Pros: interior versatility, build quality
Cons: overall performance, not as appealing as an SUV
The demise of both the Touran and Sharan meant that if you wanted a proper VW people mover that wasn’t an SUV, you had to settle for the van-based Shuttle or Caravelle. Now Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has the Multivan, a bespoke MPV created to appeal as much to the private buyer as the business user.
Volkswagen Multivan Design
The purpose of the Volkswagen Multivan very much dictates its outward appearance. Still, it is a unique design rather than merely a derivative of the Transporter panel van. Volkswagen heeded customer feedback during its development and made it lower to allow for easier car park access. Crucially, the Multivan uses a version of the MQB platform that underpins many of Volkswagen’s other cars rather than its vans, meaning that, while its roof is lower than those vans, there is still great space inside.
Buyers can choose from two body lengths, with the latter extending to over five metres. Both versions feature sliding rear doors and, on higher-spec models, these can be electrically operated, as can the tailgate. A low floor makes ingress and egress easy, yet there is a sufficiently raised driving position to provide good levels of visibility.
As in the company’s passenger cars, the exterior styling of the Multivan includes LED headlights and a light bar that spans the front grille, giving it a distinctive appearance at night. A bodywork line that runs from the headlights through to the rear light clusters also presents the perfect opportunity for Volkswagen to offer two-tone paint designs. If these aren’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other single metallic paint options available.
Volkswagen Multivan Interior
Much time and effort have gone into maximising the functionality and practicality of the Multivan’s interior. In addition to the raised driving position, there is a digital instrument display and dashboard layout. Between that and the 10-inch touchscreen display is a toggle-style drive selector, as the Multivan uses exclusively automatic transmissions with a shift-by-wire setup. The approach, including an electric parking brake, means the space at the base of the dashboard and between the front seats is free and allows for either more storage or walk-through access to the rear.
Depending on specification grade the Multivan features seating for four or five in the rear passenger compartment, and there are individual seats allowing for increased versatility in how they can be arranged. Volkswagen has reduced the rear seats’ weight by 25 per cent, making it easier to remove them when not required. It’s also worth highlighting the standard to which the interior is finished, both for robustness and material quality.
An innovative in-floor rail system brings electrification so these seats can be heated and turned for a conference-style configuration. A sliding console unit can provide storage and expand and unfold to create a table area for working. Large windows and the biggest panoramic glass roof in the Volkswagen Group bring plenty of light into the cabin, adding to that sense of spaciousness. Opting for the longer body increases the amount of boot space behind the rear seats. Luggage capacity varies from 469 litres to 763 litres behind the rear seats, depending on version. With all seats removed (using it as a van), it can provide between 3,710- and 4,053 litres.
Volkswagen Multivan Performance & Drive
Volkswagen is initially launching the Multivan with a plug-in hybrid powertrain that uses a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with an 85kW (116hp) electric motor powered by a 10.4kWh battery. That creates combined maximum outputs of 218hp and 350Nm and it can drive up to 50 kilometres using only electric power according to official figures.
That will be positive news to those who generally undertake shorter journeys, as will the recharging time of three hours 40 minutes. Every time you start a trip in the Multivan it begins driving in electric mode and will do so until the battery charge depletes, at which point it reverts to performing as a hybrid.
Drivers can choose to retain a set battery charge level should it be required for a different part of a longer journey, such as entering a low-emission zone. It is expectedly quiet when moving under electric power and there is sufficient pulling power from the electric motor. The degree of energy recovery can be increased to prolong the electric driving range, giving a similar sensation to one-pedal driving. However, it’s not as effective as similar systems are in full EVs.
The petrol engine puts in a decent performance so long as you don’t expect too much from it, as it does only produce 150hp and the Multivan is a large vehicle to be pulling along. Treat the accelerator with prudence and it is quite pleasant to drive as the suspension is well-judged for this type of vehicle. Both cabin noise and comfort are kept at very acceptable levels.
Carzone Verdict: 4/5
A fresh approach to the Volkswagen Multivan has resulted in an impressive MPV that has versatility by the bucket load and comes dressed in an attractive package. Whether it will tempt many buyers away from SUVs remains to be seen, but it makes for an interesting alternative.