Volkswagen ID.Buzz prototype review (2022): this van’s electric – at last

Published:21 February 2022

Volkswagen ID. Buzz review, pre-production model
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
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  • 4 out of 5

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Automotive Hub, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Automotive Hub, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count

► Retro-modern electric van from VW
► Passenger and Cargo versions coming
► 204hp, 229lb ft and good vibes, man

Barcelona, Paris, London, Milton Keynes – no, not the legend of a 21st century Trotter’s Independent Traders, but four of the stops on the ‘European Covered Drive’ for the Volkswagen ID. Buzz. Which means just weeks ahead of the final full unveiling, we’ve had the chance to try out a prototype of VW’s largest MEB electric vehicle yet.

By this point, the ID. Buzz – as it will apparently be known in production – needs little introduction. We’ve been waiting for this thing since Volkswagen showed the New Microbus concept in 2001, although the idea of all-electric reboot for this retro-tastic homage didn’t show up until the Bulli concept of 2011.

A further BUDD-e show car kept the dream alive in 2016, then the first ID. Buzz preview proper followed in 2017. But it wasn’t until Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles began reconfiguring its Hanover factory to build the real ones that VW vanlife fans could finally breathe a sigh of relief: at last, the electric resurrection was actually happening.

Has the ID. Buzz been worth the wait? We’re going to go out on a limb here, and say: probably?

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What’s happened to the cute concept styling?

Oh, don’t you start. The internet has been generally aghast at recent spy shots suggesting that much of the concept’s hot-rody sleekness has been chiselled off. The swirly wrap does a marvellous job of distorting the details, too.

Volkswagen ID Buzz review, pre-production, front view, dark and moody

Follow the main swage line – if you can through the trippy livery – and imagine a two-tone finish, and we suspect it won’t be as far away from those T1-inspired motor show dreams as some might fear. There is a definite ‘V-shape’ to the front. We’ll prepare a hat for seasoning, just in case we’re wrong.

Is the ID. Buzz a van or a car?

Both. Much like the VW Transporter previously spawned the Caravelle people carrier, the ID. Buzz will come as a five-seater passenger car and as a three-seater van, the latter labelled ID. Buzz Cargo.

In fact, it’s a pre-production version of the Cargo that we’ve been driving. This does make a slight difference, as the vans aren’t lumbered with the additional weight of the rear seats, have stiffer suspension for heavier loads and the interior materials aren’t as fancy. Not that we could see much of them, as at this stage, the dashboard design is very much still under literal wraps.

Volkswagen ID Buzz review, pre-production, side view

Speaking of the Transporter, though, the ID. Buzz is almost the same size, which means it’s also almost the same size as the Volkswagen Multivan. Having three models in basically the same space in the market is perhaps a tad confusing. Notably, however, the Buzz is lower and shorter still (for better carpark compatibility), while also being widest of the three.

Passenger space is said to be at least as good as its cousins, thanks to the packaging advantages of the rear-mounted electric drive system; we’d argue the cab of the van felt a touch more claustrophobic than a Transporter’s, mind, thanks to the shallower windscreen.

Rear-motor means rear-wheel drive, right? Give us the stats

Yup, the only powertrain option that’s official at this stage is the 150kW RWD set-up. That’s equivalent to 201bhp (matching the most powerful diesel Transporters) and comes with 229lb ft of instant torque.

There will also be twin-motor all-wheel drive versions in the future, as well as long-wheelbase models for extra space – though even the short-wheelbase examples here have 1,211 litres of boot space in five-seater guise (Cargo delivers 3.9 cubic metres of load volume). The ID. Buzz LWB will offer seven seats, while an ID. California camper has been confirmed as well.

Volkswagen ID Buzz review, pre-production, front view, driving round corner

Sticking with what’s in front of us, the only other official info is that the battery pack is an 82kWh gross / 77kWh net jobbie, and top speed is electronically limited to 90mph (145km/h).

The less official word is that this means a WLTP driving range of around 250 miles, with other battery packs and a longer driving range also promised for the future. Max charging speed will be in the region of 135kW, inline with the ID. 5, and our best estimate suggests 0-62mph in about 9.8sec.

