After more than two decades of teasing, Volkswagen has finally reinvented the van beloved by so many communities

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As Volkswagen’s effort to electrify its model range gathers momentum, a new, different and vaguely recognisable kind of electric family car has entered its showrooms, and unlike with other VW ID cars so far (which have spawned Audi, Cupra and Skoda siblings), this one will be VW-only.

After a stronger start, European sales of the supposedly epoch-making VW ID 3 have slowed to around 4000 cars per month (a fraction of those of piston-engined heavyweights like the Golf, Polo and T-Roc). But VW’s other EVs are proving more popular. And with two new entry-level EV superminis due within a year or so, right now the firm is hoping that by ‘going large’ and adding greater diversity to its zero-emissions range, it can tempt families with active lifestyles – and some with longer memories and more sentimental tendencies, perhaps – to convert.

The Buzz’s name is a play on that of VW’s famous Type 2 ‘Bus’ of 1949, which inspired a cult following that lasted decades and permeated popular culture widely.

The VW ID Buzz, says the brand, is “the new face of future-orientated, sustainable family mobility”. In principle, and leaving aside how it’s powered, it’s a five-seat, full-size monocab MPV of a kind that found favour on our roads 20 years ago but has since fallen out of it. Call it a ‘minibus’ if you like, but it’s unlike key rivals, because it adopts a relatively sophisticated passenger car platform rather than being adapted from a commercial vehicle.

You might be more inclined to call it a ‘microbus’, of course, or a ‘hippy van’. The Buzz’s name is a play on that of VW’s famous Type 2 ‘Bus’ of 1949, which inspired a cult following that lasted decades and permeated popular culture widely. So can the new Buzz achieve something similar, so many years later, for a new generation?

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Range at a glance

The ID Buzz range will fill out extensively over the next 24 months, with long-wheelbase, four-wheel-drive and California-style camper versions already mooted. But for now, the choice is between the Cargo commercial version (2+1-seat cab, black bumpers, low equipment spec) or the passenger version, which is offered in three trim levels: Life, Style and 1st Edition.

Life spec gets digital instruments, Discover Pro nav, wireless device charging and adaptive cruise control as standard. Style adds ambient cabin lighting, a multi-flex boot board load-bay divider, IQ Light LED matrix headlights and 20in alloy wheels.

Volkswagen ID Buzz Cargo Commercialid b 77kWh201bhp
Volkswagen ID Buzz SWB Life Pro 77kWh201bhp


02 VW ID Buzz RT 2023 gentle corner

The success of the design of the ID Buzz can be judged on several different bases, so let’s start with the obvious one: is it a worthy modern successor of the Type 2?

The car’s outline and its primary design features – oversized VW roundel on the bonnet, almost full-length glasshouse, evocative styling of the D-pillar – are references to its ancestor executed neatly and studiously enough to make the effect land without the car becoming a laboured pastiche.

The slats on the Buzz’s D-pillar pay homage to the Type 2’s engine ventilation gills. Like its ancestor, the Buzz is driven from the rear, although its electric motor is less thermally needy.

The bigger problem is that size and proportion prevent the new car from being a perfect match for the old one. At a little over 4.7m at the kerb, the Buzz is nearly half-a-metre longer than its 1949 template and the better part of a foot wider. It also has a wheel-at-each-corner stance, rather than the cutesy inboard wheelbase of the Type 2.

So while VW may argue that the Buzz is a perfectly sized modern family utility vehicle (bridging the small- and medium-size van classes and fitting within a modern marked parking bay and under a typical multi-storey car park height restrictor), it doesn’t quite do the packaging conjurer’s trick that the Microbus famously managed. The Buzz just isn’t really very ‘micro’. You won’t ever see a five-a-side football team emerge from one or enough stuff produced for a week’s camping trip and wonder how all of it was packed in.

The car is available in short-wheelbase form only for now, powered by a single permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor that’s mounted between the rear wheels and draws power from a lithium ion drive battery with 77kWh of usable capacity.

