2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Review

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | May 21, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

With the new ID.4, Volkswagen is at a turning point. Having come to terms with the higher CO2 emissions of its once diesel-rich product lineup, the brand is in the process of introducing what will be a steady stream of electrified offerings. The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is the automaker’s first dedicated battery-electric vehicle in the U.S. and its first electrified offering in the hot-selling compact SUV segment.

As with most products from the mainstream German automaker, the ID.4 is plainly styled. Other than the full-width light signature accenting the front and rear of the tidy and spare-looking compact SUV, there’s not much in the way of the exterior visual excitement one might expect from the first product in VW’s electric-vehicle rollout. Unlike VW’s ID Buzz and ID Buggy electric concepts, there is no wow factor here.

For now, at least, the ID.4 just looks like it’s going about the sober business of saving the planet, offering penance for the company’s Dieselgate transgressions.

Launched just recently, the first ID.4 out of the gate was the aptly named 1st Edition, available solely in single-motor, 201-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive form. It has since sold out. What’s available now are the entry-level ID.4 Pro and uplevel ID Pro S, both with a rear-mounted, single 201-horsepower AC motor.

Later in the year, ID.4 Pro and Pro S models equipped with a 302-horsepower, dual-motor, all-wheel-drive propulsion system will join the lineup.

What Owners Say About the Compact SUV Segment - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

2021 Volkswagen ID4 White Front Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 51% of compact SUV owners are male (vs. 60% for the entire industry), and the median age of a compact SUV owner is 59 years (vs. 56).

Owners say their favorite things about compact SUVs are (in descending order) the:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Feeling of safety
  • Getting in and out
  • Interior design

Owners indicate their least favorite things about compact SUVs are (in descending order) the:

  • Setting up and starting
  • Driving comfort
  • Powertrain
  • Infotainment
  • Fuel economy 

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Volkswagen ID.4 - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of a Volkswagen ID.4 1st Edition equipped with the following options:

  • Glacier White with Black Roof exterior
  • Lunar Gray Leatherette interior

The price of the test vehicle came to $45,190, including the $1,195 destination charge. The ID.4 is eligible for the maximum federal tax credit of $7,500, as well as any state or local incentives in your area. Plus, Volkswagen includes three free years of DC fast charging through its Electrify America charging station network. Therefore, the actual cost of buying an ID.4 is much lower than its price suggests.

Getting In and Getting Comfortable

2021 Volkswagen ID4 Interior Front Seats

Photo: Ron Sessions

At first, what you notice about the ID.4 are its comfortable and supportive seats, good outward visibility, generous storage, and the open and modern overall interior design. It helps reinforce the notion that even though the ID.4’s exterior doesn’t exactly convey head-turning, leading-edge design, the bright (and in the case of the 1st Edition, very white) interior promises a brave, new digital future.

There are few physical controls, with most analog hard buttons and knobs tossed into the dustbin of history and replaced with voice and touchscreen controls. The ID.4’s center touchscreen is now much more than a nexus of infotainment activity; its functions include operation of the charging protocols, drive mode selection, climate control, seat heating, cooling, and massage functions, and much more.

Pertinent driving information like vehicle speed, posted speed, selected gear, and remaining driving range show in a smaller, configurable ID.Cockpit driver information screen directly in front of the driver. This reduces the need to steal eyes-off-the-road glances at the center infotainment screen.

As with the Volvo XC40 Recharge, the ID.4 “wakes up” when the driver’s derriere alights on the bottom cushion. However, using your butt as a system start/stop switch can have some unintended consequences. 

There are times when you and one or more passengers may want to sit in the car without everything switched on, say, at a drive-in movie or when having a private in-car romantic discussion on a moonlit night. Conversely, there are situations when you’ll step out of the ID.4 to run into a store but want to keep the climate control and tunes going for any passengers waiting in the car. For just such life events, Volkswagen provides a physical switch for the 12-volt accessories unrelated to electric propulsion, tucked away inconspicuously on the inboard side of the steering column and ironically labeled Engine Stop-Start.

