In April of last year Green Car Reports went to Vietnam for an early preview of the Vinfast VF 8 prototype. After a quick spin on a test track, it was obvious the mid-size electric SUV needed some serious time in the oven before it might be fully ready for U.S. consumers.
After just over 365 days of additional baking, the knife still isn’t coming out clean.
The first thing I notice when I open the door of the VF 8 is the seating material. It’s a synthetic leather that does a nice job visually of mimicking the real thing, but already the driver’s seat shows creasing and general wear and tear. The odometer is reading less than 1,000 miles and I can’t imagine what these seats will look like at 20,000 miles.
The next thing that draws my attention is the plastic lever to raise and lower my seat. I notice it because it has broken off in my hand.
It goes from bad to worse, as I realize that all the driver-assist safety features on my tester—blind-spot monitors, automatic emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, active lane control—are inoperable and require servicing.
“And these are the production cars,” I think out loud. “The ones that will be delivered to customers?”
Vinfast was founded in 2017 as a traditional ICE automaker, but it pivoted to EVs in 2021. Amazingly, the company had a drivable prototype by 2022. In a world where legacy automakers take five or more years to introduce a new model, that is an insanely quick timeline.
That timeline will be its downfall.
Vinfast VF 8 range, efficiency, and charging
Let’s get some specs out of the way, shall we? The City Edition, which is the first version due to be delivered in significant numbers on U.S. shores, looks just like the standard VF 8—more on that in a minute—and is offered in Eco and Plus trims. The difference is all in the battery and charging abilities. The standard car’s 87.7-kwh (usable) battery is replaced by the City Edition’s slightly smaller 82-kwh pack.
Both trims are all-wheel drive, but the Eco pushes out 348 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque and has 207 miles of EPA range. The Plus trim weighs 132 pounds more, and it goes bigger on power, at 402 hp and 457 lb-ft of twist, clocking in with an EPA range of 191 miles.
The liquid-cooled battery pack contains 1,175 lithium-ion nickel cobalt aluminum oxide (NCA) cylindrical cells from supplier Samsung SDI. It can accept a peak DC fast-charging power of right around 160 kw, according to Vinfast, enough to go from 10-70% state of charge in 24 minutes or so. If you’re charging at home with a 48-amp Vinfast home charger, it will go the full 11 kw or so for what would add up to a full charge in less than eight hours.
VF 8 performance
Thanks to a brisk sport mode, the Plus scoots from zero to 62 miles per hour in 5.5 seconds. The acceleration doesn’t necessarily make my tummy do flip-flops, but it’s satisfying enough. Expect the Eco trim to be a second slower.
Vinfast partnered with Pininfarina to design the VF 8, but don’t expect classic Italian styling. Sure, the rear looks great with its segmented tail lights and swooping light bar that extends the width of the rear hatch, but the front is a whole different story. The headlamps and daytime running lights look like they are from two different vehicles and just plunked on top of each other. They are definitely giving me Nissan Juke vibes.
Good design may be subjective but good materials are not. There are plenty of hard, chintzy plastics inside the VF 8, especially on the door handles, and the gloss black surrounding the cupholders is already showing scratches. However, the door sills are nicely padded, as is the dash. The door pockets are pretty deep and there is a closable storage cubby to the left of the steering wheel. Unfortunately, the seats are as overstuffed as I am on all-you-can-eat cookie day at Mrs. Fields. They are hard and unyielding, refusing to conform to my own contours. A road trip in this would be a chore.
Now that Vinfast has put me in a car with a fully-functioning suite of driver-assist features, I am off. The gear selector is laid out as a column of push-buttons. It’s an odd choice as many EVs put it on the column stalk, but whatever. You do you, Vinfast. There is no gauge cluster, just the center screen and a head-up display. Maxed out on brightness I can see the information on the display through my polarized sunglasses, but just barely.
