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2022 Volkswagen ID.4.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

We drove the rear-wheel-drive version of Volkswagen’s new electric compact crossover last fall, and readers wanted to know how cold weather would affect its range.

So we waited and drove the all-wheel-drive version in the middle of an Ontario winter, with temperatures as low as minus 17. Boy, was it cold.

When the weather is warm, Volkswagen claims the AWD version of the ID.4 will have a maximum range of 386 kilometres. (The RWD version, which weighs 100 kilograms less, should be good for an extra 14 kilometres.) At minus 17, the AWD tester had an indicated maximum range of 271 kilometres, driving at the comfortable speed of traffic on Highway 401. A few days later, at minus 6, its indicated maximum range was 305 kilometres.

In 600 kilometres of driving, when the temperature never rose above freezing, the ID.4 returned an average electrical consumption of 31.8 kilowatt hours per 100 kilometres. When the weather is a balmy 23 degrees, the official Natural Resources Canada consumption rating is 22.5 kilowatt hours.

Related: Less flower power, more electric power: Volkswagen debuts new mini-bus

This is pretty good consumption for such cold temperatures, especially considering I made no concessions. I parked outside and did not preheat the cabin, I kept the climate warm in the vehicle, and I drove at the speed of traffic. Granted, I wasn’t driving in the truly frigid temperatures of the Prairies, but a total drop in range of only one-third in the worst of Ontario’s conditions is impressive.

When the temperature was a more usual 6 below zero, the ID.4 dropped to about 80 per cent of its warm-weather range. In contrast, at the same temperature, the more expensive Tesla Model 3 drops to about 95 per cent of its range, while the Chevrolet Bolt drops to 66 per cent.

The ID.4 manages this partly through the use of a heat pump, which warms the cabin with heat taken from the battery that would otherwise be wasted, and leaves more energy in the battery to drive the car. In much of the world, including the United States, the heat pump is an expensive option, but it’s standard for all Canadian models, as are a heated windshield and washer nozzles.

At a Level 3 fast charger, 10 minutes of charge in summer will give the AWD version 90 kilometres of range. For this test in an Ontario winter, 10 minutes provided 70 kilometres of range.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

As well, the base plate of the chassis has integrated cooling for the 82-kilowatt-hour battery, which helps manage the internal temperature of its lithium-ion cells. Its AC charger has a maximum acceptance of 11 kilowatts, while its DC charger can handle 125 kilowatts. Charging times slow down in cold temperatures, but the ID.4 did not seem too badly affected. At a Level 3 fast charger, 10 minutes of charge in summer will give the AWD version 90 kilometres of range. For me in winter, 10 minutes provided 70 kilometres of range.

Tech specs

  • Base price/as tested: $49,995/$58,490 (qualifies for $5,000 federal rebate)
  • Engine: Dual-motor electric
  • Drive: All-wheel drive
  • Alternatives: Hyundai Kona EV, Kia Niro EV, Nissan Leaf, Volvo XC40 Recharge, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Chevrolet Bolt EUV

Looks

Side and front views of the 2022 Volkswagen ID.4 right after a car wash on a cold winter day.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

From the side, if the ID.4 didn’t have its funky modern wheels, you’d never know it wasn’t a regular crossover. From the front, it appears more radical, with an impressive light show across its grille that highlights the VW logo.

Interior

Front and backseats on the ID.4.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

The tester had the $8,000 “statement” package, which includes leatherette seats and a surprisingly effective back massager for the driver. It was all very comfortable, though access to almost everything was through its central touchscreen.

The transmission lever – which is really just a Forward/Backward lever with an adjuster for more regenerative braking – is up high, integrated into the instrument panel, which gives more airiness to the cabin. There’s reasonable space front and back, and the pockets behind the front head restraints that can comfortably hold a phone for viewing are a smart touch.

Performance

The ID.4 accelerates two seconds faster than the 201-horsepower RWD version.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

The AWD edition makes 295 horsepower, which means it’s good for zero-to-100 kilometres an hour in less than six seconds. This makes the ID.4 a quick little vehicle, accelerating two seconds faster than the 201-horsepower RWD version. The AWD also has brake-vectoring to help cornering response, but this is not a sporty car.

Technology

Volkswagen's ID.4 has a digital instrument panel in front of the steering wheel that would have been at home in any concept car of five years ago.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

The ID.4 feels futuristic, with a digital instrument panel in front of the steering wheel that would have been at home in any concept car of five years ago. Volkswagen’s taken a lesson from Tesla and there’s no need to press a start button at the beginning or end of the drive – the vehicle knows you’re there and gets everything ready by sensing your weight on the seat. There is a button, however, for those (like me) who just want to be sure the otherwise-silent car really is turned on or off when they leave.

Cargo

Charging cable and trunk on the ID.4. The rear seats fold mostly flat to create up to 1,818 litres of cargo space.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

Volkswagen calls the ID.4 an SUV, but then, everyone calls everything an SUV these days if they want it to sell. The rear seats fold mostly flat and create up to 1,818 litres of cargo space, which compares with 2,081 litres in the compact VW Tiguan SUV. There’s no front trunk, or frunk, under the hood, as there is with many EVs, but there is a thoughtful pass-through in the split back seat for carrying hockey sticks or skis.

The verdict

In Canada, EVs are now sold with “packages” on top of their trims in order to meet requirements for the $5,000 federal EV rebate: The base trim must come in below $45,000, which the ID.4 does when bought with RWD, and only additional trim levels that cost less than $55,000 qualify for the rebate. However, “packages” can be added to those trims without penalty, and that’s how manufacturers can game the rebate.

Volkswagen expects most Canadian buyers will opt for the AWD version of the ID.4, which costs $5,000 more than the less powerful RWD version. I would be one of them and, for the money, the ID.4 delivers most everything a regular driver wants.

The costly options of the Statement package would be nice to have, but VW deserves recognition for supplying what buyers really need – the heat pump, the power, the range – without having to pay extra.

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