Volkswagen ID Buzz 2024 long-term test

Volkswagen ID Buzz 2024 long-term test



VW wants to make people feel warm and fuzzy inside. was this the car to do it?

*Why we ran it: *Volkswagen is looking to repeat the glory days with a massive family EV, but was the Buzz as easy to love as a bug? 

-Month 1 - Month 2 - Month 3 - Month 4 - Final report - Specs-

*Cheery electric MPV says farewell after bringing some colour to gloomy Britain - final report *

How far will you go to not have an SUV? Or rather, how much will you pay? 

Whether your anti-SUV sentiment is founded in environmental proclivities, distaste for their ubiquity or cynicism about their capabilities, the fact remains that they're popular for a reason: they just do everything the average person will ask of a car. Big boot, roomy rear, five-star safety: that will do nicely, thanks very much.

But woah there, conformists! Isn't there a better way? Can't we have all that functionality and space in a differently-shaped package? One that expresses our personalities and gets the neighbours talking?

One that makes an occasion of every journey, rather than simply conveying us to our destinations? You're darned right we can.

Remember MPVs? We used to call them people carriers. You may remember the term from such gems as the Renault Espace, Fiat Ulysse and Chrysler Grand Voyager - triumphs of form over function, each designed with an outright focus on utility and each utterly devoid of charisma or covetability.

They were hardly the preserve of schoolboy sketches and bedroom posters. But now MPVs are coming back into vogue, and with much more style. UK demand for the Gulfstream-esque LM has surpassed Lexus's expectations, Volvo's striking new EM90 looks cool enough to nearly compensate for the axing of its estates and even Alfa Romeo has hinted at plans for an electric 'van with windows'.

I reckon Volkswagen started this. With the quirky, charismatic ID Buzz, it proved that mass mobility needn't be monotonous and that 'SUV' needn't be a byword for big car'. Perhaps more importantly, it proved that it was possible to make a van truly desirable.

But it isn't a van, remember, it's a car. And I think possibly its greatest strength - aside from its propensity to enliven even the bleakest of commutes - is that it behaves convincingly like one, despite its unignorable bulk.

It's impressively manoeuvrable at low speeds, stable and easy to place on the road and sufficiently efficient. Over 4000 miles, mine averaged 2.7mpkWh, equating to a range of 208 miles.

You might consider that to be sub-par, in light of its official 255-mile range and considering a vehicle of this shape and size should really be able to facilitate hassle-free holidays and five-up festival runs, but given I wasn't really even trying and the energy-sapping M25 and M40 accounted for roughly half of my total mileage, I'll take it.

I'm still perplexed about why Volkswagen didn't launch the long-wheelbase seven-seater first (or indeed exclusively), and it's a shame the Buzz isn't available with the ICE Multivan's spinny, slidey armchairs, to say less of the long-awaited camper option

. But if you view the Buzz as I came to, as simply a massive and slightly oddly shaped estate car, you will soon come to forgive its ergonomic shortcomings.

Am I a mug for being so wilfully taken in by the superficial charms of what is fundamentally a pretty ordinary car? Indeed, there is little here in technological terms to really shout about down the pub.

I never saw the high side of 100kW when public charging, even my lightest right foot could only kick it to about 250 miles in the real world and the clunky digital interface already feels a few years out of date.

But the near-impossibility of maintaining a frown while at the wheel of the Buzz is testament to how little any of that really matters.

Volkswagen wants to be a "love brand" again, and I'm not sure what that means exactly, but I'd wager the Buzz stands in better stead to achieve that goal than its amorphous electric stablemates.

I can't say the heart-wrenching decision to sell my beloved 1972 Beetle a few weeks ago was made any easier by the fact that I still had this other cheery orange Volkswagen to punt around, but there's no ignoring the obvious effort that Wolfsburg has gone to here in injecting a degree of sorely needed personality and charisma into its EV line-up. If the ID 3 hatch and ID 4 SUV are the Volkswagen EVs to buy with your head, the smiley, cheeky Buzz is where your heart would put its money.

Ultimately, though, it will be a particularly tough fight between the two organs for your vote. The Buzz is an undeniably attractive proposition in isolation, but there are some pretty compelling electric options at this lofty price point, variously touting longer real-world ranges, faster charging, plusher interiors and the option of a third row of seats.

If your anti-SUV inclinations are strong enough to prevail over your sense of rationality, though, and you rarely need to travel more than 200 miles at a time, that will hardly matter, will it? Turn up the Hendrix (but for God's sake turn down the air-con) and off to Woodstock you go.

