For once, the clue is within the name. Multi for multi-purpose. Van for van.
Our best large car, Volkswagen’s T7 Multivan, is an intensely practical vehicle, as demonstrated by the fact that you’ll find it listed among Volkswagen commercial vehicles rather than the company’s passenger car line-up, even though this seven-seater effectively replaces VW’s earlier MPVs. But its merits are not only that it’s big.
It's one of three vehicles, alongside the Volkswagen ID Buzz and a forthcoming Ford Transit-platform van, which could equally lay claim to being the spiritual successor of the original Type 2 Volkswagen microbus.
That this one goes by the suffix T7 tells you it’s the one that VW thinks best continues the famous lineage, with all of the obligations that come with it. Not only should a T-something vehicle be spacious, but it should have the character that Volkswagen has historically imbued into the previous generations of its flat-fronted carriers of people and stuff, during its 74-year history.
The Multivan manages it. It can’t be easy, giving a van character, when the natural shape of these things means flat sides, flat rear, and a relatively flat front. But Volkswagen has increased the visual appeal of the T7, giving it a characterful face and a high-quality allure. Twin-tone paint with a chrome strip, factory fresh allure aping aftermarket individuality, no doubt helps.
That it’s built on a car platform, rather than a van one, enhances the appeal in other ways.
Sure, the initial aura when you slide open those big rear doors, swing up the huge tailgate or even take a step up into the upright front seats, is one of commercial-grade practicality. Three pairs of rails in the back allow seats or tables to be slid, rotated, folded or removed completely in an unbeatably useful style.
But to drive the T7 owes a huge amount of its refinement and comfort to the fact that there’s an advanced car architecture beneath this rolling wardrobe, giving it a cabin isolation and a road demeanour that, while a little short of, say, a Golf or an Arteon, is better than anything with this kind of cavernous echo chamber inside really should be.
It's also had an effect on the perceived quality. In passenger cars – especially ones with the starting prices of the Multivan – one expects better interiors than on commercial vehicles, and here you get it. There are generous equipment levels, high-grade materials and an executive car feel. That’s quite right given the Multivan’s rivals are precisely those – well-appointed estate cars or SUVs. That it’s as pleasing to be around as those, while offering unrivalled practicality, makes it easily our best large car this year.