What Car? says...
Retro cars done right can be a huge hit, and the latest model to play the nostalgia card is the Volkswagen ID Buzz. It harks back to the loveable looks of VW's Type 2 campers – something that’s especially obvious with a two-tone paint job.
An awful lot has changed since the original Type 2 first put-putted its way into the hearts of millions in the 1950s, of course. The VW ID Buzz rides the wave of popular interest in electric cars and all versions run on a near-silent motor powered by a sizeable battery pack.
Under that cute body, the ID Buzz uses the same platform and ‘engine’ as the other electric Volkswagens (including the VW ID 4). That replicates the way the Type 2 used the mechanicals of the first Volkswagen known to most by its nickname: the VW Beetle.
You already know we rate the VW ID Buzz because it's our 2023 Car of the Year but is it right for you, and how does it compare with rival models you might be considering? That's what we'll tell you in this review.
We've scored it in all the important areas – from performance and handling to practicality and running costs – and can tell you how it stacks up against the BMW iX3, the Jaguar I-Pace, the Tesla Model Y and others.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The VW ID Buzz's 201bhp electric motor allowed it to manage 0-60mph in a respectable 9.5 seconds. That's quicker than the VW Tiguan 1.5 TSI, but nowhere near as quick as the Jaguar I-Pace or the Tesla Model Y.
The Buzz feels nippiest at town speeds, where it can squirt away from traffic lights and on to roundabouts with surprising gusto. Acceleration tails off noticeably above 40mph, although you won't have any issues with outside-lane motorway driving – it's very happy sitting at the speed limit.
The 77kWh (usable capacity) battery pack under the floor gives the Buzz an official range of up to 260 miles (depending on trim level and wheel size). You won't get that far in the real world, though: a Buzz Style managed 236 miles from a full battery in our summer electric car range test.
Suspension and ride comfort
Supple suspension means occupants are jostled around far less than in a Model Y. In fact, ride comfort is one of the Buzz's strongest attributes, even with optional 21in alloys (the largest available).
There's just enough float to iron out undulations on faster A-roads and motorways but not so much that your passengers will feel nauseous. Thanks to sophisticated damping, potholes and other nasty road scars are dealt with in a composed manner, too. Despite its boxy shape, it feels more like a big car than a van in this regard.
It's hard to judge from the photos, but the Buzz is slightly shorter than a BMW iX3 or Tesla Model Y. It also has a relatively tight turning circle of 11.1 metres (smaller than the Tiguan's), making it surprisingly easy to manoeuvre in urban environments.
It's not remotely sporty to drive, though. If you want an electric car that’s genuinely agile, we’d suggest looking at the iX3 or, better still, the lower-riding Tesla Model 3.
Still, with the heavy batteries mounted low in the floor, it means the Buzz stays relatively upright through tight twists and responds more immediately to steering inputs than the VW Multivan. There's plenty of grip, too.
All things considered, the Buzz is a thoroughly pleasant car to waft around in.
Noise and vibration
The ID Buzz is super-easy to drive and, with no gear changes to worry about, is particularly relaxing when mooching about in traffic.
The regenerative braking automatically adjusts its strength according to the road layout and traffic, but only when you select its 'B' mode, which sees relatively aggressive braking when you take your foot off the accelerator. With a bit of anticipation, it's possible to drive around town without using the foot brake.
In 'D' mode, it'll coast when you come off the accelerator, which makes it easier to maintain speed if you're on faster, flowing roads.
The brakes themselves are predictable and allow you to slow your progress smoothly. In some electric cars, including the I-Pace, the brake pedal lacks any real feel, making it easy to inadvertently apply too much braking force.
The Buzz is quiet, too: all you hear as you set off is the pedestrian warning sound. At faster speeds, road noise takes over, and there's a bit of wind noise over the wing mirrors. On the whole, though, it's far more peaceful than the Model Y.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
Squint in the Volkswagen ID Buzz and you could easily believe you’re driving a Range Rover – an effect that's enhanced in the Style model by the slender adjustable armrests on either side of the seat. You sit much higher up than in similar-priced electric alternatives, including the Jaguar I-Pace and the Tesla Model Y.
In fact, the driving position in the Buzz would be close to perfect were it not for VW’s obsession with fiddly touch-sensitive controls. You’ll find them on the dashboard for the heater controls, on the doors to adjust the mirrors and on the steering wheel.
If you choose one of the bright two-tone exterior paint options, you'll get an interior colour scheme to match, which adds real impact but is quite expensive.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
With huge expanses of glass and upright pillars, the ID Buzz gives you a view out that a modern SUV could only dream of. It doesn't feel at all daunting on the road and you’re always confident where the extremities of the car are.
It helps that there's only a small bonnet projection to judge, and you get front and rear parking sensors as standard, along with a reversing camera to give you extra peace of mind. Still, with the driver so close to the front of the car, judging those front corners requires a bit of getting used to.
Full LED headlights come as standard, while top-spec Style trim introduces matrix alternatives that alter the light’s beam pattern to avoid dazzling other drivers. That's a world away from the original VW Type 2, with its 6V electrics that provided all the illumination of a pair of glow-worms.
Sat nav and infotainment
We haven't tried the 10in touchscreen that comes as standard with the ID Buzz, but it's effectively the same as the one in the VW ID 3. It has plenty of features – including wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay – but it's not the most user-friendly system out there.
