- The VF 8 is an all-electric small crossover SUV with about 200 miles of range.
- It comes standard with lots of in-car tech and driver aids.
- But early adopters should beware.
Driven: 2023 VinFast VF 8 City Edition Falls Short of the Mark
VinFast's first U.S.-bound car is a miss
It wouldn't be a surprise if you've never heard of the 2023 VinFast VF 8 City Edition. VinFast is the car manufacturing arm of VinGroup, a massive Vietnamese conglomerate that's involved in everything from real estate to tech to education. Like its parent company, VinFast has grown at an eye-searing rate. VinGroup was founded in 1993, and VinFast itself was only started in 2017. Just a few years later, it's delivering cars to customers in both Vietnam and North America. The VF 8, like all VinFast models headed to America, is all-electric. It competes with other small electric SUVs such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Tesla Model Y.
We had a very brief chance to get behind the wheel of the VF 8 in Vietnam last year, but seat time was limited in both time and location. It was enough to get a taste, but it wasn't until recently that we've had the chance to get behind the wheel of a production VF 8. Our newest experience was memorable, but not always for the right reasons.
What powers the VF 8?
The first version to come out is the VF 8 City Edition. Limited to 999 models, it's probably best to think of the City Edition as a prelude to the rest of the upcoming VinFast lineup. The City Edition name might be a clever marketing term, but it's there to hide the fact that the initial EPA-estimated range leaves something to be desired. The VF 8 has a Samsung-sourced 82-kWh battery pack that's rated for just 207 miles in the City Edition Eco and 191 miles in the City Edition Plus.
The thing is, the upcoming VF 8 Standard will also have an 82-kWh battery, though VinFast says it will improve the chemistry on that battery to increase range. VinFast estimates up to 264 miles in the Standard Eco edition. However, this figure is based on the European range test; the EPA's range test typically results in a lower estimate. Either way, it's accurate to say that the VF 8's range still comes up short compared to what's available from other EVs.
There are two electric motors — one for the front wheels and one for the rears — that provide all-wheel drive. Total output for the City Edition Eco is 349 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. We snagged time in the City Edition Plus, which packs 402 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque, all in exchange for a little less range and a bump in price.
VinFast is a startup, and it knows there's going to be skepticism about reliability. We're skeptical, too, after some time behind the wheel. But that's why it's offering a standard 10-year/125,000-mile comprehensive warranty. The battery itself is separately covered for 10 years and no cap on mileage. That should both ease some concern and trump Hyundai's 10-year/100,000-mile warranty. The warranty is transferable to new owners too.
How does the VF 8 City Edition drive?
We've seen plenty of photos and had a few opportunities to sit inside the VF 8, but this was the first time we'd been able to get some drive time on public roads and without a minder from VinFast in the passenger seat. These were real production cars we were driving, and outside of a suggested route, we were on our own with the car.
Initial impressions are mixed. VinFast estimates the Eco will hit 62 mph (100 kph) in 6.5 seconds; the sprint drops to 5.5 seconds for the Plus. We haven't had a chance to verify those figures at our test facility yet, but a gut check leaves us no reason to doubt them. Those are respectable times, and the VF 8 City Edition has no problem merging on the highway or slotting into a gap in the city.
Just don't put it in Sport mode. In Sport, the accelerator pedal becomes so sensitive the car feels undrivable unless you are extremely ginger with your inputs. Small dips can make the VF 8 City Edition lurch forward, making it hard to be smooth or drive with any finesse. Leave it in Normal. There's more than enough power, and the car never feels jittery or amped up on amphetamines.
Problems persist the longer you're behind the wheel. The brakes are very uneven, with seemingly nothing happening when you first hit the pedal. Then about halfway down, the brakes grab and the nose dips as the weight shifts forward. Again, it makes for a very uneven driving experience. While the VF 8 City Edition does offer regenerative braking and in theory one-pedal driving, the regen itself was so weak that we constantly used the brakes anyway.
Steering and overall handling are no better. The steering is quick, so small inputs are all you need to change lanes or navigate a winding road. The problem is that it's completely devoid of feel, so you have very little sense of connection to the car. It's fairly easy to park, but the steering saps any sort of enjoyment from the driving experience.