Vinfast VF 8 driving impressions
Driving the thing isn’t the worst experience I’ve ever had behind the wheel of a car—that will always be reserved for the Fiat 500L—but I’ve definitely had better. The suspension is a bit soft, there is plenty of body roll through the turns and it’s got more squeaks and whistles than a fanboy at a Taylor Swift concert. The brake pedal has at least a half-inch of play at the top and I feel like I don’t know how much pressure I should apply to stop the car appropriately. I’ve never described a braking feel as numb before, but here we are. Over broken pavement the cabin noise, vibration, and harshness hit highs—and a frequency that hurts my admittedly sensitive ears.
The steering, however, passes muster with me. It’s on the heavy side, which I like. There isn’t much feedback but this isn’t supposed to be a sports car and the quick ratio makes up for it.
There is no one-pedal driving here, but there are two levels of brake regen. The strongest setting will slow the car down appreciably, leaving it to creep at 5 mph or so until the brake pedal is applied.
After talking to other journalists, I gain the impression that my first car wasn’t the outlier, and it seems quality control is all over the map. One had a car that pulled deftly to the right. Someone else’s car rolled backwards on a hill. Others talked about finicky turn signals and some complained about climate control systems that were Canada cold or Sahara hot, despite settings. Our tester didn’t have its navigation enabled nor would it load the karaoke feature I was promised in the press release.
And the thing loves to ding. It will ding for any driving infraction, perceived or otherwise. I turn off the active lane control and speed warning, but it still gives an audible for every traffic sign we pass. Some alerts also push a visual cue on the center screen, but they come and go so fast I can’t read them.
I’m almost relieved when this car also throws a fault code, also on all of its active-safety tech.
Yep, I tried two Vinfast V 8 City Edition cars and both bricked their driver-assist systems. Mind you, the cars were both still drivable, but with a big, fat Service Required icon.
Vinfast VF 8 interior and cargo space
The interface is one of the high points of the experience, with an infotainment system that is well-organized and super-easy to use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are here, and the screen responds quickly with no noticeable lag. Yes, I have to be very precise in tapping those icons, but at least I’m not waiting around for the next screen to appear.
There is plenty of room for folks in the rear seat, even those well over 6 feet tall. The rear seats also recline a bit, taking some pressure off passengers’ rear ends as they tolerate the hard-packed surface.
There is a bit of a problem when it comes to overall utility, however. The VF 8 has 13.2 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, expanding to 48.4 cubes when those seats are folded down. There is room in the frunk for a backpack and some smaller items. The similarly-sized Ford Mustang Mach-E makes much better use of interior space at right around 30 and 60 cubic feet respectively, with a frunk that’s nearly twice as big. The Kia EV6 does better as well with 24 cubic feet of space, expanding to 50 cubes.
Vinfast offers an excellent warranty of ten years or 125,000 miles for the VF 8 and a 10-year/unlimited mileage warranty for the battery. There is also 24/7 roadside assistance. The company has walked back on its previous promises to lease the battery to consumers, but it says that might still be an option in the future should consumers want it.
The 2023 Vinfast VF 8 City Edition starts at $50,200 including $1,200 for destination. However, it is currently only available as a lease and only in California, starting at $414 per month. That’s a pretty low lease price for sure, but this car is not ready to be delivered to consumers.
During my drive I felt like I was driving a pre-production model. The ride quality needs tuning, some of the electronics systems are a mess, and the materials could use a bit of an upgrade. Why Vinfast is intent on rushing this car to market is beyond me. If it would just slow down a bit, take the time to fix the problems we all experienced, it might actually have a decent car. As it stands now, the VF 8 City Edition will do nothing except earn Vinfast a bad reputation, one that might take decades to shake.
- Ford E-Tourneo Courier shows how versatile small EVs can be
- Stellantis-LG battery plant stalls due to lack of Canadian support
- Mercedes-Benz confirms US-bound electric luxury van, potential RV
- Honda puts off-key e:Ny1 badge on mainstream EV for Europe
- Rivian R1S and R1T Dual-Motor deliveries start soon, short wait on some versions