*Second Opinion*

Sorry, but I’m the party pooper at Felix’s hippie festival. The Buzz looks to me not cute but Easter Island head. Its touch controls and screen were very annoying. It’s vast yet lacks a third row. I now expect 4.0mpkWh in any EV, not 2.5, let alone one meant for road trips. Oh, and £66k?! I’d buy a BMW M340d Touring and a series of nice European hotel stays.

*Kris Culmer*

*Back to the top*

*Love it:*

*Making new friends *I had an Aston Martin DBX 707 at home for a week and it didn’t invite half as much conversation.

*Interior motive *Flat floor, huge boot and twin sliding doors made it the king of the tip trip, house move or supermarket sweep.

*I believe in you *There are EVs that go much farther, but I trusted the Buzz’s calculator enough to plan each trip in detail.

*Loathe it:*

*Can't touch this *Slow, laggy, illogical and graphically basic: everything people hate about touchscreens in one handy package.

*Adas ist gut?* Intrusive lane assistance, unhelpful hazard warnings and dodgy speed limit detection. Just let me drive!

*Final mileage: *7856

*Back to the top*

-*It feels at home almost anywhere – except perhaps a 1960s multi-storey car park - 3 March*-

I recently arrived at a launch in Somerset, where I was met by a journalist from another motoring title who wondered aloud, in good humour, whether there might be anyone on the Autocar team who had less of a need for a car like the ID Buzz.

Fair point, I replied, but the fact of the matter is that - perhaps against the odds - this massive family EV is actually suiting me right down to the ground.

My learned contemporary's argument was founded on three crucial facts: I live in cramped, snarled-up suburban London, I don't have children and I have no ability to charge an EV at home.

Perhaps a diddy urban runaround would be more up my street, or - considering that I often find myself covering large swathes of ground at short notice - something that turns liquid into fumes and forward momentum.

But while the Buzz is far from the longest-legged or most efficient EV I've lived with, it's returning some impressive economy figures often outperforming the much smaller and lighter Ora Funky Cat that I ran before.

It managed a scarcely believable 4.2mpkWh on a stop-start commute through west London the other day, although that was a distance of less than five miles at an average of 16mph.

Perhaps more relevant is the average of 2.7mpkWh that it mustered on a 230-mile return trip to Birmingham - pretty strong in the context of its towering, flat-fronted silhouette and conspicuous heft, and doubly so in light of the sub-par 2.1mpkWh that I previously eked out of our Audi SQ8 E-tron Sportback on the same route.

It was just about warm enough for me to turn the heater off (despite my passenger's loud protestations), and the cruise control never saw the high side of 65mph, but I'll take 10 minutes extra on the M40 over a 30-minute charging stop at the services any day.

Yes, I'll concede that there are more suitable means of traversing our nation's fine capital: the Buzz fills every millimetre of the average parking space, width restrictors have become my sworn enemy and the prospect of getting it down from the eighth floor of Autocar's 1960s car park brought me out in hives.

But the inescapable truth is that, despite its van-like proportions, it really is a fabulously easy thing to live with day to day.

It compensates for its generous footprint on the road with sublime visibility at each corner, it has an impressively tight turning circle to bolster its car-like low-speed dynamics and the lane departure warning and reverse collision avoidance systems are helpful more often than not in something of this size.

I'll refrain from making that clichéd sci-fi reference, but the more time I spend with the Buzz, the smaller and less conspicuous it feels.

I've said the same about its combustion-engined Multivan sibling before: it's a van that drives like a car, and that alone goes some way to justifying the chunky premium it commands over most alternatives of this size and shape.

*Love it *

*Shelf benefits*

My partner asks that I give a shoutout to the Buzz’s handy dashboard shelf: “I haven’t lost my sunglasses in weeks!”

*Loathe it*

*That sucks*

Vacuuming the cavernous interior takes nearly 40 minutes and completely drains my Dyson.

*Mileage: *7240

*Back to the top*

-Life with a Volkswagen ID Buzz: Month 4-

*Time spent charging is not waste - 21 February *

I don’t buy into the whole ‘charging is time wasted’ argument, and I was (sadly) excited about getting some work done on the Buzz’s seatback tray tables during a motorway stop last week. What a shame, then, to find that they’re too small to comfortably accommodate my laptop and the hinges too flimsy to support its weight. Costa it is. 

*Mileage: *6650

*Back to the top*

*Colder temps bring longer waits... - 7 February*

I downloaded the Volkswagen phone app during the recent cold snap so I could preheat the Buzz’s cabin and battery to preserve its range and the feeling in my extremities. But the app told me to register a new user on the car’s infotainment, which doesn’t seem to have the option to do so, so I’m typing this update (slowly, with numb fingers) while I wait for the windscreen to clear.

