New Volkswagen ID Buzz vs Volkswagen Multivan

Everyone’s buying big SUVs these days, so why not stand out from the crowd? These two versatile Volkswagens will carry a growing family in style, whether you prefer hybrid or electric power...

Volkswagen ID Buzz vs Volkswagen Multivan fronts

The contenders

NEW Volkswagen ID Buzz Style

List price £61,915
Target Price £61,915

Fully electric remake of VW’s classic Type 2 vans from the 50s and 60s. But is it all hype or does it stand up as a more practical alternative to an electric SUV?

Volkswagen Multivan 1.4 eHybrid Style

List price £59,545
Target Price £58,665

Looks like a converted van but actually uses the same underpinnings as a VW Golf. Available in petrol, diesel or (as tested here) plug-in hybrid guise.

Be honest: at some point in your life you’ve thought about buying a classic VW Campervan. Maybe the thought was fleeting, and it possibly wasn’t serious, but there’s something about the iconic van’s simple, joyful nature and the idea of driving to a beach on a sunny day (perhaps with a surfboard on the roof) that you’d need to have a heart of stone not to be seduced by.

Volkswagen ID Buzz rear

The trouble is, owning any classic car has serious drawbacks. Original Type 2 vans from the 1950s and 1960s are now expensive to buy and maintain, and they aren’t exactly a safe option for carrying your family around. And that’s before we come to the lack of modern creature comforts and a driving experience that makes a present-day tractor seem sophisticated.

But what if a car could have much of that charm yet combined it with thoroughly modern sophistication and technology, and perhaps even electric (rather than petrol) power? Well, that’s the idea behind the new Volkswagen ID Buzz. Okay, it isn’t technically a ‘camper’ van – although a conversion will be offered later – but it is a retro-inspired take on VW’s Type 2 vans in the same way that the Fiat 500 is a modern interpretation of the 1950s Cinquecento.

However, VW knows that fully electric cars (EVs) still don’t suit everyone, and the Buzz is currently available only as a five-seater. So, to cater for those who can’t (or don’t want to) live with an EV, and to prevent those who need seating for more than five from shopping in another brand’s showroom, it is offering the more conventional Volkswagen Multivan with two-tone paint (pictured) in an attempt to sprinkle it with some of the Buzz’s stardust.

Volkswagen Multivan rear

Pure petrol and diesel versions are available, but here we’re testing the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model. Pick range-topping Style trim for both cars and they cost about the same – so which one would suit your lifestyle better?


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

With either car’s battery charged up, you can drive around without burning a drop of petrol. However, there’s a big difference in how long you can do this for. The Multivan’s relatively small battery can officially take you just 29 miles down the road, and in our real-world tests (in temperatures of around 5deg C) the range was even more disappointing: just 16 miles.

Volkswagen ID Buzz front

The wintry weather also explains why the Buzz returned relatively disappointing efficiency of 2.4 miles per kilowatt hour (kWh). That works out to a theoretical maximum range of 185 miles – a lot farther than the Multivan can take you on battery power, of course, but well down on the official range of 255 miles.

For some context with other EVs, a Hyundai Ioniq 5 77kWh that we tested on the same day averaged 3.0 miles/kWh, giving it a maximum potential range of 232 miles. That’s the sort of mileage you can expect from the Buzz in ideal summer conditions, when its battery is warm and the air-con isn’t working overtime to keep the interior cosy.

And remember, when that range begins to dwindle, you’ll need to find somewhere to plug the Buzz in. The Multivan, by contrast, simply switches over to its petrol engine to keep you motoring along for as long as there’s unleaded in the tank. And when it’s running without electric assistance, real-world fuel economy is a still respectable 37.3mpg.

Volkswagen Multivan front

The problem with the Multivan is that it drives like… well, like a van. A good one, admittedly – but if you’re hoping for an experience to rival a decent SUV or estate, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

It deals with most bumps in an unsophisticated manner, it’s comparatively noisy, with plenty of wind and suspension noise, and the 12.1-metre turning circle makes it feel rather clumsy in town.

The Buzz, on the other hand, has a tighter turning circle than a Volkswagen Tiguan family SUV (just 11.1 metres). That, and the fact that it’s nearly a foot shorter than the Multivan, makes it far more nimble in town. It’s also far more pleasant to drive in all situations; it’s way quieter and much comfier, plus it feels quicker at low speeds, thanks to the instant shove of its 201bhp electric motor – even though the Multivan starts to edge ahead above 30mph.

Volkswagen ID Buzz vs Volkswagen Multivan noses

The Buzz isn’t remotely sporty, so if you want an EV that’s genuinely agile, we’d suggest looking at the BMW iX3 or, better still, the lower-riding Tesla Model 3 saloon. Compared with most SUVS and the Multivan, though, the Buzz stays more upright through tight twists and turns and responds more immediately to steering inputs.

Next: What are they like inside? >>

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