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Volkswagen ID Buzz Pro 2023 review


We were so hoping that our expectations of the ID Buzz weren’t dashed by a poor driving experience, we need not have worried, Volkswagen’s electric van is a delight

Good points

  • Smooth and relaxing to drive
  • Bright, inviting cabin
  • Resounding cool factor
  • Plentiful cargo room
  • Good urban efficiency

Needs work

  • Restrictive highway range
  • Five seater’s limitations
  • Seven-seater some way off
  • Could use more power
  • Price could push $100K+

Wouldn’t it have been terrible if the Volkswasgen ID Buzz looked as cool as it does, but it drove like a regular van—that is to say, generally like the rough, loud open boxes that they are? Thankfully, it doesn’t. Not even close.

That is partially because despite looking like a (futuristic) update of a long lineage of Volkswagen vans dating back to 1950’s fabled Kombi, the ID Buzz van isn’t really a van at all.

Peel back the ID Buzz’s effortlessly cool styling and you won’t find a commercial vehicle platform (like most vans). Instead, it uses the same refined ‘MEB’ electric vehicle platform as the Cupra Born or the VW ID5.

Alterations have been made to support the Buzz’s weight but fundamentally, this vehicle is more SUV, less workhorse.

Naturally, that choice has its positives and negatives. There are big upsides for the way the ID Buzz drives, but there is also a relatively tight payload limit (616kg) that will rule the model out for some buyers, though it will suit many others.

Set to arrive in Australia in late 2024, the biggest limit for now is that the only ID Buzz on the road in Europe right now is a standard wheelbase version with five seats, so it won’t be a suitable family car for all buyers upon arrival.

It has a huge boot, but most will expect an electric vehicle like this to hold seven. A seven seat, long wheelbase version is on its way and should come to Australia in 2025.

We drove the passenger version of the ID Buzz in standard wheelbase guise in Germany and Austria to get a feel for the model about a year before its slated launch back home.

Aside from the LWB plans, there’s also an ID Buzz Cargo model for tradespeople that will come to Australia alongside the people-mover.

Pictured: the ID Buzz Cargo version

Perhaps the biggest question is why you’d buy an ID Buzz over an SUV. The answer, mostly, is cool factor—with a side serving of additional practicality in the cargo department.

Midsize and large electric SUVs are proliferating at a rapid clip—these versatile segments are critical for the car industry, and increasingly strict environmental commitments will probably make fully-electric, aerodynamically-styled crossovers the norm on our roads within years.

That includes Volkswagen’s own ID4 and ID5 midsize SUVs, but the brand’s decision to import the ID Buzz to Australia will be a tonic for (relatively well-heeled) families that don’t want to swim with the SUV crowd. They’ll get a much bigger boot, too.

We say well-heeled because there’s only a remote chance that the ID Buzz cost would be anything less than $100,000 in Australia.

At present, just one well-equipped ‘Pro’ trim grade is on the cards, and Volkswagen Australia’s commercial vehicles divison has guided us to a 20-30 percent markup for the Buzz over a diesel Multivan.

That being said, there are plenty of buyers for premium SUVs like the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Audi Q5, all of which play mainly in the low six-figures range when it comes to driveaway prices. Still, a bargain the ID Buzz will not be—at least at first.

Could the ID Buzz be worth that kind of money? Quite possibly, especially if Volkswagen can lock in the seven-seat version to launch shortly behind its less practical, shorter five-seat sibling.

Beyond the desirable exterior styling, there’s a pleasant and friendly interior that is more inviting than the cabins of the ID4 and ID5.

Our test car’s mistral cream seats (and steering wheel!) tug at our clean-freak anxieties, but the interior was so bright and inviting that we’d consider it…with extensive interior protection.

The layout is broad and open, with possibly the best-integrated tech of any of Volkswagen’s existing MEB cars. The displays are the same, but there is more space between them owing to the physical size of the car—and the driver’s screen and central touchscreen are threaded together with attractive wood veneer trim.