Some physical switches work brilliantly. The controls for the heated and perforated faux-leather-covered power front seats of the 1st Edition and Pro S models are on the outboard sides of the bottom cushions, right where you’d expect them. Also brilliant, once you poke your head around the thick steering-wheel rim and find it on the right side of the driver information display, is the twist switch for making automatic transmission selections.

Other switchgear causes frustration. There are conventional physical switches on the door for the power windows, but the driver’s side just gets two switches for the four side windows. A “Back” switch with no haptic feedback toggles between controlling the front or back windows, but its lighting is difficult to see in bright light. Just ahead are the power mirror controls with a conventional joystick for mirror position but two tiny, non-haptic switches for choosing left or right mirrors that I ended up confusing more than once with the also non-haptic and tiny rear-seat child-lock controls.

The dash-mounted headlamp switch, again just a touch control with no haptic feedback, is another switch with a learning curve. Tapping it toggles between the headlamps, parking lamps, fog lamps, and automatic control. You just keep tapping a tiny spot until you get the lights you want. The switch grouping also, oddly, controls the rear window defroster and the maximum setting for the windshield defroster.

Beneath the center infotainment screen are redundant, tiny, non-haptic virtual sliders for driver and front passenger dual-zone temperature control and audio system volume. They are not user-friendly.

At least the steering-wheel buttons for the ID.4’s standard adaptive cruise control and audio system have haptic feedback that lets the driver know the system has acted on a requested action.

There’s a lot to like about the feeling of space in the ID.4. Storage space is abundant and includes a pair of dedicated front cup holders and a reconfigurable, covered center console bin that can take two more beverage containers and plenty of trip detritus. Both front- and rear-seat room is generous, as well.

It’s just that there are many non-standard controls in the ID.4 that the buyer should sort out before hitting the road. Time spent in your driveway unpacking the mysteries of certain switch functions and the center screen’s many menus, hopefully without requiring too many deep dives into the ID.4’s 382-page owner’s manual, is highly recommended.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Discover Pro Infotainment System Review

2021 Volkswagen ID4 Interior Dashboard

Photo: Ron Sessions

The ID.4 1st Edition and Pro S models feature Volkswagen’s Discover Pro infotainment system and the larger of two available display screens, which is angled toward the driver. Its highlights include:

  • 12-inch high-definition color touchscreen display
  • App-Connect with access to wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink
  • Multiple phone-pairing capabilities
  • Embedded navigation
  • Natural voice recognition
  • Car-Net with available Verizon Wi-Fi for up to four devices
  • FM/HD radio (no AM band)
  • 3-month trial of SiriusXM satellite radio
  • Seven stereo speakers
  • Four USB-C ports (one front power/data, one front, and two rear power)
  • Wireless charging for Qi-enabled phones

Think of the ID.4’s infotainment screen as a large dash-mounted smartphone. Access is primarily through voice commands and the touchscreen itself. Using it requires navigating through numerous on-screen menus and submenus, the gateway being the squarish, blue tile on the left side of the screen that functions as a home or back key. Menus can also be moved using gesture control. Labels describing the functions of many screen icons don’t appear until your hand gets close to the screen. 

This is not stuff you want to be preoccupied with while driving.

Hello ID is the name VW gives to the voice-control system. Prefacing a voice command with “Hello ID” helps the system understand common language requests, such as “I’m hot,” whereupon it will turn down the cabin temperature by a couple of degrees.

The system didn’t fare as well with point-of-interest requests. While it aced my commands to find the nearest Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A, it flubbed ones to locate and navigate to the nearby city’s international airport and Volkswagen dealer, instead asking me to type in the street addresses.

The system also has a Robby the Robot-like ID.Light feature with a light bar beneath the windshield that pulses when you are giving a voice command, the ID.4 is charging, there’s an incoming phone call, and such. Whimsical, but harmless.

