Taking charge: VW ID 4 and Ford Mustang Mach-e meet Polestar 2

Well, that felt quick. It seems like only yesterday that the original Nissan Leaf and the Peugeot iOn first emerged, their tiny batteries and puny electric motors making for an interesting glimpse at what the future of mass personal transport might look like.

Fast forward to 2021 and those early efforts don’t look so novel at all. In fact, with the sale of new petrol and diesel cars set to be banned in the UK from 2030, their status as harbingers of a new electrified era now looks pretty ironclad. Seemingly overnight, the entire new car market, from the affordable end to the not-so-affordable end, has been hit by a deluge of battery-powered alternatives to the once dominant internally combusted norm.

For better or for worse, EVs’ prominence among the UK f leet will continue to grow. Sales and consequently market share are, on the back of solid, attainable mainstream offerings, going to go only one way: up.

So the questions are: what do those real-world characters look like today? And are they already in good enough shape to really kick-start more widespread EV adoption ahead of the looming 2030 ban, or is there still a hell of a lot of work to be done?

Well, as far as the mainstream is concerned, it’s hard to get more mainstream than Volkswagen and Ford. These automotive leviathans perhaps aren’t quite as mobile or quick to the punch as a certain Californian firm, but the cogs have really started turning in the past year with regards to their respective electrification programmes.

Volkswagen struck first with the launch of the ID 3, but that family hatchback isn’t the car that’s really going to help the German firm dominate this new electrified era. Instead, that will be the new ID 4. Not only is it set to capitalise on Europe’s ravenous appetite for relatively affordable, premium-feeling crossovers; but also, with production sites in China and the US, it’s the car that will spearhead Volkswagen’s EV campaign in those crucial markets. That makes it a huge deal.

Ford, meanwhile, has gone down a similarly SUV-shaped route with its inaugural series-production EV, but the journey has been rather more controversial. This, of course, is because of the name it chose. By going with Mustang Mach-E, Ford isn’t mincing its words. Not only does that hallowed name bring with it an elevated status of image-based desirability, but also, in addition to the levels of practicality and user-friendliness it must possess to succeed as an SUV, there has to be a healthy serving of driver appeal, too.

And so it is that on a freezing-cold March morning, we find ourselves at Milton Keynes Coachway, where a Mach-E and an ID 4 are plugged in to 50kW rapid chargers, having just completed the run up the M1 from London. The Mach-E we have is the entry-level RWD Standard Range, a car that will cost you £40,350 (now that it is no longer eligible for a government grant, which has been cut from £3000 to £2500 and now only applies to EVs under £35,000).

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That EV, by the process of elimination, is the ID 4. Sure, it’s the slowest, most strait-laced of our trio, but at the same time it really nails that Volkswagen trait of just feeling impressively complete and well-rounded. It’s very much like a battery-powered Tiguan, and that will be a big deal for a lot of people.

Ultimately, depending on what your priorities are, you could really make a case for any one of these cars. They all go about the business of being solid, reasonably priced, family-friendly electric crossovers in their own distinct ways, and each of them is really likeable for it. I know which one I would have, and it might be different to the one you would go for. Whichever one you would pick, though, it looks like the future of electrified personal transport is in a good place already. Let’s just hope the charging infrastructure keeps pace.

1st: Volkswagen ID 4 – Not the most entertaining here but practical, very well equipped and an impressively slick operator for its price. Extremely well-rounded.

2nd: Ford Mustang Mach-E – Certainly the keen driver’s choice but let down slightly by its occasionally knobbly ride and lack of premium lustre, so it comes a very close second.

3rd: Polestar 2 – Fast, comfortable and impressively posh, but the numbers don’t quite add up in this company.