There is little doubt that the VW ID.Buzz is the most warmly welcomed car we’ve driven in years.
Some premium models generate nothing but animosity. Big SUVs provoke the ire of many passersby. Brightly-coloured city cars often draw sniggers.
The Buzz garnered nothing but smiles. Truck drivers gave thumbs up (and, yes, we looked twice to make sure it was the thumb). A waving jogger on a Saturday morning barely avoided running into a tree due to her fondness for our luminous yellow Buzz. Even bikers – both motorised and pedal-powered – were universally positive.
There is no doubt that this is a cynical marketing exercise by the German car giant, hoping to tap into the rich vein of nostalgia for the Type 2 Transporter, second only to the Beetle in characterising the initial ethos of the “people’s car” brand.
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But like that other marketing-led revival of the Beetle, the ID.Buzz isn’t aimed at providing mass transport for the masses; this is priced for the well heeled. We come back to the price in a little while.
First let’s consider the car itself. The all-electric five-seater minibus features a 150kW electric motor powered by a 77kWh battery pack that delivers its power to the rear wheels. It’s largely the same underpinnings as the rest of the ID range of cars, most closely related to the popular ID.4 crossover.
VW claims a combined WLTP range of 409km for our Max version of the Buzz, but both the onboard computer and our own experience suggests the figure to be closer to 300km. And that was largely driving the Buzz without a full coterie of passengers and family cargo, which will certainly impact on range.
A bigger battery version is on the way – probably for 2024 sales – but that is likely to feature in the seven-seat version.
It’s remarkably nimble for its size; despite measuring in at over 4.7 metres it certainly proved its capabilities in a few ridiculously tight car parks in Dublin during our time in the test car. With a height that’s 4mm below the 1.9 metre limit of many car park roofs, it also caused the odd intake of breath as we limboed under the entry barriers.
Those dimensions do have an impact on the driving characteristics and while many will like the high seating position, it quickly shows its van DNA, for all its tight turning prowess.
VW has dialled down the normal pacy acceleration of electric cars, so you don’t get any of the sudden surges of power that throw everyone into the headrests when you floor the throttle. That will be appreciated by the passengers and a more sedate pace is more in keeping with the Buzz’s character.
You might be lured by the cute looks, but you buy a Buzz for its space. And it has loads. The boot offers up a whopping 1,121 litres, while retaining ample legroom in the second row. The Buzz features only two Isofix child seat mounts in the second row, though I’m assured you can fit two full-sized child seats and a booster seat across the rear bench, something the ID.4 can’t quite manage.
It has a towing capacity of 1,000kgs, impressive but still far less than the 2,500kg capacity of the regular-engined VW Transporter.
The interior is as well-styled as the exterior, with plenty of bright colours, clever touches and decent-quality materials. The controls are as easy and infuriating as they are in the rest of the ID range, and the touchscreen is as buggy as in those cars. Several times we were left prodding a frozen touchscreen trying to adjust the air conditioning or return to the main menu. VW executives are promising major improvements in their car software, and they can’t come quickly enough.
We’ve argued in the past that the ID.3 was a smarter buy than the ID.4 crossover when you weighed up the cost. However, we’ve come to prefer the styling of the crossover and the way it drives, so we can see why Irish motorists are opting to make the extra spend.
With the Buzz, there’s the clear attraction of the quirky looks and as an alternative to the fleets of boxy SUVs on our roads, it’s to be warmly welcomed.
Through the lens of a potential SUV buyer, the Buzz clearly has a lure. It’s far more family friendly than any of those. In many ways it reinvents the people carrier (MPV) class, which died a death for sacrificing form for function. With the Buzz, VW shows you can have both.
The big issue here is price. Starting at €66,295 that’s a hefty outlay for family buyers. And for that you get just five seats, though it does boast an enormous boot – as you’d expect in a van variant. Get up to our test car – the range-topping ID.Buzz Max – and you are hitting €77,000.
We still don’t know what the seven-seat format is going to cost, nor the much-heralded California Camper version due in 2025, but it’s not beyond the bounds of logic to suspect we could be preparing the way for a €90,000 VW. That’s a time for everyone to do a double take on the state of the new car market.
Surely a van-derived five-seater from a mainstream brand should be in the region of €40,000-plus? Admittedly it’s electric and the market shows that these cars are costing more, even if Tesla has launched a price war.
Perhaps if it didn’t carry a big VW badge up front we wouldn’t be making so much fuss about the price, but the reality is that the ‘People’s car’ brand is repositioning itself up towards the premium sector while hoping to milk a little marketing kudos from its heritage as a mass-market affordable brand.
The Buzz is a nice car to drive, it’s got a funky colour palette and its incredibly spacious in the cabin. An ideal airport taxi – if you could get an optional third row even better – but I just can’t get past that premium price for what is at the end of the day a revamped van.
Lowdown: VW ID.Buzz
- Power: 150kW electric motor powering the rear wheels with torque of 310Nm.
- CO2 emissions (annual motor tax): 0g/km (€120).
- Electric consumption: 21.7kWh/100km (WLTP).
- Range: 409km (WLTP).
- 0-100km/h: 10.2 seconds.
- Price: €77,530 as tested (ID.Buzz range starts at €67,595)