Passenger car and Cargo commercial vehicle versions are offered, the latter with either a liftback-style hatchback or side-hinged rear doors. The passenger car is five-seat only for now and the Cargo is a 2+1-style three-seater with a middle jump seat.

A long-wheelbase version is expected later this year and will offer private owners up to seven seats and business users even more loading space (the regular Cargo can swallow two standard-size Euro pallets). A larger drive battery will be offered in the LWB version too, with more than 110kWh of capacity. Dual-motor four-wheel drive will be added later as well.

Making all this possible is VW’s MEB platform, which puts the Buzz on the same mechanical footing as the ID 3, ID 4 and ID 5. So beneath it all, this is a passenger car, not an adapted van. It uses all-independent suspension (Cargo versions get stiffer rear coil springs to handle the extra load bay weight) and as a result stands to make at least some hay on ride and handling compared with its commercially based rivals.

How much difference will that really make, though, on a vehicle that weighed in within a whisker of 2.5 tonnes? We’ll see, but it’s worth recording that the diesel-engined VW Transporter van was almost 400kg lighter when we tested it last year.


11 VW ID Buzz RT 2023 dashboard

A great many buyers will look to the interior of the ID Buzz for a return on the car’s high showroom price by way of space and versatility. And in some respects they’ll find both, but VW certainly hasn’t thrown very many added-practicality features in here as standard.

For now, the Buzz is a strict five-seater with an open floor. VW offers a removable centre console called the Buzz Box, which fixes to the floor via four clips. Our test car didn’t have it, but that left the way clear to pass easily from the front to the back row of seats – a welcome route of egress for those in the front, since the sheer width of the Buzz can leave you with little space to open the front doors when parked in a typical parking bay (where the sliding rear passenger doors can often be opened much more easily).

It’s a sizeable step up into the driver’s seat, in which you sit bent-legged and upright, with plenty of room around you and generous head room in particular. Visibility is good and seat comfort is likewise. VW’s choice of lighter cabin materials (synthetic leather is used in place of the real thing, and recycled plastics and textiles are adopted where possible) confounds the workaday ambience you might be expecting. Cabin storage is moderately well provided but isn’t as abundant as it might be (likewise to avoid that van vibe, we would guess; no newspapers or tools kept on the upper dashboard, please).

Boarding means stepping up into the driver’s seat, which gets twin armrests on Style trim. Upholstery is dark grey or two-tone yellow, orange, green, blue or brown.

The instrumentation and secondary controls are adequately well thought out, if a little odd. The downsized digital instrument screen behind the steering wheel gives you just enough information about speed, remaining range and assisted driving systems settings, although it could certainly do that at a more easily readable scale.

The transmission controls, meanwhile, are on the right-hand indicator stalk – another slightly regrettable decision, because if they had been accommodated on a controller of their own (on the side of that instrument binnacle for example, as they are on an ID 3), then operating the wipers, indicators and lights might have felt more intuitive. As it is, it all takes just a little relearning.

In the back, the second-row seats slide and recline, but they don’t tumble forwards and they can’t be removed. Neither can the front seats spin around like captain’s chairs. All tricks missed, in our jury’s collective view.

In the cargo bay, available space is pretty generous, but folding the rear seats only gives you a fully flat loading area by virtue of the removable ‘multi-flex’ boot board, which effectively raises the boot floor. You can load beneath this, but leave it in place and you’ll only have the accessible maximum loading height (for the easy carrying of bulky outdoor equipment, for instance) of a big SUV.

Multimedia system

16 Vw id buzz rt 2023 infotainment 1 0

The strengths and irritations of Volkswagen’s Discover Pro navigation and infotainment system are now well known to the Autocar road test team; in one form or another, it has probably appeared in 20% of our road test subjects over the past two years. In the ID Buzz, it comes with a three-year We Connect Plus data connection for music streaming, connected destination searching and smartphone-based app functionality. Wireless device charging is standard, likewise wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.