Other key ID. Buzz features include full LED headlights that are upgradeable to active matrix IQ.Light, aero-optimised 21-inch alloy wheels, bi-directional charging capability, and infotainment with Hello ID voice control, up to 12.0 inches of touchscreen and seven USB C ports.

Driving tech includes car2x, travel assist with swarm data (observes surrounding traffic to manage lane positioning) and park assist with memory function so you can teach it to park autonomously.

What’s the ID. Buzz like to drive?

You sit high and there are no overhangs to speak of, so you’re instantly in a very different kind of ID here. Current van drivers will be less surprised by this, but the forward view gives you a real sense of command over the way ahead, and the Buzz is easy to wiggle around the relatively tight confines of the UK VW HQ car park; with lots of lock and such an extended wheelbase-to-body-length ratio, the turning circle is just over 11 metres.

What is familiar from other ID models is the immediate sense of polish about the drivetrain and the crisp digital instrument cluster with the drive selector nodule on the side. Most of the dashboard is, as we said, covered, with only the large central screen also visible. This is relaying route directions via Apple Maps.

Volkswagen ID Buzz review, pre-production, side view, driving

While not as punchy as more conventional electric cars, even this lowly single-motor variant has the potential to be hilariously gutsy. And although more mundane traffic is cottoning-on to this about EVs now, it’s still fun to leave thrusting execs scratching their heads away from roundabouts. Of which there are obviously plenty in Milton Keynes. Ahem.

Practically speaking, the unquestionable dependability of this performance – thanks in part to the single-speed transmission, which takes another variable out of the equation – makes for very relaxing progress. There is no doubt about whether you’ll make that gap, the Buzz responds with reliable conviction, every time.

The roundabouts, and the later countryside portions of the route, also demonstrate that while there is some body roll, it’s well controlled. Making allowances for the tall proportions, swift progress is no problem. And although the steering is light, and not especially feelsome, it’s also measured and direct enough that you neither fret about front-end grip nor find yourself endlessly twirling the wheel to make it through the turns.

Meanwhile, the van-spec load-carrying suspension has a definite firmness to it but never crosses over into the uncomfortable. Reassuringly stiff is more like it. Adaptive suspension is likely to be optional for MPV versions.

Volkswagen ID Buzz review, pre-production, rear view, driving round corner

At motorway speeds, the ID. Buzz is quiet. This is never a given for a VW van, and we can’t read too much into due to all the additional dashboard coverings, but we certainly wouldn’t be worried about the fully-trimmed passenger versions being noisy inside. The only rattle during the drive turns out to be our bag buzzing against the bulkhead.

So far so very satisfactory, then. The test vehicle is apparently not quite at full production calibration, but nothing about it screams big problems ahead. Quite the opposite. We’d have liked a little more regen-braking in B mode, as this is less pronounced than you’ll find in some EVs – but the expert alongside us reckoned that was in part due to how full the battery was during the drive. We shall wait and see on that one.

It’s going to be mega money, isn’t it?

Well, maybe not that bad. The ID. Buzz is set to go on sale in the UK in October 2022, and VW is saying that pricing for the passenger version will be on par with the Multivan PHEV, which is currently just under £50,000. The Cargo model is likely to be £5,000-10,000 cheaper.

You’ll be able to see the ID. Buzz without the wrapping for the first time March, and the pricing goes official in May. Stay tuned.

For more details and specifics of the van version, see our sister site Parkers.co.uk

Specs

Price when new: £49,000
On sale in the UK: October 2022
Engine: Single, rear-mounted electric motor, 201bhp, 229lb ft
Transmission: Single-speed transmission, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 9.8sec 0-62mph (est), 90mph top speed (electronically limited)
Weight / material: 2,500kg (est)
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4712/1985/1937

Photo Gallery

  • Volkswagen ID Buzz review, pre-production, front view, dark and moody
  • Volkswagen ID Buzz review, pre-production, side view
  • Volkswagen ID Buzz review, pre-production, front view, driving round corner
  • Volkswagen ID Buzz review, pre-production, rear view, driving round corner
  • Volkswagen ID Buzz review, pre-production, side view, driving

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Automotive Hub, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count

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