I can’t remember a car I had on test that has generated so much interest and positive comments from complete strangers. The critics agree because it’s already won trophies including the overall Car of the Year at the prestigious What Car? Awards.
Volkswagen has nailed it with its distinctive retro styling, functional cabin, state-of-the-art tech and funky colour palette.
At launch, the ID.Buzz is available as a five-seater minibus or a cheaper commercial version, marketed as the ID.Buzz Cargo Van. In time we can expect seven-seater and camper van versions.
Electric people carrier rivals for the ID.Buzz includes the van-based Mercedes-Benz EQV, Citroen e-SpaceTourer, Vauxhall Vivaro Life Electric, Peugeot e-Traveller and Nissan e-NV200 Combi, plus big SUVs such as the Tesla Model X and Mercedes-Benz EQS.
My test vehicle featured a 77kWh battery pack powering a 201bhp/228 lb-ft electric motor driving the rear wheels.
Sharing its underpinnings with the smaller ID.3 hatchback and ID.4 and 5 crossovers, it has a claimed range of up to 258 miles.
With a charging power of up to 170kW, it’s possible to replenish the battery from 5-80% in as little as 30 minutes (via a rapid 150kw connection), or it will charge to 100% overnight if you have a home wall box.
Inside, it follows the look and feel of Volkswagen’s ID family of EVs, with a minimalist front cabin which features a large central touchscreen and a ‘twisty knob’ gear selector positioned behind the steering wheel.
Unfortunately, just like its smaller ID siblings, this infotainment system is not without faults because too much of the vehicle’s main functionality is accessed via the touchscreen (including climate control), while the touch-sensitive sliders below and on the steering wheel are fiddly.
Even with this frustration, all is forgiven, such is the remarkable success of the ID.Buzz as a package.
Elsewhere, the electrically adjustable driver’s seat is comfortable delivering a commanding driving position, while the amply-glazed cabin itself is light and airy.
For a big vehicle, visibility is surprisingly good, plus there’s plenty of tech to help out in manoeuvres, such as parking sensors and a rear-view camera. What’s more, there’s a turning circle of just 11.1 metres.
My test car also came with Park Assist Plus which can memorise up to five individual parking manoeuvres – such as you backing into your garage. All you do is park up, save the spot, and it will park itself automatically next time.
Further back, the rear seats can recline and slide to either enlarge the cavernous boot or increase legroom if pulled forward.
Future versions will no doubt offer more flexibility and space for a third row of seats. Ideally, ID.Buzz owners want to be able to swivel the front seats around, have the option of a centre table or remove the rear seats altogether.
That said, even with five passengers on board in my test vehicle, there was still 1,121-litres of cargo space. With the rear seats folded and pushed forward there’s a van-like 2,123-litre capacity.
Additionally, plenty of storage spaces are dotted around the cabin, including the clever ‘Buzz Box’ – a removable compartment between the driver and front passenger’s seats.
Access is easy via regular front doors, sliding doors on either side and the large, powered tailgate.
It’s also packed with safety and driver assistance tech, achieving a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating.
On the road, the ID.Buzz is remarkably nimble for its size (L= 4,712mm, W= 2,211mm x H= 1,937mm) and weight (up to three tonnes).
There’s something uncanny about driving a van-sized vehicle with instant torque that can accelerate from 0-62mph in just 10.2 seconds. The look on other drivers’ faces, as you floor it to overtake, is priceless, plus it feels faster than it is.
Of the drive modes on offer, Comfort is perfectly judged for everyday motoring. Eco dulls the driving experience as ever, and Sport is just fine for energy-sapping short bursts of fun. The only noticeable difference between the settings is the responsiveness and output of the throttle pedal.
There’s also a ‘B’ setting on the gear selector, which can be used for higher brake regeneration levels while driving (especially useful on downhill stretches or when braking from speed for junctions).
The ID.Buzz is remarkably agile on twisty country roads, only let down by the brakes which seem to have a lot of travel before they engage. In other words, slowing down requires a little more anticipation and isn’t as smooth as it could be.
The ride is on the stiff side, so it’s not so forgiving on poorer surfaces but, generally, it’s smooth and refined. Considering my test car had huge 21-inch wheels, that’s impressive.
The magic trick is that the ID.Buzz has more in common with an SUV than a van. Add direct and well-weighted steering and it seems to defy physics.
Overall, it’s well-built and free of any annoying rattles and squeaks sometimes found in other van-based electric MPVs.
And for such a tall, high-sided vehicle, there’s very little wind noise, plus the cabin is well insulated from the road.
It’s not all perfect. The real-world range is closer to 200 miles and the launch price (starting at £58,915) is eye-watering. There’s also currently just one model available with two trims (Life and Style), though a flagship GTX will join the range soon, and it will have a dual motor four-wheel drive system.
So, there’s room for improvement, which future versions will address, but ultimately VW has done a great job with the ID.Buzz – a people carrier that puts a smile on your face.
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