Twenty-one months after deciding to build cars, VinFast – the automotive side of the vast Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup – had a production plant and three models ready to roll. That’s less than a blink of an eye in automotive terms – many new models have twice the gestation period, not to mention the assembly line construction required to make them!
Initially, there will be two VinFast models coming to Canada. The five-seater VF 8 straddles the compact and midsize segments with a wheelbase of 2,950 millimeters. It will be joined by the larger three-row VF 9.
Both crossovers are sharp lookers with the design coming from Pininfarina, no less. In the case of the VF 8 tested, the proportions are good, so is the size and the exterior appeal is undeniable, although offering a blacked-out version instead of chrome might be a good idea.
The first disc of VF 8 was a short and sweet affair, but it provided the feedback needed to get that all-important first impression.
There has been a lot of speculation about the size and supplier of the battery. Well, speculate no more. For now, Samsung provides the individual cells (they look like D-cells). VinFast then assembles the cells into modules to complete the liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery.
Further, the company wants to manufacture its own cells, which would mean less reliance on an outside supply chain.
The VF 8 tested had a 90 kilowatt/hour battery with a usable capacity of 82 kW/h; the VF 9 will get a larger 100kWh battery with 87.7kWh usable. What is unclear at this stage is whether the larger battery will be offered as an option in the VF 8 – that would seem like a safe bet given that Ford Mach-E and others in the segment have a long range option.
Both batteries take approximately eight hours to charge using a Level 2 charger; the right fast charger pumps a 70% charge into the battery in less than 30 minutes. As for range, well, VinFast has yet to release official Canadian figures, however, it should be good for around 420-450 kilometers.
One of the interesting aspects is that when the customer buys the VF 8, he rents the battery. This means that when the battery performance drops below 70% of what it was when new, it will be replaced by VinFast. The plus is that any battery upgrade that has been done between the time of purchase and the day the battery is due for replacement sees the customer get the upgraded battery. It is backed by a 10-year/200,000 km warranty.
When the VF 8 arrives in Canada, it will be offered in two ways — Eco and Plus. Both use the same drivetrain components with the Eco producing 348 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque. The Plus model tested bumped those numbers up to 402 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque, which is enough to get riders from rest to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, or 0.4 seconds faster. than Eco.
Although the drive was limited, it provided valuable insight into driving performance. Off-line, the VF 8 delivers plenty of pop with the instant torque that builds well through the midrange. It also offers solid steering feel and feedback and it has a comfortable, compliant ride, despite the big P245/45R20 tires. The limited ride time did not allow for a full handling assessment. I will say that, as with all electric cars, it feels heavy behind the wheel. However, with the power split between the axles as needed, it should hold its own in a corner.
There are Eco, Comfort and Sport drive modes – the latter puts more vertigo into the way the throttle responds. The nit is the pre-production model tested had a fixed amount of regenerative braking. When asked if the driver would have a choice of multiple regeneration modes in the production unit, including one-pedal control, the response was “we’re looking into it.”
Regenerative braking, as it stands, is nowhere near aggressive enough, so it needs to be beefed up at the very least. This more aggressive mode should also be supplemented with the one-pedal training extension. It’s quickly becoming a staple of electric vehicles, as it makes driving around town much less of a hassle by allowing the driver to control things solely via the accelerator pedal.
Inside, the VF 8 is very different and more Tesla-like than anything else. It comes down to the fact that there is no instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. Everything is controlled via the central 15.6-inch screen. It was a throwback to driving the original Toyota Prius – it was weird not looking through the steering wheel to check the speed, but it quickly became second nature, as it did in the TF 8. For the record, the speed reading is located in the upper left corner of the main screen so that it is easy to see.
The design approach keeps the number of buttons to a minimum, meaning almost everything is controlled via the central display. The exceptions are the push-button shifter and a real volume knob for the radio, thanks!
To adjust the mirrors, you choose the left or right mirror icon on the center display, then use the four-way rocker switch on the left side of the steering wheels to make adjustments. It sounds complicated, but the reality is that it’s a simple and surprisingly intuitive setup.
For example, to change the driving mode, touch this icon on the screen, then the desired mode. This reduces the number of menus needed to perform a simple task to a bare minimum.
As far as space goes, the VF 8 offers plenty of rear head and legroom and decent cargo capacity, as well as a front trunk for charger cables etc. Finally, the VF 8 has the right safety kit – 11 airbags and driver assist technologies, including blind spot monitoring and lane change assist.
Although the first test of the VF 8 was brief, it was very revealing. This crossover is spacious, it has a solid pop off the line, it promises to have the desired range and it has proven to be comfortable.
The two-tone cabin is also cleverly designed and intuitive, despite the tech at play. The combination means it’s destined to be a gamer when it arrives in Canada.
Deliveries begin this fall for the VF 8, which has a starting price of $51,250.