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Driven: Volkswagen Multivan. Image by Volkswagen.

Driven: Volkswagen Multivan
When is a van not a van? When itís a Volkswagen Multivan, of course!

   



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Volkswagen Multivan Long

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

There has been a welcome revival in the MPV lately, with manufacturers seemingly reappraising just how practical a large, two-box (or even monobox) vehicle can be in terms of seating space and luggage capacity. Volkswagen, which has plenty of form in continuing to make MPVs long after they were fashionable - the big Sharan only went off sale here in 2021, while the prosaic Touran is still available from new at the time of writing - has realised this and has decided that the best way to make a 'minivan' as good as it can be is to make it a 'maxivan'. And the result is the incredibly likeable Multivan. Just... don't call it a van, yeah?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Volkswagen Multivan Style Long 2.0 TSI 204 DSG
Price: Multivan from £48,340 inc. VAT, Style Long 2.0 TSI 204 DSG from £57,774 inc. VAT, car as tested £66,263 inc. VAT
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 204hp at 5,000-6,500rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1,600-4,300rpm
Emissions: 204g/km
Economy: 31.4mpg
0-62mph: 9.0 seconds
Top speed: 124mph
Boot space: 763-4,005 litres (first figure up to roof behind third row of seats)

Styling

Look, we'll come onto the whole 'car/van' confusion thing that surrounds the Multivan later on in the piece, but for now we're praising its looks most highly indeed. Granted, on the outside, it does appear very much to be a van with windows, which also brings with it some size issues that might make urban parking tricky for more nervous drivers - in its Long format, as tested here, it's nearly 5.2 metres from tip to tail and more than 2.25m wide with its mirrors folded out. Wieldy, this thing is not.

But Volkswagen manages to sidestep this thorny van-related issue by making the Multivan look bloody lovely. The sleek LED light clusters fore and after help, as does that design line running around the midriff of the vehicle to break up its sizeable flanks, but with smooth, body-coloured surfaces everywhere you look and some attractive alloys bolted into the arches (optional 19-inch 'Halmstadt' items on our tester for a chunky £1,140), the overall effect is most pleasing.

We'd say the extra rear overhang of the Long version gives the Multivan better proportions than the standard-length model, while the Style also gets a tasteful spoiler at the top of the rear hatch for added visual clout, but even the shorter Volkswagen MPV is attractive - especially in the eye-catching two-tone colour schemes available, such as silver-over-orange (trust us, it really works).

Interior

The 'it's not a van, it's a car' theme rumbles on in here, where the elevated seating position, sliding side doors and simply acres of room all combine to first of all scream 'van' much more than they readily do 'car'. Yet who doesn't love driving a van, eh? Admit it, whenever you've got to hire one to move furniture about, you're excited about being behind the wheel.

The neat trick about the Multivan is that despite the obviously van-nish DNA evident, it still feels car-like in terms of the sheer quality of the fixtures and fittings, and the level of technology fitted. OK, Volkswagen's infotainment system isn't the greatest to use, especially when the climate controls are sequestered away in the touchscreen as they are here, but on the plus side the Multivan has proper buttons on its steering wheel rather than those godawful haptic things the company foisted on its early ID products, it has the eye-catching and configurable Digital Cockpit Pro instrument cluster, and there's even some nice wood-effect trim inlaid into the dashboard. The overall ambience is therefore most assuredly in the luxury sphere of influence, rather than the hose-down, cheap-and-cheerful commercial zone.

Practicality

Another big tick for the van... sorry, MPV body. As standard, the Volkswagen Multivan comes with seven seats in a 2-2-3 formation, but our test van had the optional, no-cost six-seat package instead, with plush individual chairs arrayed in three rows of two. The massive, power-sliding side doors make access to the cabin easy and elegant in equal measure, there's a clear walkway down the middle of the vehicle, storage compartments and useful cubbies abound everywhere, and the boot is gigantic, especially on this Long - load it up to the ceiling behind the back seats and there's 763 litres of space to play with. Honestly, the Multivan is thoroughly practical and adaptable inside, and so much of a better execution of the MPV idea than a Golf for people who like to wear tall hats.

Performance

At the time of writing, Volkswagen UK was offering the Multivan with a choice of the 150hp 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel, or this 204hp 2.0-litre turbo petrol, an engine related to the one you'd find in a Golf GTI. The headline-grabbing 218hp plug-in model, called the eHybrid, appears to have gone MIA for the moment, but we're sure it will return.

