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The latest in VW’s long line of Transporters is car-based but still capacious

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Things diverge now that we have reached the ‘T7’ stage of the Volkswagen van’s life. This, the T7 Volkswagen Multivan, is one of three commercial-type vehicles that replace the T6 VW Transporter. Another is the all-electric VW ID Buzz and the third will be a VW/Ford joint van venture.

Those are both, in different ways, significant tangents from the otherwise steady lineage that has brought us to here, and leave this T7 Multivan as the only VW with a direct, unbroken model-line heritage dating back to the firm’s air-cooled, rear-engine origins.

Two-tone paint turns the heads of enthusiasts, but apparently adds months to the Multivan waiting list.

The first ‘T’ van was the Type 2, developed after VW’s workers took a Type 1 (Beetle) chassis and rudimentarily modified it, placing a useful flat bed on top for moving parts around the factory. VW’s Dutch importer, visiting, saw the potential of this ‘Plattenwagen’ and sketched a consumer-ready version in 1947. Production began in 1949.

As the Beetle moved from being perceived as austere, cheap, utility motoring into the charming, sun-kissed love bug, so too did the Type 2 (T1) Microbus. As, to a lesser extent, did the T2, T3, T4, T5 and T6 Transporters that followed. Look more closely at today’s vans and a high proportion of the modified or family-used ones are modern VWs.

Which brings us to the divergence of the latest generation. The true utility VW van will, presumably, be the commercial-focused joint venture with Ford. The overtly cool variant draws on the ‘ID’ theme, the electric Buzz, with a price that starts with at least a five and which, despite its van-ishness, was recently named What Car? magazine’s Car of the Year.

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And then there’s the subject of this week’s road test, the only model of the three with T7 officially in its job description. Will it inspire people the way the original did 76 years ago?

Range at a glance

There are two trim options on the Multivan: the base Life variant and this plusher Style derivative. Life is available with the 1.5 petrol, 2.0 diesel and plug-in hybrid, badged eHybrid. Style, meanwhile, gets the diesel and hybrid but the petrol option is a 2.0, not the 1.5.

Style commands an £10,000-plus premium over Life and all variants are available as standard length (as here) or extended rear overhang, at a £1350-£1710 premium.

Volkswagen Multivan 1.5 TSI134bhp
Volkswagen Multivan 2.0 TDI148bhp
Volkswagen Multivan 1.4 TSI eHybrid215bhp
Volkswagen Multivan 2.0 TSI201bhp


7-spd dual-clutch automatic (TSI, TDI)

6-spd dual-clutch automatic (PHEV) 


02 Volkswagen Multivan RT 2023 front corner

That ID Buzz isn’t the only pricey thing in the VW range. This T7 Multivan, starting at £43,720, may have the group’s MQB car architecture beneath it – a platform that underpins everything from an Audi A3 to a Skoda Superb – but here it’s applied to cavernous effect like never before.

There are two lengths of Multivan. This is the shorter, but is still 4.97m long, 1.94m wide and 1.90m tall, with a 3.12m wheelbase. Spend around £1500 more and there’s an extended, 5.17m-long variant with an extra 200mm of rear overhang. The dog might thank you, but parking spaces won’t.

The beauty of a sliding door is not only the size of the aperture but, given the T7 is nearly two metres wide, you can walk from the driver’s seat to exit the car through it in tight parking spots.

Suspension is by coil springs all around, with MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear, and passive dampers (an adaptive chassis with lowered springs is an option not fitted to our test car). The front doors are conventional, the rear doors slide to open (electrically on higher-trim models) and the single-piece tailgate rises from its top hinge (ditto on the electric front).

There are two trim levels, which help to define which petrol engine you get out of a varied line-up. All are mounted transversely up front for front-wheel drive, mated to dual-clutch automatic gearboxes.

