First Drive Review – 2023 VinFast VF8 City Edition – VinFast’s First U.S. Model Has Potential But Is Marred By Flaws

It’s no secret that Vietnamese company VinFast is facing an uphill battle when it comes to carving a slice of the sales pie for itself in the BEV SUV market. The company is part of the larger VinGroup corporate umbrella, but while the corporation has managed to make waves in its home country, it faces a tougher job of convincing Americans to embrace an EV future from a brand that does not have as much brand cache as rivals like Tesla. Despite this, the company is pressing forward with their first U.S. model, the 2023 VinFast VF8 City Edition. But does the BEV have what it takes to help launch VinFast into the forefront of the automotive market? Or does it come up short? We were keen to find out, especially after getting a brief ride in one at the New York Auto Show .


VF8 Exterior Styling Boasts Italian Connection

VinFast reps we spoke with during our time in California claimed that the VF8 benefitted from being a blank slate for stylists, with the company enlisting the services of Italian styling house Pininfarina to help craft the exterior. The styling here is distinctive with the front and rear lighting curving into the prominent “V” logo at the center. The handsome looking front lighting is split in two with the daytime running lights being on top while the lower portion houses the formal headlights. The end result mixes weirdness with handsome creases and as a result, the VF8 has a relatively balanced look to it especially compared with others in its segment. The VF8 is also on par with rivals when it comes to size with the five-seat SUV being bigger than a Volkswagen ID.4 and the Ford Mustang Mach-E.

The 20-inch wheels on the Eco Plus models that we drove looked pretty sharp too. While the look as a whole is not as futuristic as a Tesla Model Y or even a Ford Mustang Mach-E, The VF8 has a certain degree of traditional SUV cues baked in its design which might please buyers that don’t want to draw excess amounts of attention with their EV purchase. We were also impressed with the paint colors that VinFast had on hand with the Crimson Red paint on our tester drawing plenty of stares from curious locals. Other colors we recommend include Deep Ocean Metallic, Sunset Orange and even VinFast Blue Metallic. Darker colors are also available for those that prefer to blend in with the crowd.


Interior Promises Comfort But Under Delivers

With the exterior doing its best to be stylish to the eyes, VinFast claimed that it used the interior to showcase their commitment of delivering comfort and technology to buyers. Unfortunately while the cabin (at least in theory) has the tools and features to fulfill these promises, in practice it woefully underdelivers in multiple categories. The seats are too firm and they lack lower back support. That’s a shame since the rear seats do offer an impressive amount of leg and knee room with the passengers even having the ability to recline back if they wish. Fold them down and the expanded cargo space allows the SUV to haul a full load of groceries or other items. The rear also comes with three charging ports with two of them being reserved for mobile devices while the middle one is a 90-watt port that can rapidly charge laptops.

A prominent part of the cabin is the massive 15.6-inch infotainment system that dominates the central part of the dashboard. Like Tesla’s equally massive unit, the screen here in the VinFast serves as a central hub for various features and owners will have to use the screen to access a wide array of features. The screen itself is neatly organized and the menus are logically placed. However, we did notice large gaps of lag when navigating around and there was also pixelation in the rear back up camera image. The screen also jams some items in that are best left to formal analog buttons like the mirror adjustments, the tilt steering wheel and even controls for the heads-up display. That said, the 360-degree backup camera was helpful and made up for the terrible rear-visibility.

In addition we also noticed some rather unusual quirks during our time with the VF8. For example, on startup, the digital speedometer in the screen (no formal instrument cluster here) would rapidly climb up to 300 mph before going back down to 0 mph.


Highly doubt the @VinFast US and @VinFast Vietnam #vinfastvf8 can indeed hit #300mph but we’ll give the #speedometer an A for #ambition #staytunedformore #suvs #suvsoftiktok #vinfast #evsoftiktok #evs #fyp

♬ original sound – Carl Malek

We suspect that VinFast wanted to mimic the gauge sweep seen in some analog units, but we’ll admit seeing a number that hyper cars are still trying to reach appear in a much slower BEV was amusing. The radio in our tester was not working either, but pairing our phone with Android Auto did reveal a stereo that’s competent but nothing earth shattering either in terms of sound quality.


