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Long-term review

Volkswagen ID. Buzz - long term review

Price: £62,995/£66,607/£680pcm
Published: 01 Feb 2024
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auf Wiedersehen, VW ID. Buzz: is the ownership experience as bright and sunny as the car itself?

Farewell ID.Buzz. It’s gone to a better place, to live a life in and around the Lake District. We don’t normally own the cars we review on Top Gear, they’re loaned to us by car firms for around six months. But on this occasion I put my money where my mouth is. I loved – and still love – the Buzz. The way it looks, the way it drives, what it represents, the design of the driving environment, the fact it’s not just another SUV. But in the end none of that was enough.

It's a van chasing a car audience. And that’s fine if you’re coming to it from an estate, MPV or SUV. This is bigger, brighter and flat-out better, fun to be in and around. But I wanted it to be a van, with all the clever versatility and thoughtful design of VW’s own T6 variants. And even now, after the announcement of the long-wheelbase Buzz, that’s not there. That surprises me. It should have launched with more intelligent touches, with chairs and tables tucked neatly into secret places, with storage solutions and tucked away torches. It should have been packed to the gunnels with innovation.

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Instead it’s got less surprise and delight features aft of the driver compartment than your average Skoda. The boot is just a great big void. Great for holiday hauling, but where are the load dividers, the built in features? Is VW intending for aftermarket suppliers to come up with these options? But even putting that to one side the passenger seat layout, just a 60:40 split bench, shows a staggering lack of imagination. Any 20 year old MPV is more versatile. And don’t get me started on the hopeless flip-up tray tables. VW can do and has done so much better itself. Witness the current Multivan. That’s got a more versatile interior. Why hasn’t the Buzz?

I’ve talked about all this before, and it contributes to why the Buzz isn’t the right car for me now. There are other small issues. The tailgate sweeps over such a large arc that if I attach a towbar bike rack I can’t open it, and the boot hinges and struts aren’t strong enough to have a tailgate mounted rack fitted (the same applies to the Multivan). I’m annoyed I didn’t spot that First Editions don’t come with electric sliding doors and the infotainment system is still unengaging/frustrating to use.

Funnily enough the range wasn’t an issue – although it would have been if I’d kept hold of it for much longer. Recently Sam Philip drove the Skoda Enyaq vRS I ran before him to France on holiday, stopping every 100 miles for electric. I can’t conceive of doing that, I have nothing like the necessary patience. And that’s assuming the charging infrastructure doesn’t let you down. Buzz efficiency crept up to around 2.3mpkWh, and 160 miles between charges. Just about enough to do day trips to the coast, distant hills or cities. Under 1.9m tall, it fits in multi-storeys by the way. But cross-continent stuff? No way. I’d have to charge at the Chunnel and about five times just to get myself past interminable Northern France. It would take days.

Nothing about the way it drives did anything to put me off. At that it was everything I wanted it to be and more. Swift, stable, secure, simple to operate, refined and well insulated. A world ahead of regular vans. Great seats, a panoramic view out, probably the best driving environment of any family car.

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But when it came to practicality it just didn’t feel to me like the Buzz had been shown a lot of love. VW had done the exterior beautifully, made the forward cabin delightful, but then shrugged and left the job unfinished. I now doubt the Buzz’s future. Will they turn it into a California camper? That looks less likely since they announced a California version of the Multivan. And don’t forget VW and Ford are partnering up to build electric vans. Where does that leave the Buzz? Is it destined to be a one-off, a hype machine that trades substance for style?

I don’t regret the ownership experience for a moment. Not least because I sold it for a small profit. There was huge hype around the ID.Buzz with a waiting list over a year long. I’d got my order in ridiculously early so when I turned round to sell it after a few months there were plenty of people willing to jump the queue. I looked at selling it through forums and online auction sites, but eventually went with Auto Trader. Boy there were some people chancing their arm on there, asking upwards of £80k for delivery mileage examples. They weren’t shifting, that's what I noticed.

Now, with all the misplaced negativity around electric cars, values are down around the £60k mark. I sold RJ72 HBP roughly in the middle of that gap. Even with today’s values the Buzz is still losing less than an equivalent Discovery 5 or Volvo XC90. And I was sad to see it go, pined after it for about a week, had full on jangling regrets and palpitations on a couple of occasions.

But to answer the question we came in with - is the ownership experience as bright and sunny as the car itself? - my opinion hasn’t changed. As I said earlier I’d rather own and drive the Buzz than any SUV. Vans are seen as trade and commercial vehicles, but those who have them, like me, find them brilliant for personal use. I therefore loved the idea of a more sophisticated one. But not if it meant compromising on practicality. That was my line in the sand. It might not be yours. And if it isn’t, go for it. Because otherwise the Buzz is wonderful.

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