Volkswagen Multivan eHybrid review
The latest generation of Volkswagen's iconic minibus now sits on a passenger-car platform and offers plug-in hybrid power
- Handsome looks
- Very practical and versatile
- Smooth ride and decent handling
- Pretty expensive
- No eight or nine-seat option
- Infotainment system niggles
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||30 miles||157mpg||TBC|
The vehicle that UK buyers have known for years as the Volkswagen Caravelle can trace its roots back to the iconic 'split-screen' VW Type 2 van of the 1950s. Now, for the first time in the model's history, the passenger isn't based on the same underpinnings as the cargo model. And in another first, it's available with an electrified powertrain.
The current Volkswagen Transporter van (known as the T6) is set to continue on sale for some time, before being replaced by a sister model of the next-generation Ford Transit Custom. For the T7 generation of the passenger version, however, there's a wholesale change. Firstly, it's based on the same 'MQB' platform that underpins many of VW's current passenger cars, including the Golf hatchback and Passat saloon. Secondly, the Caravelle name has been retired in the UK in favour of the Multivan moniker that has long been used in Europe.
It goes on sale in spring 2022, and while exact UK pricing and specifications have yet to be confirmed, we have now had the opportunity to drive the final production version of the new Multivan eHybrid in the model's home country of Germany, fitted with VW's familiar 1.4-litre eTSI petrol-electric plug-in hybrid engine. Here, it makes 215bhp, falling between the 201bhp output of the Golf eHybrid and the 242bhp made by the high-performance Golf GTE. That's sufficient for a claimed 0-62mph time of 11.6 seconds – adequate but hardly punchy. The petrol engine is pretty noisy, too.
The Multivan is 1.94 metres wide and 1.9 metres high, while two different body lengths (4.97 and 5.17 metres) will be offered – although it's not yet certain both will come to the UK. Likewise, the full engine range (which includes 1.5 and 2.0-litre TSI petrols and eventually two flavours of 2.0-litre TDI diesel) may not make it here, either – but we do know for certain that the plug-in hybrid setup of our test car will.
On the practicality front, sliding doors on both sides of the car are standard, as is a seven-seat setup, with two seats in the second row and three in the third. The middle pair can be rotated 180 degrees for a conference-style layout, while a multifunction table on tracks can be moved to any row. The seats themselves are easier to adjust and remove than before, partly thanks to weighing 25% less than those in the previous model.
The more utilitarian eight or nine-seater layouts available with the Caravelle are not on offer this time around. Cargo volume can be up to 3,672 litres if you remove both rows of rear seats (4,053 litres with the longer body length), dropping to 1,844 litres if you fit just the second row and 469 litres with all seats in place. There are also plenty of storage bins dotted around the cabin.
Like other Volkswagen models using the 1.4-litre plug-in hybrid powertrain, a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is standard on the Multivan eHybrid. In addition, its 13kWh battery stores enough power to cover around 30 miles in zero-emissions, fully electric mode. On the road, whether you're running on the electric motor or the engine, smoothness and comfort are the order of the day – although the boxy body shape does give rise to more wind noise than a smaller car would generate at high speeds.
The optional adaptive dampers deliver a more sophisticated driving experience than the old van-based Caravelle could, however that model's suspension setup has been retained as the standard fitment for the Multivan, so there's still something of a van-like nature to how it drives. The steering is also very light and offers hardly feedback to the driver. While that's a downside on a twisty country road, in combination with a tight turning circle it does mean the Volkswagen is very easy to manoeuvre around town.
In its home market of Germany, the Multivan eHybrid starts from just over €57,000, which equates to just under £50,000 at the time of writing. Confirmation of UK pricing is still to come, but the model is expected to start from around £55,000 here. Its most obvious rival is the Ford Tourneo Custom PHEV, which comes in closer to the £50,000 mark, offering a slightly less upmarket finish and image than the Multivan, but seating for up to eight. Hybrid seven-seater SUVs such as the Toyota Highlander, Lexus RX L and Kia Sorento PHEV may also be a consideration, although none will match the sheer versatility and carrying capacity of the Multivan.