*Mileage: *6255

*Back to the top*

-Life with a Volkswagen ID Buzz: Month 3-

*It's over to our Staff Writer for a Cornish holiday, and a California comparison - 24 January*

Knowing I was spending Christmas and New Year down on the Cornish coast, I leapt at the chance to grab the keys to the ID Buzz. What better place to take the spiritual successor to the classic Volkswagen camper van?

Yes, it has been done before (by this car's keeper last January, no less, but this would be different as I would be taking the Buzz for an extended period, with the family and a dog and much deeper into Cornwall, far away from the tourist hot spot of Newquay.

It also just so happened that my parents were already there and had travelled down in their 2016 Volkswagen California Ocean, so there was an opportunity for an impromptu comparison test.

According to Zap-Map, there are 408 publicly accessible EV chargers in Cornwall, many of them found on the A30 - the main road in and out of the county. Others are dotted around the larger towns, some of which would be around 30 miles away from where we would be staying: Lizard, England's southernmost settlement.

The Buzz proved to be an extremely comfortable travel companion on my 315-mile trek there - even at 4am - and carried my festive cargo with room to spare.

Charging was effortless, but given the time of day, I expected it to be. I left home with the Buzz not fully charged (170 miles of range was indicated) and stopped first at Membury services for half an hour. That got me to Exeter, where a bacon roll, an overpriced coffee and some more electrons saw me to the Lizard. At 75p per kWh, it cost me about £40 to travel from one side of the country to the other.

The Buzz spent the next week or so faithfully carrying out its duties, transporting my family and our belongings throughout Cornwall and tackling some of the worst weather I've ever had the displeasure of driving in.

While the California is nice enough to drive, the Buzz trumps it for refinement, comfort and general ease of use. The camper's 2.0 turbo diesel engine does offer excellent low-range torque, but the electric Buzz is always raring to go. It doesn't feel anything like it's near 2.5-tonne kerb weight, and accelerating is a cinch. The California is made to feel

older than it is by the spaceship-like Buzz. Even my parents had to concede that returning to it almost felt like stepping back in time, with its dated Kenwood infotainment system and rattling interior. Of course, the Buzz is based on the Volkswagen Group's MEB platform, so it's really just an enormous ID 3, while the California is a proper van with a kitchen, sleeping berths, endless storage space and almost double the range.

Throughout our holiday, the Buzz completed every task asked of it with ease. It charged at its advertised rate (170kW), breezed up gradients and through twisting turns and looked cool in the process.

There were some gripes, though. The wipers were ineffective a lot of the time, leaving a dirty patch in the middle of the screen. I expected the rear seats to go back farther. There were the usual Volkswagen Group infotainment issues of lag and no back-lighting for the climate control sliders. And the car didn't always detect the key fob inside so occasionally refused to start.

Not, perhaps, what people might expect for the price, certainly judging by the scrunched-up Cornish faces and raised eyebrows that greeted the words 'sixty grand'. Stick a kitchen and a bed in the back, though, and who would say no?

*Jack Warrick*

*Like it*

*On rails*

A large sliding door on either side meant getting in and out of a car had never been easier, for both people and pets. 

*Loathe it*

*Dash fails*

I always forgot where the switch for the windscreen wipers was. (As a reminder, on a small, unmovable stalk behind the steering wheel.) 

*Mileage: *6102

*Back to the top*

*Car platform can't avoid car prices - 17 January*

I must have said “it’s not actually a van” about 50 times in the past couple of months, but it turns out there’s no arguing with the money man at my local hand car wash. £20 for an exterior clean stings slightly, especially when I should have paid the £17 ‘large car’ price, but there was no way I was doing it myself at the local jet wash. Either way, it was filthy again two days later

*Mileage: *4930

*Back to the top*

*Entirely predictable task, surprisingly competent execution - 3 January*

As the old saying goes, there are three inevitabilities in this life: death, taxes, and receiving a text that says "can you help me move house on Saturday?" as soon as you announce that you're in possession of a large car or van.

And so it was that, just half an hour after I'd sent my friends a picture of a VW ID Buzz being delivered to my house, the call of duty came. I feigned reluctance, but the truth is that I really wanted to see if this oversized five-seat MPV could prove itself more useful than your average estate or crossover, and this would be the perfect test.

I was in fairly good spirits until my mate's cargo - rather than the promised "small desk and a couple of big bags" - turned out to include half an Ikea catalogue's worth of bedroom furniture, a dozen unwieldy plants, a record collection, a stack of rare vintage film posters (curiously unpackaged but apparently "priceless"), a set of filthy outdoor chairs and a ridiculously large television.