The system remains distracting to use, the menu shortcut buttons under the screen being a poor substitute for a proper manual input device and the ‘haptic slider’ ventilation and volume controls proving unintuitive and impossible to find after dark. A cursor controller on the steering wheel spokes would make a big difference, would be easy to fit and would reduce the time you spend with an arm outstretched, groping for the function you need.


20 VW ID Buzz RT 2023 driving shot performance

The ID Buzz is a modern utility vehicle that targets comfort and versatility. It’s responsive and has great drivability but, in standard single-motor form at least, doesn’t really go beyond the performance level of a familiar diesel-engined mid-sized commercial vehicle.

Perhaps you wouldn’t expect it to. (The original Type 2 peaked with a 40bhp flat-twin engine and would do 65mph flat out.) But that doesn’t mean the modern VW Bus isn’t pleasant to drive. It has commendable refinement and isolation, picks up speed crisply and smartly around town and feels urgent enough up to about 50mph.

The Buzz has one of those automated ignition systems that automatically shuts down the car when you get out. (Because it’s electric, there’s a danger you could leave it running otherwise.) The drawback? You find yourself deactivating things like lane keeping assistance twice as often.

Thereafter, it begins to feel more like its size and weight and labours just a bit at faster motorway speeds. Even so, that it hit 60mph from rest in 9.5sec in damp test conditions suggests it’s a touch quicker in the real world than VW’s performance claims would have it (0-62mph in 10.2sec); and proving capable of 30-70mph in 9.1sec (compared with 9.0sec for the Transporter 2.0 TDI Sportline), it can evidently keep going towards three figures with reasonable urgency when you need it to.

There are limited options for you to choose coasting and battery regen preferences for yourself. You can select a ‘B’ mode if you want maximum trailing-throttle regen – while by picking the less sporting driving modes, you can set the car to better conserve momentum if you prefer, although not quite to coast without any regeneration at all.

The ID Buzz accrues and carries plenty of kinetic energy when it’s running along, though, and all the more with a load on board, so a ‘maximum coast’ efficiency driving mode that trims regen right down to zero might better allow you to get optimal efficiency. Other EV makers do offer one. And optimal efficiency and range are likely to remain concerns for plenty of ID Buzz drivers for a while yet.


21 VW ID Buzz RT 2023 front corner

So is this where VW’s decision to base the modern Microbus on a passenger car platform and not a commercial equivalent pays dividends? To an extent, yes – but you’ll have to be a little bit choosy about exactly where you address that question in order to get the answer that VW would want.

The ID Buzz is a surprisingly wieldy, manoeuvrable and composed drive when nipping around urban environments, and it maintains respectable body control out of town. It’s settled and stable on the motorway and fairly quiet.

But it’s a vehicle with a natural speed limit on country roads, and its sheer mass will come to the fore very readily if you seek to carry a bit too much speed. When push comes to shove, the Buzz handles more like a van than a passenger car, because it’s heavy and high-sided. So gently nudging into understeer in a way that a comparable SUV probably wouldn’t is ultimately how it remains stable and secure.

Wheel sizes start with a 19in rim (standard on Life trim) and rise through 20in to 21in – all with a chrome and black two-tone look and all with Airstop run-flat tyres as standard.

The steering feels passenger-car pacy (having 2.9 turns between locks and plenty of available steering angle). So despite its size, the car is easy to swing around junctions and roundabouts.

Body roll is well resisted at town speeds, meaning occupants aren’t thrown around during normal driving on better surfaces, and head toss is effectively minimised.

Seek out a rougher road and the ride becomes more animated, though, with just occasional hints of crudeness from our test car’s optional 21in wheels. Contact with the ground is always maintained, and while wheel dexterity feels in short supply at times, vertical body movements are seldom allowed to run totally out of control.

But, put simply, your passengers won’t be comfortable if you’re driving in too much of a hurry – and will probably tell you as much. Stay within the well-telegraphed comfort zone, though, and they ought to be as happy as they might be in almost any passenger car of similar size.