With the entry Life trim there is a 1.5-litre turbo petrol with 134bhp, but in higher Style models this becomes a 2.0-litre turbo petrol with 201bhp instead. In both trims a 2.0-litre diesel is offered with 148bhp. This and the petrols drive through a seven-speed gearbox.

Then there is this plug-in hybrid, badged eHybrid, which pairs a 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine with a 114bhp electric motor, for a combined 215bhp. It drives the front wheels through a six-speed gearbox while beneath the floor lies a 13kWh battery, for an official electric range of 29 miles.

The T7 fits in VW’s commercial vehicle range but all variants are currently, as we will see, effectively passenger cars, and taxed as such.


09 Volkswagen Multivan RT 2023 dashboard

Our Multivan is in its highest spec and has then had some more options added. But all variants get the same level of practicality and versatility – and it’s of the sort that evangelical owners will tell you you’ll never go back from.

Let’s start up front at the business end. There are two large broad chairs, electrically adjusted, with a relatively chilled upright driving position and a steering wheel at a conventional car-like angle. Most of this architecture’s hardware is sited between the driver’s seat and the front axle, and it is impressive that it’s flexible enough to sit in both a low saloon but also an almost two-metre-tall van that you step up into.

It’s very easy to get comfortable, there’s clear space around the seats because the gear selector is high on the dashboard and there’s a huge windscreen, albeit with wide metal around the A-pillar and quarterlight. The van’s sides are flat and the mirrors and windows are large, so it’s one of the easiest 5x2m cars to wield around tight car parks.

Rear sliding doors can be opened and closed from these buttons on the dash. If that’s an essential part of your routine, you will want the higher-spec trim level.

Material fit and finish is high – light surfaces, going heavy on carpet or soft feel, and even an approximation of wood across the dashboard. But, then, the before-option price is nearly £60,000, which will bring an expectation that you’re not just paying for the space inside it.

Storage space up front abounds. There is no shelf by the roof in which to lose reams of paperwork, but each door has two pockets and there are two gloveboxes and fold-down cupholders on the dash with a device tray above. Then there’s a sliding console that can be dragged to between the seats that has more storage, or can be used as an armrest – although each front seat gets a pair of those anyway.

The rear of the cabin is as you want to make it. It is carpeted and there are three pairs of rails running the length of the 2300mm volume. Our test car has five seats back here, but you can spec fewer. They all remove (but, at 15kg or so, they’re not light), as does that storage cubby, which can be raised and has fold-out tables in its top. You can place the seats either way around, and then they slide the length of the rails too. So if you want just four chairs back there as an office away from home or executive transport seated around a table, all facing each other, fill your boots. Or you can pile in all the seats and a herd of kids.

As a result of that flexibility, we have not listed minimum/maximum rear leg room measurements because you can have none or, with legs extending between the front seats, nearly three metres of it. But if you have the driver’s seat in a typical position, both rows two and three can have 715mm of leg room with still a small boot behind. Even with the front chair as far back as it will go, there’s 660mm for rear occupants.

Behind the third row there’s a luggage shelf and, with that in place and the seats in front of it, 469 litres of space back there. That extends to 1844 litres behind a second row in a fairly typical position, with a maximum space of 3672 litres with all the seats out (4053 litres in the longer version). As importantly, the minimum width of the tailgate opening is 1200mm, and its height 1160mm. The side doors open broadly, too, with a low step just inside them, and give great access.

There are two things to note. There isn’t an underfloor cubby for the charge cable, so that will sit in there somewhere. And all but the centre-rear chair is right- or left-handed, so you will have to put them in their correct side to ensure seatbelts – mounted to the chassis, not the seats – sling across them properly.


17 Volkswagen multivan rt 2023 infotainment 0

Volkswagen’s infotainment system – and particularly its heating and ventilation controls – is among the most annoying in the business. That’s especially true of this latest-generation set-up, given the heating and volume controls are both sited just where you would want to rest your palm to touch the screen. So you end up bracing your fingers on the dash or the screen top like you’re playing a particularly tricky snooker shot. And those buttons don’t light up in the dark.