Fit for touring, the ID Buzz’s front captain’s chairs are comfortable and supportive, building in electric adjustment, mem0ry, heating, and a massage function. Seat cooling would complete the package but ventilation isn’t yet on the menu.

Storage space is incredibly plentiful—vans haven’t typically lacked in this area but the fact the single motor, rear-wheel drive (RWD) ID Buzz Pro has no transmission opens up even more space running down the centre of the vehicle.

Climbing in the rear seats in the standard wheelbase Buzz revealed less legroom than we expected to find, but power rear doors and very low step-in height mean that children and the elderly alike will find it a cinch to embark or disembark. There is plenty of width, so seating three across is simple.

The lack of a third row could be a hindrance if you need to carry more than three kids on an outing, for instance, but Volkswagen is on the case. Boot space, behind a sliding power rear door, is a mammoth 1121 litres in five-seat mode.

Setting out on the road requires a total recalibration of any expectations you might be bringing to the table from any other van. Forget beating rattly old Multivans of years gone by: the Buzz easily eclipses the dynamics of the best vans on the market today, including the Kia Carnival.

Of course there’s no diesel engine noise—the ID Buzz is only offered with a fully electric powertrain—but the absence of meaningful road noise and bump noise intrusion was a surprise and a delight.

The ID Buzz isn’t a Mercedes-Benz S-Class in terms of its interior refinement but it is comfortably the quietest and most supple van we’ve road tested, and we managed to find ample quantities of bumps and imperfections on the rural roads of the Tirol region.

With the electric motor sending just 150kW of power and 310Nm of torque to the rear wheels in 2023 specification, the 2510kg (including driver) ID Buzz is not a supercar from a performance perspective, though its urban acceleration from say, 0-60km/h, is zippy.

Throttling the van from 0-100km/h requires 10.2 seconds, and overtaking on country roads does require some planning. We think it is very likely that the ID Buzz will be upgraded to Volkswagen’s new APP510 rear motor, which could boost power to 210kW. Other RWD models are receiving this update.

Decelerating is possible via moderate regenerative braking settings, though there is no selectable one-pedal drive—another feature Volkswagen should consider adding to the Buzz. Brake pedal feel is adequate but not outstanding.

The ride and handling are outstanding for this segment, though, with the Buzz remaining not just composed on winding country roads—beyond composure, it’s genuinely engaging from the driver’s seat, with a natural steering ratio and good body control.

A big, open body does mean that the occasional tough bump will bang into the cabin space but the suspension of the Buzz does a good job of cancelling out typical imperfections while providing excellent handling.

Powering the motor on the rear axle is a 77kWh battery pack (82kWh gross) with an official WLTP-rated driving range of 415km, putting it above commercial electric vehicles such as the Ford E-Transit (up to 307km) and the Peugeot E-Partner (258km).

That large front end that gives the ID Buzz its characteristic aesthetic does become a hindrance at highway speeds, where drag means circa-20kWh/100km economy at 100km/h, cutting range to about 385km.

Urban efficiency was considerably better, with the Buzz returning about 16kWh/100km in suburban testing for a considerably more practical range of 481km.

Once flat, the ID Buzz uses a common Type 2 charging port, with DC charging speed reaching up to 175kW, with home-style AC charging speeds up to 11kW.

Visibility is excellent thanks to a broad and tall glasshouse and a 360-degree parking camera aids low-speed maneouvrability. Four-wheel steering is not fitted to the Buzz, though this would further decrease the turning circle for additional ease.

Some of the other safety features expected to come to Australia include: rear-cross traffic alert, adaptive radar cruise control with stop/go, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, a front-centre airbag along with front and rear parking sensors.

The best part of driving the ID Buzz is that you feel great. People smile at you. It’s a fun, happy sort of car. Making EVs with character isn’t easy, especially on a relatively early effort. Volkswagen has achieved that here. We’re looking forward to our first local drive.

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