More useful are Car-Net connected services. The 4G LTE in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot entails a $20 monthly fee. Via the mobile app, Car-Net Remote Access EV can search for EV charging stations, find off-street parking, adjust climate controls, and stop or start battery charging from miles away. It’s free for the first five years of ID.4 ownership. Car-Net Safe & Secure is a $159/year subscription sign-up that includes automatic crash notification and emergency assistance.

What It’s Like to Drive the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4

2021 Volkswagen ID4 White Side View

Photo: Ron Sessions

The ID.4 is built on Volkswagen’s new MEB electric vehicle architecture and is the brand’s first global EV.

Initially, all ID.4 models offer a rear-mounted 201-hp permanent-magnet electric motor with 229 pound-feet of delicious, instant torque. A liquid-cooled 82 kWh lithium-ion battery supplies the juice, and drivers can choose between Eco, Sport, Comfort, and Custom driving modes. The driving range on a fully charged battery is a healthy, but not industry-leading, 250 miles.

The standard, 11kW dual-level charging cord provides Level 1 (120-volt AC) and Level 2 (240-volt AC) compatibility for convenient at-home charging. Although topping off the battery with 120-volt house current can take several days, the process can shrink to less than eight hours using a 240-volt AC outlet. Using a 125 kW DC fast charger on the road can take the ID.4’s battery from a 5% charge to 80% in less than 40 minutes, or about the time it takes most drivers to down a Starbucks Venti Mocha.

The ID.4 has a standard regenerative braking system that feeds electrons back into the battery during coasting or braking. Adjacent to the Drive setting on the dash-mounted transmission controls is the “B” or Brake setting. While not enabling true one-pedal driving, the B setting increases regenerative braking substantially, providing up to 0.13g of retardation that will slow the ID.4 to a near crawl. At this point, the driver can apply the traditional footbrake.

Using the B setting definitely conserves battery range. During the last 80 miles of my test drive, all of it with the B setting selected, the dash-mounted battery range estimator indicated a decline of only 63 miles.

The ID.4 uses a MacPherson strut front/multilink rear suspension setup, pretty much standard fare for compact SUVs. However, what is different is the rear-mounted motor, which gives the ID.4 a near 50:50 front-to-rear weight balance that’s considered ideal for neutral handling. The big, underfloor battery adds about a half-ton of weight, usually not favorable for performance. Still, the low-mounted battery imparts a stabilizing dynamic through a low center of gravity.

Grip is good, courtesy of meaty 19-inch wheels shod with 235/50 front and 255/50 rear all-season tires. The 1st Edition ups that with standard 20-inch wheels.

The quiet demeanor and turbine-smooth drivetrain feel are big positives with the ID.4. It can accelerate to 60 mph from rest in about 7.5 seconds, making it far from the quickest EV in the business. But what the ID.4 offers is all of its 229 pound-feet of torque on demand for zipping through holes in traffic. It’s that instant response that makes the eclectic electric ID.4 so pleasant to drive.

IQ.Drive Review

2021 Volkswagen ID4 Blind Spot Warning

Photo: Ron Sessions

Volkswagen equips the 2021 ID.4 with the company’s IQ.Drive advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). Standard features on all trims include:

  • Forward-collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Lane-keeping assistance
  • Lane-centering assistance
  • Active blind-spot warning and collision-avoidance assistance (an attempt to prevent unsafe lane changes by countersteering)
  • Active rear cross-traffic warning and collision-avoidance assistance (automatically brakes if necessary to avoid a collision)
  • Smart adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability
  • Travel Assist (a Level 2 ADAS that combines adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assistance to reduce stress during highway drives)
  • Emergency Assist (slowly brings the ID.4 to a stop if the driver is incapacitated)

In addition to the IQ.Drive suite of semi-autonomous driving assistance features, the 2021 ID.4 has the following safety systems:

  • Surround-view monitor (backup camera with a 360-degree overhead view)
  • Front and rear parking distance warning (audible warning with low-speed collision avoidance)
  • Automatic high-beam assistance
  • Dynamic road sign display (uses a camera with data verified by GPS)

As with the systems in many other carmaker’s vehicles, the ID.4’s are an excellent backstop for unexpected traffic situations but are no substitute for an attentive and focused driver with both hands on the steering wheel. 