If you want to adjust the heated seat, you push the heated seat (or climate) button, which opens up another menu. So while the icons are big and the driving assistance graphics are cute, and you can change the interior colours through a few sweet choices, it’s a fiddle to use overall. We suspect many will wind up mirroring their smartphones.

And yet there are things to like, such as the £1080 Harman Kardon sound system, which sounds terrific.


21 Volkswagen Multivan RT 2023 engine

This isn’t what the car is about, but the plug-in hybrid Multivan is a respectably brisk performer. At our test track it took itself from 0-60mph in a distinctly unshabby 8.4sec, so if your van experience is mostly a hired Luton box van for moving house, don’t worry that you will be sitting in an inside lane on inclines trying to coax enough out of it notto be nudged by an artic. This is an executive car.

It’s largely a quiet one, too – very obviously so under electric power alone at low speeds, which is the mode it defaults to when you start. We will come back to how that works because, as usual with PHEVs, there’s a lot of maths. But the short of it is that it will try to propel itself electrically by default, but by a flick of the driving mode switch you can tell it to drive as a hybrid, either depleting battery charge as you go or holding a level of charge to use later – say, in town where you want to run tailpipe-emissions-free.

The T7 has the most pronounced bonnet of any Volkswagen van/Transporter, adding a car-like familiarity for those moving from MPVs, and some pedestrian-friendly crash structure.

Either way, a flick of the gear selector can put it in ‘D’, in which case most shifts are imperceptible – as is, under light load, the fact that the engine cuts in and out. Under heavier loads when the engine cuts in, you will absolutely know about it. Not because it’s especially noisy, just because volume and acceleration receive an uptick. Should you want, you can pull your own gears via the shift paddles, although it hardly ever seems worth it. Flick the gear selector down again if it’s in ‘D’ and it will go to ‘S’, so it will hold lower gears if left to its own devices, or refuse kickdown and run into the rev limiter and stay there if you pick your own gears. But beyond the novelty, there’s no real benefit.

Braking power is fine for a big car with a lot of weight behind it (officially 2243kg at the kerb). But brake modulation is odd: on lift-off, the car’s deceleration seems to depend on speed limits and conditions, so sometimes it will coast and sometimes slow more notably, making you think about slowing it more than you should. It’s well short of dangerous but it can be annoying, with seemingly no way to get consistency from it. The Multivan’s towing limit is 2000kg.


23 Volkswagen Multivan RT 2023 front cornering

Of the two parts in this section it’s the second one that’s the most important, you would have to think, given this is nearly a two-metre-tall box. But one does beget the other, and on a demanding road the Multivan behaves pretty tidily. It steers smoothly and slickly and, at three turns between locks given the turning diameter is 12.1m, is relatively direct. Accurate, too, and moderately responsive. Basically, totally fit for purpose.

It does not have the last word in body control, but that’s to be expected given the body height and mass, that it wears 55-profile tyres for comfort and the kind of car it is. But there’s quite a capable car underneath it all, not exactly fun to punt down a stretch of road, but if you’re late for football training, it won’t elicit screams from the back on that nice bit of B-road before you get into town. Stability is fine but remember what it is: there’s ESC to calm things down in an emergency, but the front end should wash out before its height becomes a worry.

Comfort and isolation

24 Volkswagen multivan rt 2023 rear cornering 0

For vans, it’s usually what’s inside that counts, but the T7’s car-derived platform and electrified powertrain make it surprisingly composed and comfortable on the move.

Those generous tyre sidewalls and an easygoing suspension set-up make the Multivan a simple car to mooch around in. The ride is pliant, the seats are big and the cabin noise is generally low. But this is a big volume, and given the nature of the seats – removable, with several-metre-long sliding mechanisms to put them in – perhaps inevitably you do end up with some resonances, especially given the engine can join or leave the conversation and excite things as it sees fit.

