Volkswagen hasn’t revealed the car totally yet (unless you are reading this in March) but it let us have a go in a thinly-disguised prototype so we could get a feel for how it will drive.
The ID Buzz first appeared as a concept show car, complete with its own levitating gnome on the dashboard, among other daft features. It’s been gently edging towards reality since then, with some of the crazier ideas inevitably being retired or watered down. But it is still an interesting and exciting addition to the VW line up.
It will be offered as a van, in both short and long wheelbases, and there will be passenger versions with a choice of up to eight seats.
It is based on the same major bits underneath as VW’s ID.3, ID.4 and the ID.5 which means it’ll eventually come with a few different battery choices and loads of options - from clever autonomous driving tech to - eventually - somewhere to make a cuppa and rest your head at night - just like the original VW Camper.
But the first examples will only be available as a five seater people carrier or a Transporter-style van.We drove a pre-production prototype - which is wearing an eye catching rainbow outfit, but you can immediately see the shape and how it will look on the road.
Obviously it’s a big, simple boxy shape - which is great for interior space, - and there are LED headlights that wraparound into the bodywork to give an art-deco look. There’s the signature front light strip which runs between the two headlights and through the big VW badge in the middle, and has become a feature of all VW’s electric cars.
Then there’s a full-width grille at the bottom beneath the badge, including a bit of an awkward-looking sensor for the radar cruise control and other automated driving functions.
The front doors are hinged as normal, while the rear has sliding doors either side. This makes it handy for loading kids or tight car parking spaces - with a car this size, that’s going to be a real bonus.
At the rear, the bus version has a huge tailgate, while vans will also have the choice of traditional side-opening ‘barn’ doors.
Inside, the dashboard on this example was covered up as it wasn’t quite finished, but it will clearly be familiar to anyone who has seen the inside of an ID.4. There’s the same steering wheel, twist drive selector and screen set-up, with a central display and a smaller one in front of the driver. Hopefully it will work a little better than the bug-prone systems used in the current VW range though.
The ID.3 and ID.4 really impress with their interior space, as they are built as dedicated electric cars rather than converted from a petrol or diesel. This means they don’t have to have lumps and bumps to house exhaust pipes and driveshafts. In a car as long and tall as this van, that feeling of space is really amplified.
It really is huge, with plenty of head and legroom. We love the feeling of sitting high up too.In the five seat versions there’s a massive load space, and it looks as though there will be a reasonable amount of luggage room even if there is a third row of seats in place. If that’s not enough, the Buzz has a towing capacity of 1,000kg too.
But the Buzz is relatively easy to park, even if you don’t choose to use the self-driving tech to do it for you. As there is no engine at the front, VW have been able to make the wheels turn tighter and give an 11 metre turning circle. That’s about the same as a Polo.
Most Buzzs will have a motor in the back only, driving the rear wheels, and a choice between a range of batteries from 48kWh to a massive 111kWh. That should see a maximum range in the top ID Buzz of about 342 miles in the standard tests.
There will also be a two-motor, four-wheel drive version using basically the same kit as the ID.4 GTX, which should be speedy enough to ensure you can get to your Cornwall campsite a little faster.
If you need to top up the battery on the way down there, the 77kWh battery version we tried would mean 125kW DC rapid charging, giving a 30 minute rapid charger top-up from 10 to 80%, or around 12 hours 15 minutes on the average home wallbox. Obviously that monster 111kWh battery will take longer.
There are some new clever innovations which will soon be available on all VW’s electric cars too.The first is software called “Plug & Charge” which finally matches the convenience of charging at a Tesla station by doing away with the need to swipe cards at some charging stations.You just plug in and the ID. Buzz will talk to the charging plug and exchange all the necessary data to take payment.
The car also has the option of a bi-directional charging function (Vehicle to Home, or V2H) that allows the ID. Buzz to be used like a storage battery device. For example, it is possible to store surplus energy from solar panels in the ID.Buzz during the day, and then to feed that energy back into the house in the evening.
But what about the driving? The classic VW buses were great fun, but they were never the most refined, or fast. That’s all changed with the ID.Buzz. It’s almost as pleasant to drive as VW’s other electric cars.
With the front of the car dropping away from the base of the windscreen, it actually does feel a little bit like those classic VW buses at first. Except it’s very quiet, and way more responsive to the controls.It’s also car-like in the way it floats over bumps, with very little of the bounciness you’d usually expect from an unladen van or minibus.
We need to talk about price though. The van versions will be competitive with other electric commercial vehicles such as the Vauxhall Vivaro-e, but rumour is that the Caravelle passenger models could cost around £60,000. The camper won’t be around until 2025, and is likely to be nearer £75,000. That’s not something your average hippie or surfer dude will be able to afford. On the plus side, these VW vans do hold their value incredibly well, so they could be cheap to run overall, especially if you buy it on finance.
The production version of the ID Buzz isn’t going to be quite as exciting as the 2017 concept car, but on first impressions, we think it’s got a huge amount of potential. As we’ve seen with the Fiat 500, it's a classic we love reimagined for the world we live in.