Lane-keeping and other steering-assistance systems rely on clearly defined lane markings, which are all too often deteriorated or simply not present. And lane-keeping or lane-centering systems don’t currently have the technology to detect mitigating factors. During my test drive, the ID.4’s lane-centering system occasionally sent annoying messages asking me to drive in the center of the lane when I was steering around obstacles such as truck tire treads and potholes or swinging wide to give space to roadside joggers and bicyclists.

The ID.4’s blind-spot and rear cross-traffic systems are notable in that they can not only detect obstacles but react to help avoid a collision if the driver does not take action. Also, the blind-spot system provided a large, flash drive-sized safety-orange warning light on the inboard side of the free-standing exterior mirrors, much more visible than the tiny, pinky fingernail-sized warnings in the mirrors of most competitor’s products.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 FAQ - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

2021 Volkswagen ID4 Cargo Space

Photo: Ron Sessions

How much cargo space does the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 have?

With 37.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat and 64.2 with the back seat folded flat, the ID.4 offers stowage room comparable to other compact SUVs such as the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and Honda CR-V Hybrid

Under the cargo floor, there’s added space to store items such as the charging cord. You can lower the entire cargo floor on 1st Edition and Pro S models to accommodate bulky items. Also, on 1st Edition and Pro S, the liftgate is a hands-free, power-operated type that you can open with a foot wave under the rear bumper. 

However, there is no front trunk (or frunk) as provided in other electric SUVs such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Jaguar I-Pace, and Volvo XC40 Recharge.

What is the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 driving range?

The EPA-estimated driving range for 1st Edition and Pro S models with rear-wheel drive is 250 miles on a fully charged battery, and the electricity consumption rate is 35 kWh/100 miles. In terms of MPGe, the EPA says these models provide 97 MPGe in combined city/highway driving.

Is the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 safe?

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had released crash test results for the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 as this review was published.

How much is the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4?

Now that the short run of 1st Edition models is sold out, Volkswagen will offer the 2021 ID.4 in Pro and Pro S trims. Prices range from $39,995 for the ID.4 Pro rear-wheel drive to $48,175 for the ID.4 Pro S all-wheel drive. The destination charge adds another $1,195. 

The 2021 ID.4 is eligible for the $7,500 federal income tax credit, and state and local incentives and rebates. Volkswagen includes three free years of DC fast charging at Electrify America charging stations.

What are the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 competitors?

Among competitors currently on sale, the ID.4 squares off against the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Kona Electric, and Kia Niro EV. But more will be hitting the market shortly, including the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, and Nissan Ariya.

Few of these models were on sale and available for ranking in the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS) or the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout Study (APEAL).

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

2021 Volkswagen ID4 White Rear Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

Now that global warming is no longer a banned topic of conversation in some circles, it remains an open question as to whether Americans will embrace battery-electric cars as mainstream, everyday vehicles. 

With the new ID.4, Volkswagen is rolling out the first fruit of its multi-billion dollar investment in electrified propulsion. The ID.4 doesn’t possess the longest driving range or the quickest acceleration times, but what it does offer is a hefty dose of advanced tech and good value in the hot-selling compact SUV segment.

That value equation gets a boost from a still-in-effect $7,500 federal tax credit, which represents about an 18% effective price reduction on a $40,000 vehicle. The icing on the cake is three years of free DC fast charging on the Electrify America network that Volkswagen offers to ID.4 buyers.

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2023 J.D. Power

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