First Drive: The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Is a Versatile, Stylish, and Agile EV

For quicker acceleration and AWD, buyers should wait until the fall

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 front driving

The all-new, all-electric 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is aimed straight at the heart of the small-SUV segment, blurring the line between a hatchback car and an SUV. We found the ID.4 a pleasant-driving electric vehicle that’s roomy, functional and, at a starting price of $39,995, competitively priced. However, there are a few drawbacks: Many of the ID.4’s controls come across as gimmicky for the sake of seeming high-tech, and the ID.4’s first version to market doesn’t burst with acceleration off the line like some other electric vehicles.   

Unlike VW’s first EV, the eGolf, which was a converted version of the existing Golf, the ID.4 was engineered from scratch to be an electric vehicle using Volkswagen’s modular electric drive architecture known as MEB. The electric motor is at the rear of the vehicle. An 82-kilowatt-hour battery is in the underbody of the car to help give the ID.4 a low center of gravity. For now, the ID.4 comes only in a 201-hp, rear-wheel-drive configuration—with an EPA-estimated driving range of 250 miles on a full charge—but an all-wheel-drive model with 302 hp is coming this fall. We rented an ID.4 1st Edition from Volkswagen for this review.

ID.4 base pricing ranges from $39,995 to $48,175 (not including a $1,195 destination charge), before the $7,500 federal EV tax credit the car qualifies for. That price structure makes it ripe for competition with other relatively affordable EVs, such as the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt EUVFord Mustang Mach-EHyundai Kona Electric, and Kia Niro EV, while significantly undercutting the Tesla Model Y

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If you’re a Consumer Reports member, our initial expert assessment of the ID.4 1st Edition we rented from Volkswagen is available to you below. We’ll purchase one for the CR auto test program as soon as the all-wheel-drive ID.4 goes on sale this fall. Then we’ll put it through more than 50 tests at the CR Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls. CR members will get access to the full road-test results as soon as they’re available.

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What we rented: 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 1st Edition
Powertrain: 201-hp electric motor; 1-speed direct-drive question; rear-wheel drive
MSRP: $43,995
Destination fee: $1,195
Total cost: $45,190

CR’s Take

The ID.4 is Volkswagen’s first purpose-built salvo in a series of EVs it plans to introduce in the next few years. It looks to offer real competition to the much more modest Chevrolet Bolt and the more powerful Ford Mustang Mach-E EVs, and potentially lure some conventional buyers who are ready to jump on the EV bandwagon. VW’s bullish stance on EVs appears to be partly an attempt to atone for being caught cheating with its diesel emissions in 2015. 

We found much to like about the ID.4. It’s roomy in the front and rear, with ample cargo space; has a flashy, high-tech cabin; and drives quite well overall. It’s easily one of the nicest-driving EVs on the lower-priced end of the market, and it gets good marks for its high-quality interior. 

While certainly “techy,” many of the ID.4’s controls are quirky and different, without offering real benefit. The 201-hp 1st Edition also lacks the off-the-line punch of many EVs; it doesn’t give the eye-opening, initial burst of acceleration in the way the Bolt, Mustang Mach-E, and Model Y do.

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