In-depth reviews

Volkswagen ID. Buzz prototype review

Volkswagen’s first pure-electric van and minibus aren’t hitting the road until much later this year, but things do seem promising on our early drive of the Microbus-inspired ID. Buzz

Volkswagen’s range of ID electric cars is expanding rather rapidly. The ID.3 hatchback was quickly followed by the ID.4 SUV, which was then joined more recently by its ID.5 coupe equivalent. There’s even a selection of hot GTX models in the making.

But the next in line is a little bit different. In the coming weeks, VW will pull the wraps off its ID. Buzz and ID. Buzz Cargo, a commercial minibus and van based on the same MEB platform as its electric passenger cars. That means they’ll get the same battery options and the same electric motors as the models launched to date.

To see what’s in store, Volkswagen invited us to take a late-stage pre-production ID. Buzz Cargo for a drive on UK roads. While the van was still camouflaged inside and out, our outing was designed to give us a feel for the company’s new electric van before deliveries start later in 2022.

Unfortunately on this occasion, the rearmost doors remained locked. Full specifications will be revealed later, but we’ve been given access to a few on-paper stats to give us some idea of how the commercial EV might fare in the real world. At 4,712mm long, the ID. Buzz Cargo is 261mm shorter than a Ford Transit Custom, but 294mm longer than the smaller Ford Transit Connect.

The VW’s long three-metre wheelbase translates to a load volume of roughly four cubic metres, which sits somewhere between the two Fords. Volkswagen claims that’s big enough to take two Euro pallets; the ID. Buzz Cargo will be available either with a single-piece tailgate or split, wing-style doors.

As mentioned, the interior of our prototype was largely disguised with thick felt matting. The only elements left exposed were the seats and two digital displays – one for driving information and another for infotainment.

Those who’ve sat in an ID.3 or ID.4 will find the layout very similar. You sit high, like you do in most vans, but the instrument cluster is almost identical to the passenger cars’, with an evolution of their column-mounted twist-and-go gearlever. The infotainment system hasn’t really changed either, still boasting the ID.3’s fiddly climate controls.

Starting the Buzz up is straightforward, and from the moment you move away, it feels instantly more refined than its petrol or diesel-powered predecessors. It’s free from the usual shakes and rattles you normally notice in panel vans like this; material quality isn’t standout, but everything you touch or interact with feels tight as a nut.

The ride was firm, but rarely brittle – even on our van’s 20-inch wheels. This means it should be comfortable both around town and on the motorway, feeling tied down and well balanced on all but the very roughest roads. It’s worth noting that our test model didn’t have any ballast in the load bay.

Like the smaller ID.3, for now all ID. Buzz variants are rear-wheel drive; dual-motor, four-wheel-drive models will be available at a later date. This, along with the quick steering and impressive body control, makes the van surprisingly agile and fun to drive. Few owners are likely to throw their loaded-up ID. Buzz Cargo down a twisting country road, but it’s pleasing to know it can and will do that should you wish to.

The feeling of general refinement continues right up to motorway speeds, where the Buzz is settled and quiet. It has no trouble accelerating up to 70mph – helped by a healthy 201bhp and 310Nm of torque – and it’ll happily sit there for extended periods, providing there’s enough charge in the battery.

Speaking of charging, Volkswagen hasn’t yet released speed or range numbers, but has said charging capacity will be “in the range of ID. models with the 77 kWh battery.” That suggests a maximum 135kW charging rate, for a 10-80% top-up time of around half an hour from a quick enough charging point.

During our time with the ID. Buzz Cargo, its trip computer was showing a range of 180 miles with 77% charge remaining, meaning 240-260 miles should be achievable in normal driving; indeed, with a lighter right foot and warmer ambient temperatures, getting close to 300 miles isn’t outside the realms of possibility.

Overall then, the new Volkswagen ID. Buzz Cargo builds on what we like about VW’s existing electric hatchback and SUV models, wrapping the MEB platform in a practical and stylish Microbus-inspired body. If Volkswagen can get the numbers right, this could be the first electric van people will buy not just because it’ll save them money, but also because it offers a competitive range, space, charging speed – and so much more.

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