/10

An electric car can be defined by its power, charging ability, and range, so there’s no sense wasting any time before we get to the important stuff. The ID.4 AutoTrader.ca tested was technically an American-spec model, but it features the same powertrain as the rear-wheel-drive Pro trim level that’ll be offered in Canada.

A single electric motor is standard and produces 201 hp and 228 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel this heavy 2,116-kg (4,665-lb) crossover from zero to 100 km/h in a rather unenthused eight seconds or so. The ID.4 feels quick enough around town, mostly thanks to the electric motor’s immediate torque delivery, but passing power at highway speeds leaves something to be desired. The majority of Canadian buyers will no doubt opt for the 300-hp dual motor all-wheel-drive model, which should feel quite a bit quicker than this single-motor version. We’ll have a full review of the more powerful all-wheel-drive ID.4 once we can get our hands on one.

Fuel Economy: 9/10

The VW ID.4 has an estimated range of 400 km – a figure that’s easily achievable with careful driving and smart use of the vehicle’s battery regeneration system. Driving on the highway for long periods with the climate system on will cause the estimated range to drop (to a little more than 300 km in our experience on a full charge), which is still a respectable amount of highway range for a fairly large crossover such as this.

The ID.4 does fall a bit short with regard to charging, however. It has a maximum charging rate of 120 kW, enough to fill the battery from five to 80 per cent in around 40 minutes. That’s enough to make road trips a bit of a pain, forcing users to wait around for 40 minutes for every 300 km or so of travel. We’re sure VW is working on more-efficient – and faster-charging – electric models with better range, but for now the ID.4 is at its best in the city.

Driving Feel: 7/10

While it does weigh more than 2,100 kg (4,630 lb), the low centre of gravity offered by the floor-mounted battery, combined with the rear-wheel-drive layout, gives the ID.4 decent handling. The electric steering rack doesn’t offer much in the way of feel or feedback, but this is an eco-conscious city car, remember. VW still sells the Golf GTI for you performance enthusiasts out there.

One of the ID.4’s weaker points is its brakes. There’s a sense the brand’s engineers might’ve phoned them in a bit in the belief that most users will be able to control their speed around town by simply letting off the accelerator and allowing the electric system to take care of the rest. While it’s true that you can get away with barely ever using the traditional brakes on most modern EVs – one-pedal driving, as it’s referred to – the ID.4’s brakes felt weak and mushy when we really leaned on the pedal. This could be a symptom of the standard rear drum brakes, so the solution could be as simple as swapping out the bargain basement drums for a set of small rear discs.

Comfort: 10/10

The interior of the ID.4 is a comfortable and serene place to sit and the chassis offers the kind of refined ride one would come to expect from a higher-end German vehicle at this price point. The suspension is pretty much perfect, swallowing up bumps in the road whilst also providing a spry and mildly sporty feel from behind the wheel. Top marks here, VW.

Styling: 7/10

The VW ID.4 communicates its status as an EV through exterior styling touches like narrow LED headlights, a rear LED taillight bar, an available illuminated VW badge, and aerodynamic directional wheels. It certainly looks more futuristic than other current VW crossovers like the Tiguan or Atlas, but it’s not nearly as out-there as other EVs like the Tesla Model Y or BMW iX. The ID.4 is available in six exterior hues, although the only ones that aren’t a variation of white, black, or grey are red and blue. A contrasting black roof, available with the $8,000 Statement package, also enhances the exterior appearance a bit.

Safety: 9/10

North American safety agencies have yet to test the VW ID.4, as this is a brand-new entry in the segment. However, it received a five-star safety rating in European testing, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t perform well in tests conducted by the United States-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The VW ID.4 also comes with an impressive array of standard safety tech, including automatic high-beam control, forward automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, and traffic jam assist. Other safety-related standard equipment includes adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic, parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer nozzles, and a government-mandated rearview camera. In short, VW packed this family-friendly crossover with a ton of safety tech – something we love to see.