Comfort and isolation

21 Vw id buzz rt 2023 front corner 0

Three numbers illustrate the key advantage that the ID Buzz offers here. Our noise meter recorded 63dBA of cabin noise in the car at a 50mph cruise. The last Land Rover Discovery Sport we road tested (the D180 SE in 2019) was only a decibel quieter, while that crew-cab Transporter 2.0 TDI Sportline van that we tested in 2022 troubled the sensors all the way to 71dBA at the same cruising speed.

Evidently, this vehicle really can be compared with a modern SUV for refinement and it can be expected to be much quieter than rival commercial-based offerings. The electric powertrain operates almost noiselessly; there’s very little resonance from the boxy body structure; and while there is some wind rustle from around the mirrors, pillars and door seals at motorway speeds, road noise is well filtered. Although our test car’s 21in wheels thumped occasionally over sharper edges, they didn’t ruin the air of calm overall.

Comfortable seats and plenty of cabin space complete a convincing showing on this section. In respect of touring manners at least, the ID Buzz really does pass muster as a modern, fairly luxurious family car.

Assisted driving notes

24 Vw id buzz rt 2023 assisted driving 0

The ID Buzz comes averagely well provided with driver assistance technology. Adaptive cruise control with speed limit detection, basic lane keeping assistance, AEB crash mitigation and semi-automated parking systems are included on lower- and upper-grade cars. Adding surround-view parking cameras, Travel Assist traffic jam cruise control and Side Assist automated lane changing means paying £1425 for VW’s Assistance Package Plus (which our test car didn’t have).

The adaptive cruise control has a habit of slowing the car for vehicles in adjacent lanes on the motorway. It detects posted speed limits reliably, but if you want the car to slow in advance of a new limit (rather than only when actually passing the sign), there’s a separate function to engage. The lane keeping system is broadly unobtrusive but still best left off away from the motorway.


01 VW ID Buzz RT 2023 lead driving

For now, the cheapest ID Buzz starts just above £57,000. The forthcoming Pure car (with a simpler equipment specification and a smaller drive battery) might drive that figure down a little, but this is never going to be a strict rival for the similarly sized, electric van-based MPVs offered by the likes of Citroën, Peugeot and Vauxhall.

Those unwilling to ascribe significant value to the VW’s zero-emissions sustainability, design appeal, refinement, carrying space and superior range compared with key rivals are unlikely to easily justify that cost, but for those who do, for now at least, the ID Buzz is almost in a class of its own.

Our testing suggests that, during longer-distance touring, owners should expect a usable battery range of a little under 200 miles. That’s a little shy of VW’s claim but a way over what rivals offer – and close enough to the going rate for a lot of family EVs as to bear comparison.

Spec advice? Stick with Life Pro trim but add the Assistance Package Plus (£1425), two-tone paint (£1800) and Comfort Package Plus (£675, which includes the boot board).

On our new DC rapid charging test, we were disappointed to see charging speed tail off markedly well below a 50% state of charge. Even so, the average rate of charge was still broadly competitive.

Id buzz charging test


25 VW ID Buzz RT 2023 static

Few new cars have been previewed and teased quite as often as Volkswagen’s ‘new Type 2’ has over the past 20 years. And now that the VW ID Buzz is finally with us, it’s unlikely to disappoint, whether you’re a VW Camper devotee or more of a casual convert who likes the idea of versatility-first electric family motoring.

Except, perhaps, if you were expecting a more typical commercial vehicle price. There’s no denying its steepness of this car’s asking price. For our test car’s £69,000 after-options price, you could have a top-of-the range BMW i4 M50 sport saloon or almost two bottom-rung Citroën ë-Spacetourer MPVs.

It’s a little debatable if the ID Buzz offers enough clever cabin modularity to justify that price, and its performance and range, while better than key rivals’, aren’t particular selling points. But its refinement, drivability and quietly upmarket cabin ambience can be depended on to please owners just as much as its cheery outward appearance surely will.

Some might have preferred a more genuinely small and cleverly packaged modern Microbus, others simply a more affordable one. But even critics could easily warm to it.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.