What's the best EV for reliving the past? | Top Gear
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Top Gear Advice

What's the best EV for reliving the past?

The Volkswagen ID.Buzz's brand of electro-nostalgia is the good old days, but with fewer emissions

Published: 05 Oct 2022

The thing about a nice petrol engined car is that the format is inherently old-fashioned (don’t @ me), it’s a dying format that immediately lends itself to a bit of retro tomfoolery. There’s a long unbroken line of heritage there that a petrol car can draw on, a link you can effortlessly establish. 

Your electric cars, on the other hand, are by their nature forward looking. They speak to a glorious future, they carry the hopes and dreams of an expectant next-generation. They’re supposed to be space age and glamorous, to tickle your technology bone where combustion is all about man’s primeval obsession with fire. 

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A retro electric car? How does that work? Maybe something that carries design cues that hark back to the doomed General Motors EV1, or maybe a New York taxi of 1899 made by the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company of Philadelphia. Did you know that electric cabs dominated New York at the turn of the 20th century? There were over a thousand of them at one point. 

It’s only a matter of time before petrol gets fully cancelled and has to take some time out of the public eye or check into rehab, and the last 100 years or so of car history will become increasingly difficult to celebrate. Oh, you like the clean lines of that original 1950s Porsche 911, do you? That vintage Defender destroys habitats and chokes the bees. Even that cute little first generation Nissan Micra you’ve got the vague hots for is killing the hedgehogs with its unrefined plumes of hydrocarbons. How do you sleep at night? Well, just fine now that you ask. 

There’s one car – the exception that proves the rule – that can retro all night long because we really love it, and that’s the new Volkswagen ID.Buzz (conversely the van version just doesn't work. A retrotastic carrier of stuff just isn't the same enticing prospect. Shove it all in a Transit). Possibly because the original VW Microbus’s petrol engine was such a uselessly miserable shoved-in-the-back afterthought fighting an eternal battle against momentum and gravity that it really makes no odds. It was such a weak performer that if you hit a deer in one you’d merely nudge it across the road. Sure, there was pollution, but here’s a vehicle that pumps out joy into people’s hearts as it rumbles along. 

That laidback approach to life is perfect for switching to electric motivation – if you’re already used to adding on three hours to any sane assessment of a long-distance journey time and happy with driving along the motorway at 55mph then you’re a perfect candidate for the great electron experiment. Even better when the inevitable electric California comes along and you can have a nap while you wait for the thing to charge back up. Or rather snooze while you wait for someone to come and fix the charge point. Let’s have our holiday in this provincial supermarket car park, kids!

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By this point we’re significantly closer to the 2060s than the 1960s and we still don’t have our flying cars. But fingers crossed, eh? If more of us take up flower power then there’s still a chance of a few blooms remaining by the time we get there.

Best EV for reliving the past – Volkswagen ID.Buzz
Price: From £57,115
Range: 258 miles
Engine: 201bhp e-motor
Battery: 77kWh
Top speed: 90mph
0–62mph: 10.2secs
Boot space: 1,121 litres 
Towing capacity: 1,000kg

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