With the new VW ID.Buzz set to be revealed in March, we hit the road in a prototype version and find there is plenty to be excited about.
There are few shapes quite as iconic as the Volkswagen Type 2 van. The original Mini, perhaps? The Fiat 500? Regardless, the Microbus is recognised the world over, with a cult following stretching from Byron Bay to Baja California.
VW has tried time and again to recapture the magic of the Type 2. No fewer than four concepts have surfaced since the turn of the millennium, the most recent of which will morph into the production-ready ID.Buzz, due for reveal next month.
But to get an idea of what’s in store, and whether the Buzz is a true reincarnation of the legendary Bulli, Volkswagen invited us to try a late-stage pre-production prototype on UK roads.
The ingredients are familiar – the ID.Buzz uses the same MEB platform as cars like the VW ID.3, Skoda Enyaq and Audi Q4 e-tron, as well as the same batteries, motors and much of the same hardware and software. Early models are all rear-wheel drive, though like the Enyaq and Q4, all-wheel-drive Buzz variants will be available later.
The version we’ve been given the keys to is an ID.Buzz Cargo – a Ford e-Transit-rivalling panel van with wing style doors at the back and three seats up front. A passenger model also launches in March, which loses fixed bulkhead, adds glass all round, plus extra seats in the rear. Production for both variants starts by mid-2022. An ID.Buzz camper variant is expected at some point too.
Unfortunately, as the van is yet to be revealed, certain aspects have been kept under wraps. We’ve no official information on charging, for example, and the interior stayed covered even during our drive; the only holes in the thick felt matting were designed to give us visibility of the infotainment screen and the digital driver’s display.
This set-up is almost identical to the one you’ll find in the ID.3 hatchback. The screen is angled towards the driver, but still lacks the responsiveness and familiarity of the systems you might find in a modern Kia or Hyundai. Like in other ID. models, the climate controls sit beneath the display, and are fiddly to use.
You sit high, just as you would in most commercial vehicles, with a commanding view of the road ahead. Rearward visibility is restricted – as it is in almost every van – due to the lack of side or rear windows. You can still exploit the tight 11-metre turning circle, however, thanks to the standard-fit reversing camera.
Around town, the Buzz feels firm but controlled. Even on 20-inch wheels (larger 21-inch wheels will be available) it doesn’t rattle or shake as you might expect a vehicle of this type to do when traversing speed bumps or potholes. Even as a late prototype it feels remarkably well screwed together, with impressive refinement at all speeds.
Up the pace and you’ll be impressed by the way the ID.Buzz handles. Being rear-driven you always get the sensation you’re being pushed rather than pulled, while the 150kW and instant 310Nm of torque make it feel genuinely quick – especially with an empty load bay.
It’s agile, too. The steering is quick and grip is good. There’s very little body lean for a vehicle so tall, and the short front overhang means it’s easy to place the van exactly where you want it. It certainly didn’t feel any sloppier than the passenger cars on which it is based.
Our comments about refinement ring true even on the motorway. We found the ID.Buzz genuinely comfortable at 110km/h, both in terms of suspension travel and noise suppression. It has no trouble reaching these speeds either, and overtaking is a cinch.
While an official figure has not yet been produced, it looks like you may not need to worry about range either. The trip computer on our van was showing around 290km with 77 per cent charge remaining – suggesting a range of almost 400km should be achievable in normal driving. For context, the now discontinued Volkswagen ABT e-Transporter had an official range of just 130km.
Again, to be confirmed, we expect the ID.Buzz to be capable of 135kW rapid charging – at least as an option. That should mean a 10-80 per cent charge in just over half an hour at a point that powerful, or around 13 hours from a 7kW wallbox. We understand both larger and smaller batteries than the 77kWh van we drove will be available in time.
Volkswagen Australia is yet to detail when the ID Buzz might arrive here, although first, it will most likely launch mainstream ID models, such as the ID 3 and ID 4 due locally around 2023.
Prices and specs will be revealed in the coming weeks for the ID Buzz in Europe, at which point we’ll be able to properly assess its load area and carrying capacity, too. However, at 4.7m long and almost two metres wide (plus a near-3m wheelbase) Volkswagen claims the Buzz will carry two euro pallets; overall load volume stands at nearly 4m cubed. Big, but not a patch on the smallest Transit Custom’s six cubic metres.
The Volkswagen ID.Buzz feels like one of the first pure-electric vans people will want to buy not just because it will save them money, but because it’ll be easy to live with. We expect a long range, fast charging, impressive performance and decent versatility. Its design will undoubtedly win a few hearts too.