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road test

The 2022 Volkswagen ID.4 RWD.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Before we dive deeper into Volkswagen’s new electric crossover, let’s get two things out of the way. First, the punctuation: it’s ID-period-4, or ID.4. Second, Volkswagen Canada expects the vast majority of ID.4 sales to be the uplevel, two-motor, all-wheel drive version, which is precisely what our first-look test sample was not.

Volkswagen base-prices the ID.4 just low enough – $44,995 – to qualify for the $5,000 federal electric-vehicle incentive. That gets you a single 201-horsepower motor mounted just ahead of the rear wheels. But the AWD model is just $5,000 more, quite modest for almost 50 per cent more power (295 hp) and two extra driven wheels.

As a compact crossover, the ID.4 is aimed at the heart of Canada’s largest vehicle category. Its overall length of about 4.6 metres positions it at the small end of the segment, but close to top sellers such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

The ID.4 is launching in Quebec and B.C. – the provinces with their own generous buy-an-EV sweeteners – with Ontario following by year’s end. The rest of Canada will get it in the second half of 2022, by which time production will have shifted from Germany to Chattanooga, Tenn.

To keep things simple, there is just one option package, labelled Statement, available on both models. For an extra $8,000 it adds some cosmetic frills and frivolous stuff, plus leatherette 12-way power front seats, 20-inch wheels, power tailgate, panoramic fixed glass roof and a 12-inch touch screen.

When we picked up our test car it was showing 486 km of range. With a long-haul highway drive ahead of us, we didn’t expect to even get close. Nor did we. When we stopped for a DC fast-charge (max 125 kW) after 294 kilometres, the display showed 63 km of remaining range – a projected 357 km in total. Average energy consumption: 20.3 kWh/100 km. Another 200-km drive to our destination yielded much the same results.

After an overnight Level 2 charge back to 100 per cent (the on-board charger is 11 kW), we drove home mostly on two-lane roads. The lower speeds helped eke out 413 km before a recharge stop, still with 54 km of range remaining. Energy consumption: 16.2 kWh/100 km.

As a compact crossover, the ID.4 is aimed at the heart of Canada’s largest vehicle category.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

The ID.4′s official range in Canada is 400 km for the RWD and 386 km for the AWD. That’s below the U.S. claims of 418 and 402 km respectively, because Canada’s numbers include the Statement package, which adds weight. Expect more range if you forgo the bells and whistles. And due to a quirk in the test protocols, the official lab results don’t show the real-world benefit of a heat pump, which is standard in Canada.

So the ID.4 is at least competitive on range. In base form, it also offers more car for the money than other EVs priced about the same, and the AWD delivers a big jump in performance for a modest increase in price. Whether the value proposition still holds up if you spring for the Statement package, that’s your call. Nobody really needs a glass roof or Florence Brown door inserts and a dashboard with ceramique double-stitching, do they?

I had hoped for a more engaging driving experience in the RWD base model, but for most people, this vehicle has the right stuff to bring EVs further into the mainstream.

Tech specs

2022 Volkswagen ID.4 RWD

Price: $44,995 base/$52,995 as tested

Motor/battery: Rear-mounted 201-hp permanent-magnet/77-kWh usable (82 nominal)

Transmission/drive: single-speed/RWD

Energy consumption (Le/100 km): 2.3 city/2.6 hwy

Alternatives: Chevrolet Bolt, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia Niro Electric, Nissan Leaf, Polestar 2, Volvo XC40 Recharge

Looks

Its overall length of about 4.6 metres positions it at the small end of the segment, but close to top sellers such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

A lower build than most crossovers gives the ID.4 a somewhat sleeker look, but still within the bounds of normal: there’s no overt weirdness to tell the world it’s an EV.

Interior

The 5.3-inch screen that passes for a gauge cluster is a greater challenge to automotive norms.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

There’s nothing exceptional these days about a free-standing touch-screen at centre, but the 5.3-inch screen that passes for a gauge cluster is a greater challenge to automotive norms. Likewise the drive selector, a big toggle switch that you twist clockwise for D and the other way for R (and actually works rather well).

There’s no need to use the start/stop button: the car automatically goes live when it senses a body in the driver’s seat. This proves not to be a great idea if, like me, you lift yourself out of the seat when looking over your shoulder to reverse.

Switchgear also challenges any tolerance for change. There’s not a single round knob or traditional push-button, just the touch-screen plus small touch-sensitive icons, or haptic-feedback touch switches on the steering wheel. There’s only one pair of window switches on the driver’s door, with a separate touch-switch to select front or rear.

There’s not a single round knob or traditional push-button, just the touch-screen plus small touch-sensitive icons, or haptic-feedback touch switches on the steering wheel.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

On the plus side the lack of a shift lever frees up space on the floating, configurable centre console. While the interior dimensions indicate below-average rear-seat space among its peers, it’s still amply roomy and comfortable. Credit to VW Canada, too, for including an energy-efficient heat-pump-based HVAC system, while the steering wheel, front seats, windshield and washer nozzles can all be heated – all standard.

Performance

If Volkswagen Canada is right about AWD sales, most ID.4 buyers will enjoy spirited, albeit not blistering, performance, based on that model’s claimed 6.2-second 0-100-km/h time. That’s a meaningful improvement over the RWD model’s tepid 8.5 seconds. Beyond performance, the AWD also promises more entertaining handling as it uses brake vectoring to enhance turn-in response. The RWD model handles competently but lacks the driver-enthusing élan we expected in an EV, especially a Volkswagen EV. And while the ID.4 is mechanically quiet, the (optional) 20-inch tires are noisy over sharp-edged bumps.

Technology

Assisted-drive assets include automatic frontal emergency braking, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, adaptive cruise with stop and go and lane-keeping assist.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Navigation is standard, as well as FM/HD and SiriusXM radio, wireless charging and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and remote connectivity. Assisted-drive assets include automatic frontal emergency braking, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, adaptive cruise with stop and go and lane-keeping assist. The latter two features together enable Level 2 semi-autonomous driving – provided your hands remain on the wheel.

Cargo

The official cargo volumes for the 2022 Volkswagen ID.4 RWD of 858 L seats-up, 1818 seats-down – with its cargo deck fixed high – are a little below average.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

With the Statement package the 60/40-split folding rear seat incorporates a pass-through for long items, and a variable cargo floor that can be set low for maximum space, or set high for a stepless transition to the folded backrests. There’s also a below-decks well to store the tool kit, charge cable and emergency-tire-inflator kit. The official cargo volumes of 858 L seats-up, 1818 seats-down – with its cargo deck fixed high – are a little below average.

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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