Proves the folly of SUVs. This is more spacious, more comfortable and easier to drive than any pretentious 4x4. Useful hybrid option
Interior spoiled by VW’s awful infotainment. Would you rather wait for the all-electric ID Buzz?
What is it?
It’s the car formerly known as the Caravelle: VW’s van-mit-windows. But the Multivan, despite its name and place in the Volkswagen range, ain’t no humble van. Oh no. It’s gone all upmarket and thinks it’s a car now.
Instead of sharing a body with the VW Transporter panel van, the new Multivan actually rides on the same MQB platform that underpins the likes of the VW Golf, Tiguan and, indeed, VW’s latest Caddy van.
That means it should not only offer more car-like road manners, but VW can offer a wider suite of engines and technologies. Which is why, for the first time, VW’s minibus can be specced as a plug-in hybrid.
In Europe, the Caravelle remains on sale, but in the UK, it’s been completely replaced by the Multivan. Relax vanists – the Transporter and all VW's commercial vans continue as is. Run an airport shuttle company? This is your new people hauler.
But it still looks like, well, a van.
Albeit one with a bit more ‘design’, no? Like the latest Golf, the front features slender headlights and a lightbar motif either side of the VW badge. The grilles are body-colour and relatively slimline – it’s certainly riffing off the upcoming VW ID Buzz, which will move the world of Volkswagen vans into the fully electric age. And looks a lot cuter.
You can have cheery two-tone paintwork with a waistline colour split if you want to channel your inner ice-cream salesperson, and the selection of alloys are cooler than is offered on a Golf these days.
It’s a well-proportioned thing, but thanks to a request from Caravelle owners that the car should be able to access low-roofed parking garages, the overall height of the Multivan is 43mm lower than the old Caravelle. It’s also wider to the tune of 37mm, and the wheelbase is a whopping 124mm longer than before.
Length-wise, you’ve two choices. The standard L1 and the longer L2, which has the same wheelbase but tacks on 200mm to the rear overhang, to eke out more rear seat room and a bigger boot. Both versions have sliding doors on both sides and a top-hinged tailgate to the rear.
Give me a quick engine lowdown.
Easy: there’s no turbodiesel until summer 2022, which tells you how far TDI is up Volkswagen’s priority list. Choose from a 1.5-litre turbo petrol with 134bhp or a 2.0-litre petrol good for a heady 204bhp. The headline act is the plug-in hybrid, which teams a 1.4-litre petrol engine and an e-motor with 13kWh of battery to call upon. This results in 215bhp when they’re both awake, and up to 31 miles of electric range when the rowdier partner heads to the land of nod.
You can’t have a manual anymore – all versions get DSG twin-clutch automatics, though it’s six gears in the e-hybrid and seven everywhere else. And thanks to the auto-only policy, the gear selector is now a dash-mounted switch, not a chunky lever. This frees up stowage space, and makes the interior look cleaner.
What's the verdict?
The Multivan is really a new catch-all replacement for the old Sharan and current Touran MPVs as well as a true minibus. And there’s no doubt that moving it onto a proper car platform has greatly improved comfort and available technologies. The hybrid system works passably well for most driving situations, ride, refinement and road manners better the van, and the cabin is slightly more upmarket. It’s pretty much as versatile as the Caravelle, but despite the outward growth, is slightly more pinched inside. VW is gradually conquering its current infotainment woes, but if you have CarPlay or Android Auto, use it.
And then there’s the matter of pricing. The T7 Multivan starts at £43,258 (the headline figure is £399 a month), but if you want a hybrid with Style-grade trinkets, you’re at £60,000 before you know it. With the Multivan, VW is confidently forging a path back to the MPV, it’s the ID Buzz, not this, that will make vans cool and buyers flock.