The petrol's a great choice for the Multivan, though, because it's just so simple to live with. Makes the VW quick, too, because 320Nm is more than enough for a vehicle of this size and, driving through a reasonably slick - though by no means faultless - seven-speed DSG, the nine-seconds-exactly 0-62mph time looks eminently believable. For picking up roll-on speed on the motorway and performing overtakes on two-way A-roads, the 2.0 TSI is an ideal companion for the big VW people carrier. We'd probably pick it even if the 1.4 eHybrid was still on sale, to be fair.

It's also a smooth and quiet engine, which only adds to the aura of MPVishness that the Multivan has to put on to convince you that, no, it's not a van. In terms of powertrain, then, it's another gigantic tick in the Multivan's growing 'plus' column.

Ride & Handling

This is where the Multivan earns its spurs, and also where you'll be having a heated debate down the pub with people trying to convince you that you've bought a van. Volkswagen itself doesn't help by a) calling the thing 'Multivan', and b) selling it through its Commercial Vehicles arm, rather than its main car dealerships. Yet that doesn't alter the fact that this sits on the MQB platform, which is reserved for Volkswagen's cars, while you can search online all you like but you won't find a purely commercial version of the Multivan. There's a Cargo derivative of the electric alternative to the Multivan, in the form of the glorious ID.Buzz, and there's a new Transporter T7 coming... but that's a co-developed vehicle with the Ford Transit. It's not a panel-sided version of the Multivan.

Thus, you have to think of the Multivan as a direct successor to the old Caravelle. Our test version was also fitted with £1,260 Adaptive Chassis Control, with adjustable damping, which perhaps helped its rolling refinement, along with the long wheelbase of the stretched model. But this is the least van-like driving experience we've ever had in anything that could be accused of being a van.

You get none of that coarse cavitation of tyre roar in the back of the Multivan if you're rolling along one-up in it, with all its rear seats unoccupied. Further, its streamlined shape helps it to cut through the air with the minimum of fuss, so it easily burrs up and down motorways in a manner that is emphatically not like a commercial vehicle at all. Even fitted with the non-electrified 2.0 TSI engine, it's not bad on fuel, either - we saw 32.7mpg across 542 miles in the Multivan Long's company, with a best of 35.8mpg on one 150-mile jaunt down to Heathrow. For something so big and heavy, with a frontal area like a cliff (admittedly, a sloping cliff), that's superb economy.

Sure, you're probably not going to want to chuck even an unladen Multivan around in the corners too much, but you'll be surprised by how capable it is when you do. The steering is fast and accurate, not slow and sloppy, and there's grip aplenty from the car-spec tyres on the Volkswagen. So, yep, guess what? We're going to say it doesn't handle like a van, either. See how it's easy to get confused by it?

Value

A more difficult area to justify, although for the equipment and space you're getting, prices starting from £48,340 for the Multivan are probably pretty decent. Of course, our test Style Long, with some choice options fitted, was in fact the wrong side of £66,000 and, as many a wag was wont to say on social media, 'that's a lot of money for a van with windows'. Which, of course, the VW isn't, but we're not getting into that metaphysical debate now. Perhaps the best way of judging the Multivan is to compare it to the ideologically similar Lexus LM, which starts from £89,995 for a 245hp 300h hybrid model. Then the Volkswagen looks phenomenally good value, doesn't it?

Verdict

Parking the whole 'van/car' nonsense for now, what Volkswagen has come up with here is arguably one of its most desirable models for decades. The Multivan is simply brilliant. If an MPV's remit is to be practical first and foremost, while still delivering as much luxury as it can, then the Multivan Style Long 2.0 TSI is one of the finest examples of the breed yet seen.

It drives well thanks to its car-based underpinnings, it feels great to be sitting inside it, it looks fabulous on the outside, and aside from being somewhat large when it comes to parking duties and not being the most affordable 'People's Car' going, it just goes to prove how much of a fallacy the idea of substituting a seven-seat SUV in for a proper MPV truly is. Aside from the equally majestic ID.Buzz, this Multivan is the best thing Volkswagen makes right now. By some distance, too.



Matt Robinson - 9 Jan 2024



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2024 Volkswagen Multivan Style Long 2.0 TSI 204 DSG. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Multivan Style Long 2.0 TSI 204 DSG. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Multivan Style Long 2.0 TSI 204 DSG. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Multivan Style Long 2.0 TSI 204 DSG. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Multivan Style Long 2.0 TSI 204 DSG. Image by Volkswagen.

2024 Volkswagen Multivan Style Long 2.0 TSI 204 DSG. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Multivan Style Long 2.0 TSI 204 DSG. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Multivan Style Long 2.0 TSI 204 DSG. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Multivan Style Long 2.0 TSI 204 DSG. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Multivan Style Long 2.0 TSI 204 DSG. Image by Volkswagen.








 

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