What Car? says...
If Bob the Builder weren't hampered by being fictional, the new Volkswagen ID Buzz Cargo might be the van he'd choose to drive.
Firstly, it's an electric van so Bob would be doing his bit to reduce exhaust emissions. Secondly, it looks like nothing else on the road, so the eyes of more potential customers would be drawn to Bob's signage. And thirdly, it lives up to its Cargo name, allowing him to carry all the tools and equipment he might need to fix up the houses of Sunflower Valley.
You might recognise the Buzz Cargo as being the van variant of the VW ID Buzz electric MPV – itself part of a growing collection of Volkswagen electric cars (with plenty more on the way). Unlike with other commercial vehicles, none of its parts are shared with other brands.
That doesn't mean the ID Buzz Cargo can have everything its own way, though. It faces a growing field of rivals, including the Maxus e Deliver 3 and the upcoming Custom variant of the Ford E-Transit. Other potential rivals include the electric version of the similar-sized Mercedes Vito (the eVito) and the smaller Renault Kangoo E-Tech.
There’s only one power option and one battery pack for now – although more options will come in time – and the Buzz Cargo's environmental credentials extend beyond the zero-emissions drivetrain to the use of recycled plastics in the interior.
Keep reading this review to find out how the VW ID Buzz Cargo compares with rival electric medium vans in terms of performance, interior quality, day-to-day usability and, of course, load-lugging ability. We'll also let you know whether it should be on you or your company's shopping list, and whether it has what it takes to be the catalyst that gets more people driving electric vans.
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Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Volkswagen ID Buzz is one of the best medium-sized electric vans to drive, thanks to a combination of power, refinement and comfort.
The 201bhp electric motor drives power to the rear wheels where 229lb ft of instant torque is delivered from a standstill. For a medium-sized van, that’s a lot of power, and while it's limited to a top speed of 90mph, it feels quick for a commercial vehicle. Indeed, it can hit 62mph from a standing start in a little more than 10 seconds.
The steering is similar to the smaller VW Caddy in terms of weight, but it's accurate, and gives you a good sense of what the front wheels are up to.
The handling is particularly good thanks to its wide track and low centre of gravity, with the 77kWh (usable capacity) battery pack located underneath the loadspace. The van’s party piece is its 11.1m turning circle, which contributes to overall manoeuvrability.
In terms of ride, there’s a slight thud over larger bumps and potholes, but this is a heavy van so that’s somewhat expected.
Without any cargo in the rear, the firm suspension means you move around in your seat a fair bit, but it quickly settles down once you start loading up. It’s never uncomfortable, and on the whole, it does a good job of softening off most ruts and bumps.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The inside of the Volkswagen ID Buzz Cargo is a hybrid between VW’s ID electric cars and its other commercial vehicles, so chances are that you’ll feel right at home as soon as you step through the door.
Digital dials put a variety of information right in front of you, while the large infotainment screen sits on the centre console. It offers crisp graphics, but the icons and fonts are quite small, making them harder to read and touch on the move – a downside to everything being controlled by touch instead of a rotary dial. The system can be quite sluggish when responding to your prods.
Unlike the VW ID Buzz passenger variant, which is very jazzy inside, the Cargo feels a bit sterile and bland. Of course, that’s not the biggest issue in a commercial vehicle, but a bit more glamour would help it stand apart from the rivals.
Regardless, it excels when it comes to functionality, giving you plenty of storage space including a large cubby atop the dashboard, multi-layered door pockets, a large glovebox with another open compartment above it and a space to store your phone.
The quality is good too. The seats are comfortable and the screens and touch points feel of high quality, but acres of flat grey plastic are jarring when you consider the funky looks and optional two-tone paintwork inspired by the more conventional VW Multivan.
Visibility is good, thanks to short overhangs that allow you to easily judge the extremities of the van and large wing mirrors. Parking manoeuvres are made easier by standard-fit front and rear parking sensors, and a rear-view camera if you opt for the top-spec Cargo Commerce Plus trim.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
It's slightly larger than the Caddy inside, with a loadspace of 3.9m3, and a maximum payload of 607kg in the Commerce or 592kg in the Commerce Plus. That's slightly less than the best-performing Caddy Maxi van, which can transport 752kg.
That's a modest payload by the standards of the class, and Volkswagen realises it might put off buyers, which is why a smaller battery option with around 100kg of additional payload will eventually be added to the range.
Based on a 2988mm wheelbase, the van measures 4712mm in total, with a width of 1985mm and height of 1938mm. The Buzz Cargo has a total towing capacity of 1000kg.
It comes as standard with three seats in the cab – a driver’s seat plus a double bench seat – but there’s the option of an individual seat for the front-seat passenger.
With its wide interior and no handbrake or gear levers in the dash area around the middle seat, there’s plenty of space width-ways for driver and passengers. There’s also loads of head room (even those way north of six-feet tall won’t touch the ceiling) and plenty of leg room.
In the rear, the Buzz Cargo comes with load rails on the side walls and lashing rings in the floor. To improve storage and ensure that you can always find the charging cable, there's a separate underfloor storage compartment accessible through the side doors.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Volkswagen vans have a tendency to be quite expensive and the ID Buzz Cargo certainly isn’t an exception to that rule. In fact, price is probably its biggest drawback. While there are tax benefits to mitigate against the expensive purchase price compared with a diesel van, it’s hard to rationalise when it costs 50% more than the Maxus e Deliver 3 – which offers much of the same ability for a lot less money.
Putting price aside, you do at least get a whole load of technology with both trim levels. The van’s most advanced system is Travel Assist, which can plot the best route to take with the help of traffic data captured by other similarly equipped VW Group cars.
On top of that, there’s loads of assisted driving kit, including simple lane assist to assisted lane change, which can safely help you switch lanes at a touch of the indicator. Adaptive cruise control is standard across the range, making motorway journeys really easy.
The impressive list of autonomous tech continues when it comes to safety too. In fact, the Buzz Cargo comes with more than 30 assistance systems, including Car2X intelligent car networking, travel assist and an intelligent memory function that will allow you to automatically park the vehicle using previously saved routes.
It has a range of up to 258 miles thanks to its 77kWh (usable capacity) battery. That's among the longest ranges of any electric van. It can be charged at speeds of up to 170kW, which should be enough to get the battery from 5% to 80% in half an hour if you can find a suitably powerful charge point.
When it comes to reliability, VW came 22nd out of 32 car brands in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. ID Buzz Cargo comes with a three-year/100,000 mile warranty, while the battery pack has a separate eight-year/100,000 mile warranty.
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About the author
George Barrow is one of the leading van and truck reviewers, and is the UK’s only representative on the prestigious International Van of the Year jury. He has written about vans and commercial vehicles for the past 15 years, and can be found in titles including The Sun and What Van?, alongside What Car?.
Barrow is well regarded in the commercial vehicle industry, securing access to the latest models – and the people who made them – long before other titles.
The Buzz Cargo can travel up to 258 miles between charges based on official testing, but we'd expect the real-world range to be closer to 200 miles. Read more here
The entry-level Cargo will take a maximum payload of 607kg and the top-spec Commerce Plus 592kg. If you need more space, a smaller battery version with 100kg extra payload is in the works. Read more here
As a commercial vehicle, it wasn’t included in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey but VW as a brand finished 22nd out of the 32 manufacturers. That’s not great. Read more here
Our experts don’t have data for the Cargo, but the closely-related passenger variant is predicted to hold its value incredibly well. Read more here