Clearly, this was going to be a big ask of the Buzz, and the arrival of another friend (ostensibly an extra pair of hands but really a dead weight) meant we had to keep one of the back seats up, further restricting load space.

But anyway, I love a bit of Tetris, so I was quite keen to tackle the puzzle. The back seats fold fully flat, which is a good start, and the seat bases can then slide back to give a bit of extra storage on the floor behind the driver - so the desk fitted a charm up top, while the monsteras and money plants could be stowed safely in the footwell.

Towels and clothes next, which is where the 'second' boot under the main load bay came into its own. I reckon we got a whole wardrobe's worth crammed in under there, once I'd relocated the nice VW-badged basket that holds the charging cables and breakdown kit, and there was still room for all the bedding.

With a towel down to protect the floor, the garden set went in flat, which still left masses of space on top for a good few boxes. We piled these in until there was only room for the TV to slide in carefully on top of everything, wedged against the headlining.

Marvellous: far more than we could have dreamed of cramming into a Skoda Superb or Volvo V90.

Our route to the new house (a daunting 4.2 miles away) was beset with fearsome obstacles: towering speed bumps, heavy suburban traffic, erratic drivers and a boisterous Leyton Orient football crowd.

But the Buzz rode serenely and steadily enough that it wasn't long before I forgot I was carrying any load at all - although a quick swerve around a bus did cause some worrying jangling from a box of mugs.

It must have been carrying a good bit of extra weight, too, with the three of us and all that cargo aboard, but power delivery felt exactly the same as if it were empty, and I didn't notice a change in my average urban energy consumption. Job well done.

Frustratingly, this all happened a few days after I had named my favourite feature of any new car we had run on the Autocar fleet in 2023: the ride height adjustment buttons in the boot of the Range Rover. If you asked me now, I'd say the little load securing bracket that sticks to the Buzz's boot floor.

This stupidly simple piece of hinged plastic can be adjusted through 180deg to wedge heavy objects in place and stop them sliding around the boot - invaluable on an errand like this and the sort of clever little trick that makes you think: Why has nobody else thought of that?'

*Like it *

*Step-through cockpit*

A lack of transmission tunnel and centre console means the driver can easily use the other door – very handy when I’m in a tight space.

*Loathe it *

*Parking sensors*

They scream bloody murder at me when I’m backing into a space, then I get out and find that I had another foot to go.

*Mileage: *4266

*Back to the top*

-Life with a Volkswagen ID Buzz: Month 2-

*Speed limited recognition frustrates our news editor - 20 December*

Several times, sitting at 70mph on the motorway with cruise control on, the speed limit recognition camera has glimpsed a 30mph or 40mph sign on a neighbouring country lane or slip road and jammed the anchors on, which is (a) very annoying and (b) very dangerous. You can deactivate this function but it defaults to on every time you start the car.

*Mileage: *4050

-Life with an ID Buzz: Month 1-

*Welcoming the ID Buzz to the fleet - 22 November*

"My absolute passion is for the brand, and to get the brand back to where it belongs – to the hearts of the people. Real Volkswagen again. A love brand."

VW CEO Thomas Schäfer there, outlining to Autocar earlier this year his plan to recapture the brand’s once-enviable popular appeal in order to compete effectively with fearsome new rivals that have comparatively little heritage, and to ensure its cars remain desirable in this era of increasing technical homogeneity between modern EVs.

For a tangible embodiment of this objective, look no further than the ID Buzz, a slick, smiley electric MPV that nods stylistically to one of VW’s most successful historic models – but is otherwise every inch the technically competitive flagship model it needs to be.

It must, at once, be a space-age family hauler that competes convincingly in a crowded field, while tugging on the heartstrings of diehard VW fans who might otherwise be completely disengaged with the marque’s current portfolio and positioning.

If you’ll excuse a modicum of self-indulgence, I think I’m quite well placed to judge the Buzz on its capacity to succeed in this endeavour. I was brought home from the hospital in the back of a Mk2 GTI, I’ve endured innumerable soggy ‘holidays’ in bay-window Type 2s, my best friend and I once rescued a T3 Transporter from the scrapheap, a succession of five-cylinder Golfs have graced my family’s driveway (presently filled by a current GTI and a Mk2 Polo), and my first car – which I’ve kept against all odds for more than a decade – was a 1972 Beetle.

In this line of work, it doesn’t really do to confess to brand favouritism, but there’s no denying VW is a marque I’ve always held in high regard. That deep-seated affinity, though – for me and no doubt thousands of other paid-up members of the ‘dub club’ worldwide – has been harshly tested of late.

