Volkswagen is in the early stages of development of an electric hatchback to slot in below the compact ID.3 sold overseas, and a test mule has been spotted.

A test mule is a prototype used by engineers; the makeshift body of an existing vehicle hides new mechanicals. In this case they are using the body of the ID.3—a vehicle that's also about to be updated.

We know the test mule is for a smaller vehicle than the ID.3 by the shortened wheelbase and corresponding shortened rear door. Other differences visible on the test mule include a charging port on the passenger side front fender. On the ID.3, the charging port is located on the passenger side rear fender.

The vehicle being tested is most likely VW's planned subcompact EV due in 2025. VW previewed a potential design for the EV in 2021 with the ID.Life concept, though the automaker has since abandoned the boxy crossover design of the concept in favor of a sleeker hatchback shape.

Teaser for Volkswagen electric subcompact

Teaser for Volkswagen electric subcompact

A teaser for the hatch shape was shown in 2022, together with teasers for related models from fellow Volkswagen Group brands SEAT and Skoda. All three will be built at plants in Spain, with the first expected in 2025. VW has previously mentioned a starting price of around 20,000 euros (approximately $21,350) for its version, though that was before the start of the ongoing inflation and energy crisis.

While most rumors point to the VW adopting the ID.2 name to mark the vehicle's positioning below the ID.3, there's also speculation that ID.Golf is among the names being considered, and that there may even be a sporty GTI version.

Thomas Schäfer, the current head of the VW brand, recently hinted that the Golf name was too good to abandon and that there's potential for it to be used on an ID EV in similar fashion to the ID.Buzz name. We may also see the ID.Tiguan name used for a new electric compact crossover VW also has in the works.

It isn't clear what mechanical package VW has planned for its subcompact hatch, but the ID.Life concept had a single motor at the front axle good for 230 hp and a 57-kwh battery in the floor claimed to deliver over 200 miles of range. We may see increased performance in the new hatch as VW is known to be planning an updated version of its MEB platform for its future mainstream EVs. Known as MEB+, the updated platform has been designed around a common battery cell and will support charging at rates of up to 200 kw.