Commendable EV Powertrain Hobbled By Bad Suspension Tuning

VinFast revealed that shipments of the VF8 Standard model are on their way to the U.S. but for now, the bulk of VF8s in the U.S. are City Edition models that the company shipped over sometime ago to try and get them to customers as soon as possible. These models come with a dual-electric motor setup that produces 348-horsepower in base City Edition Eco models while ritzier Plus models like our example make a beefier 402-hp from their setup. These figures are on par with others in its segment, and the dual-motors in our example delivered impressive amounts of acceleration especially in Sport mode. However, a smaller 82-kWh lithium-ion battery pack (the standard model gets a bigger 87-kWh pack) forces owners to work with less range with Plus models getting 191 miles of range between charges while the base model gets 207 miles which is in stark contrast to the 264 miles of range that the standard model gets in base form with Plus versions getting 243 miles.

But while the dual-motor setup provided plenty of grins at stoplights, the VF8 balanced it out by having perhaps the worst suspension tuning that we have ever experienced in a EV. The steering had no feel whatsoever and the rear suspension in our tester had a tendency to bob and flail about when presented with moderate bumps. The hill hold system also proved to be inconsistent and there were occasions where our tester actually rolled backward down inclines when moving away from stoplights. That said, we were pleased with the creep-forward feature that behaved as you would expect in other EV offerings with our only gripe being that the amount of regenerative braking is adjusted via the screen (we prefer traditional paddles). VinFast is also banking on the VinFast App which will play a key role in customer engagement thanks to its numerous features and the supposed ease of use.

The bulk of our complaints though were focused on the ADAS system in the VF8 with the sensors and other assorted audible tones making the VF8 feel like you were sitting in an old-school pinball machine. A more prominent offender though was the Emergency Steering Assist system which was too sensitive and would intervene in instances when it wasn’t even needed. VinFast claims that the bulk of these items will either be fixed or updated with OTA updates, but it’s disconcerting when a key safety feature behaves in such an erratic and unpredictable manner especially on a production ready vehicle.


Value Quotient

For the moment, the 2023 VinFast VF8 City Edition is only available in California and buyers can’t buy the SUV outright and are instead limited to a lease plan. VinFast reps claim that a base City Edition Eco has a $414 a month payment but that goes against some of the company’s prior releases that stated a figure of $399 a month. Meanwhile, a Plus version like our test example will set buyers back $449 a month (or $528 a month depending on which press release you read.) VinFast also originally talked about offering an unusual battery leasing plan, but after several failed attempts to get it off the ground, the company has decided to put it on ice for now while it works with its financial arm on a way to get it out to customers.

As it stands, the 2023 VinFast VF8 City Edition is simply not ready for prime time against the segment’s best. The Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model Y offer a more polished presentation and technology that’s leaps ahead of the VF8, while the Ioniq 5 EV beats it in interior quality with the gap in price in between the two being relatively small. That said, we are also willing to give VinFast the benefit of the doubt here for now. Launching a car brand in the U.S. is a tough endeavor especially for a Vietnamese upstart few have heard of. The bulk of the City Edition’s problems were also created by rushing it to customers too fast, with VinFast not having enough time to iron out all the flaws. We hope that the VF8 Standard models (which are on their way to the U.S. as we write this) will be a more polished presentation, and perhaps be a better representation of what VinFast is truly about as an EV brand.

In the meantime, the company is doing its best to win the hearts of customers thanks to a number of initiatives that aim to make the ownership experience easier. They include a 10 year/125,000 mile warranty for the VF8 itself as well as a separate 10 year/unlimited mileage warranty for the battery pack. In addition to the pair of warranties, 24/7 roadside service is also available and the company will give City Edition owners the option to move into a Standard Edition model if they choose to. The company is also expanding its presence in California and Canada but wasn’t ready to reveal how it plans to expand into the rest of the country, especially in states like Michigan where tough “anti-Tesla” laws make their direct sales model not work like it does in California. The pace of expansion will be come more important over the next few years as the company prepares to launch the VF9 flagship SUV as well as the smaller VF 6 & 7 models.