Widely publicised software issues and usability gripes have plagued the firm’s current crop of cars, which have hardly sought to compensate for their shortcomings with perceptible charisma and distinct personalities like VWs of old.

In 50 years’ time, will you reminisce fondly about all those brilliant summers you spent trekking around the country in a T-Cross, laugh at the memory of all your old ID 4 Pro’s charming quirks, or go on a wistful rant about how they “don’t make cars like that anymore” when someone down the pub mentions the Taigo? Possibly not. 

The Buzz, though, is the antithesis of those rather clinically conceived crossovers. A wilfully whimsical statement of intent from a brand that has decided elements of its storied past can live on, with some concession to modernity, in its bold electric future.

And it’s no flash in the pan: we’ve already heard how certain existing names (Tiguan, Passat, Golf) will be carried forth, in recognition of their intrinsic importance to the Volkswagen story, and the neat little ID 2all concept nods heavily to some of the brand’s most popular hatchbacks in a bid to recapture the fun-loving, crowd-pleasing ethos that defined its predecessors. Familiarity breeds contempt? VW is hedging its bets on the very opposite being true.

Not that you would ever mistake the Buzz for its air-cooled ancestor: beyond the two-tone paint scheme and blobby, bread-bin silhouette, there are few overt stylistic links to the Type 2.

Take a good look around, though, and you will find a couple of fun little nods to the spirit of the VW bus ‘brand’: there are Harvey Ball-esque smiley faces in the door handle recesses and engraved surf bus motifs in the trim at the rear, for example, and the three stripes across the D-pillar are where the air intakes were on the original. Neat.

Call it cheeky, call it cringeworthy – the truth is: I like it. Cars have become far too serious, so it’s nice to be spending time with one that majors on joviality without verging on contrivance, as we have observed with some other retro-flavoured cars – particularly those that can’t lay claim to so lengthy and pervasive a back story as the VW van.

If you needed a measure of its credibility, perhaps it suffices to say that I’ve received several knowing nods from classic VW owners already – and believe me when I say that’s no small feat (I once waved and nodded at the driver of a lovely T3 Notchback from a 2004 Bora, forgetting I wasn’t in my Beetle, and nearly had to go into hiding) – so this is a good start for the Buzz. Plus, it’s already proving far more useful than any five-seat SUV at this price, with seats that fold flat and a massive hidden load space under the boot floor enabling it to do a very passable impression of a van when needed.

It’s hardly as utilitarian as the Microbus, but I’m hoping it emerges from our test as a convincingly practical alternative to more conventional big EVs like the Audi Q8 E-tron and Kia EV9.

Because, ultimately, what we need to determine here is whether the Buzz is as much about substance as it is style: can this £67,000 people carrier really be, at once, one of the most capacious, charismatic, comfortable and competent EVs on the market?

Only an arduous few months of road trips, house moves, long-distance commutes, dog walks and tip runs will give the full picture, but at least I don’t need to worry about rusty heater channels and seized heater cables on this one.

*Second Opinion*

Being a five-seater, the Buzz I tried was pretty bulky compared with a hatch that could do the same job. But on every other count it was great. It looked and drove beautifully – and I particularly trust my own judgement because I recently owned a diesel VW California. The EV was better in all respects except touring range. 

*Steve Cropley*

*Back to the top*

-Volkswagen ID Buzz SWB 77kWh Pro Style specification-

*Prices: List price new* £62,844 *List price now* ££63,780 *Price as tested* £66,394

*Options:* Candy White/Energetic Orange paint £1800, Infotainment Package Plus £1560, Type 2 charging cable £190

*Claimed range *255 miles *Battery *82/77kWh (total/usable) *Test average* 2.7mpkWh *Test best* 3.8mpkWh *Test worst* 2.1mpkWh *Real-world range* 208 miles *Max charge rate *170kW

*Tech highlights: 0-62mph* 10.2sec *Top speed* 90mph *Engine* Rear-mounted Permanent-magnet synchronous motor *Max power* 201bhp *Max torque* 229lb ft *Transmission* 1-spd reduction gear, RWD *Boot capacity* 1121 litres *Wheels* 20in, alloy *Tyres* 235/50 R20 (f), 265/45 R20 (r), Continental EcoContact 6 *Kerb weight* 2502kg

*Service and running costs: Contract hire rate* £896.74 *CO2* 0g/km *Service costs* None *Other costs* None *Fuel costs* £467.20 *Running costs inc fuel* £467.20 *Cost per mile* 12 pence *Faults* None

*Back to the top*

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