The VF 8 City Edition's suspension tuning feels simultaneously too stiff in a straight line and too soft in a corner. The vehicle's approximate 5,700-pound curb weight is a lot of mass to deal with, but rivals do a much better job of making their EVs feel smaller and lighter than they actually are. Turn in a corner and the VF 8 City Edition exhibits lots of body roll, leaning hard as the car struggles to manage its weight. On tighter roads it can induce a bit of car sickness. This EV feels quick, but we would prefer to drive just about anything else in this class.
How comfortable is the VF 8 City Edition?
The seats received mixed reviews among those of us who drove the VF 8. Most agreed the padding was too stiff, but some found the overall shape to be comfortable and supportive. Others felt the seats were awkward, with too much lumbar and not enough thigh support. Heated, power-adjustable front seats are standard on all VF 8 City Editions, and the Plus model adds ventilated seats. Both work well, as does the climate control system. It's relatively easy to use and keeps the car cool even if the fans are a bit loud.
How's the VF 8 City Edition's interior?
There's two ways to look at the VinFast's interior. It's nicer inside than you might initially expect. We're not talking Mercedes-Benz or Lexus levels of design and feel, but synthetic leather covers parts of the doors, dash and center console, giving it a slightly premium feel. The design is boring but clean. The buttons and knobs don't feel particularly cheap either, and parts like the turn signal and wiper control stalks are straight from a BMW parts bin. The latter is no surprise given that VinFast's first two cars — the Lux A2.0 and Lux SA2.0 — were slightly revised and rebadged versions of the BMW 5 Series and X5.
But there are still some serious build-quality issues to address. These are early production cars, but we noticed a buzz from the sunroof in a VF 8 City Edition Plus. The car had around 700 miles on the odometer, and given the poor suspension tuning, we wonder how many more rattles might crop up down the line. Edmunds' long-term Tesla Model Y Performance feels like it's shaking itself apart after 25,000 miles, and we suspect the VF 8 City Edition might do the same.
How's the VF 8 City Edition's tech?
This is easily one of the VinFast's highlights. Cribbing straight from Tesla, the VF 8 City Edition uses a single center-mounted screen that features everything from the speedometer to the climate controls to the navigation system. Additionally, all VF 8s come standard with a head-up display, so you don't have to glance to the right to check your speed or adjust the cruise control. Well, unless you're wearing polarized sunglasses. VinFast, like quite a few other automakers, has a HUD that can't be seen while wearing polarized sunglasses.
The interface is fairly easy to navigate, and voice commands can help you do things like adjust the climate control or radio. We even asked the VF 8 how to adjust the mirrors, and it helped direct us to the right menu. Even better, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard, as is a wireless charging pad.
The VF 8 also comes standard with a full suite of driver aids, including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, automatic emergency braking and traffic sign recognition. Adaptive cruise is easy to activate or adjust, and the VF 8 holds a reasonably tight gap and adjusts speed smoothly. But the aids beep incessantly, and while you can turn them off, settings reset when the car gets parked. We also had a couple of notifications pop up, including something about the regenerative braking being reduced and an automatic driving error. As with just about every new EV, VinFast will offer over-the-air updates and plans to add more driver aids like smart parking and summon features.
How economical is the VF 8 City Edition?
The VF 8 City Edition has an EPA-estimated range of 207 miles in Eco trim and 191 miles in its Plus trim. Those are some of the lowest figures of any EV on sale today, though we suspect it might outperform those EPA figures in the Edmunds real-world EV range test. The VF 8 City Edition is capable of fast charging, with a peak rate of 150 kW. VinFast says it can charge from 10% to 70% in around 25 minutes, though it's odd to get a time for 70% capacity rather than the 10% to 80% charging time given by other automakers.
You're able to search for charging stations through the VinFast app or the touchscreen. VinFast says you'll be able to pay through its own app at Electrify America, EVgo, Blink and a few other stations. If you're having charging or payment issues (far too common at public chargers), you can contact VinFast and it will talk to the respective company.
While we could give VinFast a break given how new the company is, the simple truth is that the VF 8 City Edition simply doesn't match the standard set by the competition. That said, there's stuff to like, and VinFast has shown an ability to design, build and improve at a breakneck pace. Initial impressions left us wanting, but we're still looking forward to what's in store.