Features: 7/10

While the ID.4’s base price is rather steep at $44,995, it comes with plenty of standard features to help EV enthusiasts get over any sticker shock they may experience. In addition to the bevy of safety tech, the ID.4 also comes with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, a large 10-inch infotainment display with navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, four total USB ports (two in the front and two in the rear), and LED exterior lighting. Canadian-spec models also come winter-ready with a standard heated windshield and a heat pump for the HVAC system.

Also worth mentioning is the $8,000 Statement pack, which is essentially the only way to add any optional equipment to the vehicle. This pricey equipment group adds high-end items like a large 12-inch infotainment screen, a fixed panoramic sunroof, leatherette seating surfaces, 20-inch wheels, massaging front seats, a power tailgate, interior ambient lighting with configurable colours, and welcome lights, among more.

User Friendliness: 4/10

The VW ID.4 leaves a little room for improvement with regard to user-friendliness. Many of the interior controls, including the climate and audio systems, and even the sunroof shade, are adjusted using touch-based controls. We’ve always found touch controls harder to use than physical buttons or knobs, and unfortunately the same is true for the VW ID.4’s rather awkward touch controls.

The steering wheel uses similar touch-based controls, and unsurprisingly, they feel even more clunky and awkward when affixed to a movable object. The cruise control, for example, can be adjusted by increments of one km/h when you press the button lightly, or 10 km/h when you press it harder, but we could never find the right balance between the two. Several times we meant to bump the speed up by one or two km/h, but ended up adding 10 km/h to our speed. Many controls and settings are also buried in the various menus in the touchscreen and can be difficult to find in a hurry.

Practicality: 6/10

When it comes to everyday usability, the VW ID.4 is very practical. The spacious, smartly packaged interior offers plenty of room for both front and rear occupants, while the minimalist styling and flat floor help give the cabin a light, airy and open feel. It also has 1,818 L of cargo space with the back seats folded, slightly less than the Tesla Model Y but a tiny bit more than the Ford Mustang Mach-E.

One point bringing the ID.4 down with regard to practicality is the lack of a front trunk, or “frunk.” Both the Mach-E and Model Y have front storage areas, but various hardware and components occupy this space in the VW ID.4.

Charging is another point worth bringing up in this category. While the VW-backed Electrify Canada network of chargers is growing, public fast-charging stations are still few and far between here in Ontario and throughout most of Canada. Put simply, if you can’t charge up at home each night, we’d probably steer clear of buying a VW ID.4 right when it comes out. Charging infrastructure in Canada will improve in the coming years, making EV ownership less of a hassle for most consumers.

Value: 6/10

EVs are still considered emerging technology, so a mild price premium is to be expected here. Either way, though, it’s easy to spend nearly $60,000 on a well-equipped ID.4, which is a ton of money for a compact vehicle no matter which way you slice it. It does come very well equipped, however, and federal rebates can knock $5,000 off the price, while British Columbia and Quebec offer incentives of their own, which makes the final figure a bit easier to accept.

The Verdict

The 2022 Volkswagen ID.4 is a neatly styled and well-engineered EV, but it leaves some room for improvement. A few small changes, like a slightly more powerful base powertrain, retuned brakes, and real buttons and knobs inside, could solve many of our qualms with this EV.

It will be interesting to see how large VW’s Electrify Canada charging network gets in the coming years, as well, since Canadian vehicle charging infrastructure still has a long way to go before it’s ready for mass EV adoption. To us, anyone who buys an ID.4 when they hit Canadian dealers later this year is still very much considered an early adopter, so you should be prepared to make a few exceptions here and there if you plan on having this as the only daily driver in your fleet.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 150 kW electric motor   Model Tested 2022 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro
Engine Cylinders N/A   Base Price $44,995
Peak Horsepower 201 hp   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 228 lb-ft   Destination Fee $1,950
Fuel Economy 2.3 / 2.6 / 2.4 Le/100 km cty/hwy/cmb, 20.2 / 23.4 / 21.7 kWh/100 km cty/hwy/cmb; 400 km range   Price as Tested $55,045
Cargo Space 858 / 1,818 L seats down  
Optional Equipment
$8,000 – Statement Package, $8,000