If you upgrade to the Infotainment Package Plus, you get a 12in touchscreen with some online functionality but the same unintuitive layout. We don't think it's worth the extra cost.
All models have a convenient slot near the indicator stalk to charge your phone wirelessly. There are also two USB-C sockets and a total of seven USB-C sockets.
You won’t find as much soft-touch plastic in the ID Buzz as you would in a similarly priced electric SUV. Most of the bits you touch regularly, including the steering wheel and armrests, feel suitably upmarket, though.
There are lots of interior personalisation options, with no fewer than eight colour schemes available, depending on the exterior paint colour you pick. That helps the Buzz feel remarkably light, airy and cheerful inside – even if you'd be hard-pushed to describe it as "luxurious".
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The VW ID Buzz is the ultimate box on wheels. And that's not only because of the exterior shape, but also because of the flat floor. Other than the seats, and the removable 'Buzz Box' storage unit between driver and front passenger, there are no obstructions to impede interior space.
There are plenty of storage areas in the dashboard, including a wireless charging slot just to the left of the steering wheel and a door in the middle of the dashboard that pulls down to reveal a couple of cupholders.
As you'd expect, there's more than enough head and leg room in the front to accommodate two exceptionally tall people.
For the moment, the Buzz is only available as a five-seater, but a longer version with seven seats is due to join the line-up later in 2023.
Although it's a little disappointing that there aren’t three individual rear seats and that only the outer two have Isofix mounting points, because of how broad the Buzz is inside, carrying three burly adults side-by-side, let alone three kids, will be no issue at all.
There's far more rear leg and head room than you'll find in any similar-priced electric SUV, along with an incredibly light and airy feel thanks to the tall (but non-opening) side windows. The biggest convenience feature, though, is the sliding rear doors; these can even be electrified if you're prepared to pay extra.
Seat folding and flexibility
The 60/40 split rear bench slides back and forth and the seatbacks can be reclined or folded down – although the seats can't be removed entirely like they can in the VW Multivan.
It's also worth noting that the BMW iX3 and some other electric SUVs have 40/20/40 split seats for added flexibility.
The Buzz has an utterly enormous boot, offering 1,121 litres of storage space. That’s much bigger than any SUV’s – even a Range Rover’s. We managed to fit an incredible 16 carry-on suitcases below the load cover. For context, an iX3 can take eight cases and the I-Pace manages seven.
In entry-level Life trim, the Buzz has an annoying step in the floor of the load bay when you fold down the rear seats.
The Style version eradicates that with its standard Multi-flex board – a shelf that partitions the space, allowing you to store smaller items under the main boot. It can be removed by undoing some bolts but you'll need somewhere indoors to store it.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
On the face of it, the Volkswagen ID Buzz seems very expensive for a "van with windows", but here's the thing: it's not actually a van. It sits on the same underpinnings as the VW ID 4 and although you can get the windowless VW ID Buzz Cargo version, that's more of a trendy company vehicle rather than a real workhorse.
Besides, incredibly slow predicted depreciation means you'll get a lot of your investment back when you decide to sell.
It also means monthly PCP finance repayments are respectable – often cheaper than for equivalent electric SUVs, such as the BMW iX3 and the Jaguar I-Pace. Those two do use the energy stored in their batteries more efficiently, though.
The Buzz can charge at up to 175kW from a suitable CCS charging point, for a 10-80% top-up in as little as half an hour. A full (0-100%) charge using a regular 7kW home wallbox will take around 12 hours.
Equipment, options and extras
There are only two trims levels: Life and Style. Life comes with a decent amount of equipment, including 19in alloys, adaptive cruise control, climate control, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.
We'd recommend paying a bit extra for Style trim, though. It adds larger 20in wheels, a powered tailgate, additional ambient interior lighting, matrix LED headlights and the Multi-flex boot board.
Other than two-tone paint, the only option we'd recommend forking out extra for is the 230V interior plug socket. At 300W, it's not powerful enough to boil a kettle, but it could be useful for charging up your laptop – or perhaps powering an air pump for inflating beach balls.
The ID Buzz was too new to feature in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey but the VW ID 3 has similar mechanicals and scored average marks compared with rival electric cars.
Volkswagen finished 22nd out of 32 brands in the overall manufacturer league table, above Mercedes and Audi, but well below Hyundai and Kia.
Safety and security
The ID Buzz was awarded five stars out of five for safety when it was appraised by Euro NCAP. It scored particularly high marks for child-occupant crash protection, but was also praised for its protection of adults.
To help you avoid an accident in the first place, all versions come with automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist protection, lane-keeping assistance and road-sign recognition.
The optional Assistance Package Plus adds blind-spot monitoring a self-steering function to keep you in the centre of your lane on faster roads.
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Officially, the ID Buzz can do up to 260 miles on a full battery charge. In the real world, expect between 180 and 230 miles, depending on how cold it is and other factors.
Its top speed is 90mph – quicker than you're ever likely to need to go. Acceleration is strong at low speeds, making the ID Buzz feel faster than its 0-60mph time of 9.5 seconds would suggest.
|RRP price range
|£59,035 - £64,795
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|Available doors options
|3 years / 100000 miles
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£118 / £129
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£236 / £259