The Volkswagen Multivan is designed to provide a more civilised way of transporting up to seven people in a spacious MPV environment.
Until now, the Multivan and Caravelle vans have been a bit of a compromise, as they shared the same architecture as the Transporter 6.1 van, which is designed to do quite different things.
It’s believed the all-new MQB-based Volkswagen Multivan could reach Australian shores in 2023, but last time we heard VW’s local division said there’s “no ETA” for when the T7-generation Multivan could head Down Under, though it remains “interested”.
Before then, we’ve put it through its paces in its native Germany to see what we can expect.
While it remains a bit early for official pricing, the signs are that the new vehicle will be priced aggressively.
That could see it slot in beneath the existing $65,790 (plus on-road costs) Multivan T6.1, despite the fitment of more standard equipment.
Australian specifications are yet to be announced, but Volkswagen has devised a three-tier equipment grade structure for the Multivan in Europe: the entry-grade Multivan, a mid-level Life and the range-topping Style.
There will also be two body lengths, 4.98m and 5.18m, though both use the same 3124mm wheelbase.
Depending on variant, the following features will be available:
- 19-inch alloy wheels
- Keyless start
- LED headlights with optional IQ.Light Matrix technology
- 10-inch digital instrument display
- 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wireless phone charging
- Voice assistant
- Electrically-operated sliding doors
- Powered tailgate
- Adaptive cruise control
- Front and rear parking sensors
The Volkswagen Multivan is still to be assessed by either ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but as it is built on the MQB platform it does have numerous additional safety features available that should help it to get a high score.
Available safety equipment includes:
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Automatic LED headlights
- Lane-keep assist
- Road sign recognition
- Adaptive cruise control
- Oncoming vehicle braking when turning
- Front, side, centre and curtain airbags
Climb up into the Volkswagen Multivan and you’re greeted by a very modern dashboard layout with a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10-inch central touchscreen, all of which is encompassed in a glossy piano black surround.
You could well be sitting in a new Golf were it not for the raised seating position and vast windscreen that affords you an excellent view of the road.
A toggle selector between the two screens replaces a traditional gear selector, freeing up more space – Volkswagen will only fit automatic gearboxes to the new Multivan.
There are plenty of parts carried over from the car division, including touch-capacitive panels for the lighting and functions such as climate control and drive modes.
The touch bar on the bottom of the display controls volume and temperature for either side of the front of the cabin, though simpler physical controls would work better, while the infotainment system takes an age to boot up and it’s not very intuitive to use.
Thanks to the shift-by-wire transmission and electronic parking brake there’s a flat floor across the front and enough space to walk through to the rear of the cabin.
Sliding doors on either side can be electrically operated (and controlled from the front seats) and there is a bewildering number of seating configurations for the back.
All the rear seats are individual and can (depending on options) be electrically adjusted and even heated. A centre console unit allows for storage and opens up to form a table for working or eating at.
The longer body style allows for more interior room and boot capacity. The latter ranges from 469 litres up to a whopping 4053 litres with the rear seats all removed – a task that is now even easier as said chairs weigh 25 per cent less than previous versions.
Leading the powertrain charge in the Volkswagen Multivan is a new plug-in hybrid — the first time Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has offered one — teaming a 110kW 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine and an 85kW electric motor that is fed by a 13kWh lithium-ion battery.
The combined maximum system output is 160kW, which goes to the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox.
A fully-charged battery is enough for up to 50 kilometres of pure-electric driving according to official numbers, though that will be dependent on how it is being driven and how many people are on board.
The battery can be charged in a minimum of 3 hours 40 minutes on a 3.6kW AC charger. The Multivan eHybrid has a top speed of 190km/h and a 0-100 time of 11.6 seconds.
Volkswagen will also offer a 1.5-litre TSI turbo petrol with 100kW and 220Nm, paired with a seven-speed DSG transmission. The sprint to 100km/h from rest for this version takes a little longer at 13.5 seconds and the top speed is 182km/h.
A second, larger capacity 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine will also be available. Again, it drives the front wheels via a seven-speed DSG auto and quotes outputs of 150kW and 320Nm, making it good for reaching 100km/h in 9.4 seconds and a top speed of 200km/h.
In 2022, Volkswagen will add a 110kW diesel to the European engine range that could also make its way to Australia.
The Multivan sticks to its van roots by providing an elevated driving position that any SUV owner would be envious of, while outward visibility is helped further by a large windscreen and split A-pillars to reduce the potential for blind spots — especially helpful when pulling out of junctions.
Another plus is that there’s plenty of room around the driver thanks to the exclusive use of shift-by-wire automatic gearboxes, so there’s no space-eating centre consoles or transmission tunnels.
Volkswagen is clearly targeting both SUV and MPV buyers judging by the level of refinement that the Multivan drives with.
Although the current van-derived Multivan is by no means bad, it is still quite utilitarian on the road, whereas this new model, in particular with the plug-in hybrid powertrain, is far more civilised.
There’s less road noise at highway speeds and when running in EV mode it’s almost as quiet as any other battery-powered hatchback. Only the capacious cabin leads to some low-level sound reverberation.
The 85kW electric motor has 350Nm on tap so it feels brisk enough around urban areas and can cruise smoothly at up to 140km/h without the combustion engine activating. Volkswagen says it can cover up to 50 kilometres between charges (not at that speed), but we reckon 40 kilometres is more realistic, especially when you’ve got a few other people on board.
When that 1.4-litre TSI engine starts up it can sometimes do it with a bit of a kick, so the more gently you drive the smoother it is. Over an occasionally hilly test route we did find that it was left wanting at times, as its 110kW and 250Nm isn’t all that generous for what is a large vehicle.
Different drive modes are available, though the only real reason to switch into the Sport setting it to help maximise energy recuperation.
A drive in the 2.0-litre TSI model revealed a more able powertrain that doesn’t have to work as hard when covering the same ground, while its extra gear ratio helps with highway driving.
Outright performance is going to be of little concern if you’re primarily ambling around a city, where the Multivan feels more manoeuvrable than its size might suggest. It is slightly longer than a SWB Transporter van, but has a longer wheelbase.
Particular attention has been paid to the suspension setup and it is clearly more polished than its van-based namesake.
Bumps are dealt with in a better way, and it’s less jarring for those seated in the rearmost seats, even though they’re practically on the rear axle.
Like all plug-in hybrids, you’ll have to keep that battery charged up as much as possible and minimise long journeys if you want to see Volkswagen’s official 1.6-1.5 litres/100km (NEDC) combined fuel consumption figures.
All new Volkswagen cars in Australia are sold with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. There is 12 months of roadside assistance cover, too.
Both of these perks remain with the vehicle should you sell it on before the cover expires.
In the new Multivan Volkswagen has pulled off quite a good trick as it gives commercial buyers a more appealing and versatile option that also has enough style, quality and refinement to interest private buyers that might not have considered the existing van-derived model.
The availability of a plug-in hybrid powertrain is another boon to those concerned about reducing tailpipe emissions, and the more socially acceptable image of a practical MPV over a gas-guzzling SUV can’t be ignored.
With a highly functional interior, passenger car levels of quality and comfort plus a heap of safety assistance features and onboard technology, the Volkswagen Multivan has plenty going for it.
Fingers crossed it makes its way to Australia soon.
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