What we are saying is that generally this is a refined car – as our noise level meter suggests (see p38) – but there’s just the occasional reminder of some boom in a vehicle like this that a saloon or an estate car would resist. On the plus side, it’s one of the better automotive environments in which to let sounds develop, and some of our testers think it has the best-sounding hi-fi this side of a Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Assisted driving notes

Volkswagen multivan rt 2023 assisted driving

Flick a button on the dashboard – it’s haptic and not so easy to find without looking closely at it – and you can pull up a screen on the dash that shows what driving assistance the VW gives you. It’s presented as a rather nice graphic – tap it, and you can switch on and off.

The Multivan uses the latest-generation VW touchscreen software, for better or worse (mostly worse), but it is an iteration that means switching the lane keeping assistance off is a simple push on the end of the indicator stalk, followed by a confirmation via the ‘OK’ button (a physical button) on the steering wheel. Drivers of other VWs, where it’s buried in this menu, aren’t so fortunate.

Most of the time you will want it off, too – it’s a fussy system that nags at the wheel on a country road and gets thrown where two lanes become one or by long marks of tar


01 Volkswagen Multivan RT 2023 lead driving

And so to the maths, then. In terms of buying, this is not a market segment awash with competitors, so if you want the additional space over an estate or SUV, here you are.

But as so often is the case with plug-in hybrids, what result you get from this drivetrain is dependent largely on how you use it.

Life is generally well-equipped as a base model. It keeps you the right temperature and has privacy glass (handy for security). We doubt we would miss the nav (it links to a phone anyway) but we would miss a heated windscreen. We don’t mind opening doors ourselves, either.

On the front-right flank is the power inlet, which on a 7kW domestic charger takes only a few hours to charge from empty. From 100% charge, on test the car estimated it would do around 23 miles on EV power alone. But in February and suburban conditions, so some 30mph, 40mph and 50mph roads, we saw 14 miles before the engine kicked in.

With a battery depleted, the Multivan will do anything from 35-40mpg; we averaged around 37mpg. But with a fully charged battery and if told to go into hybrid mode directly, there is perhaps a more useful outcome. Over 45 miles before the battery flattens, the car returns around 55mpg.

Now, obviously electricity isn’t free, but sometimes it is cheap, and often generated renewably, so whether the PHEV is the right variant totally depends on your use case. The more urban or suburban driving it will be asked to do, the better the case for it, one imagines, if the tax implications haven’t already won the argument in its favour. The PHEV’s official CO2 emissions are 41-43g/km, while the 2.0 diesel is 170-175g/km and the 1.5 petrol 180-185g/km.

Elsewhere, VW is fair to middling in most customer satisfaction and reliability surveys; in our experience, commercial vehicle service centres are at least as pleasant as car ones; and the Multivan is expected to retain more of its value than its key competitors.


25 Volkswagen Multivan RT 2023 verdict static

Spend a bit of time with the Volkswagen Multivan and it’s easy to see why so many owners who start down the path of having a van evangelise about never going back. Partly one suspects it’s because of the classlessness of them – unlike most SUVs or sports cars, you can take them anywhere you like and not be judged for it – but ultimately there’s nothing to beat the versatility of a commercial vehicle with windows. In most cases, the best ‘lifestyle’ vehicle is a van, not a 4x4.

The Volkswagen Transporter has always been the genre’s archetype and the current-generation T7 Multivan comes at it from a different direction. Rather than being a van platform turned into a car, it’s a car platform turned into a van. But the net effect is similar: this is a relaxed, easygoing cruiser with a hugely spacious and practical interior. Only because of the architecture it uses, it has all of the capability to be equipped with the latest driver and safety assistance hardware and software. They give it a pleasingly luxurious edge; the volume provides some less welcome fizz and boom. And the net result is the mostly happy compromise you would expect.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Volkswagen Multivan First drives