MOTORS REVIEW: Volkswagen Multivan

COVERING a near 500-mile round trip with five passengers on board to get a taste of the annual Edinburgh Fringe and take-in the spellbinding Edinburgh Tattoo required some serious family transport.

That it was the multi-coloured nose of the new Volkswagen Multivan that we pointed north up the A66 through Cumbria and across the border felt particularly appropriate.

Not just because its plug-in hybrid (PHEV) drivetrain might help me mitigate against the eye-watering potential cost of fuel, but because wherever you drive something van-shaped with a VW badge on the bonnet these days it feels like a bit of an event.

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Do not be deceived, though. VW’s Caravelle replacement is no Transporter-based commercial vehicle mash-up.

The Multivan is a Transporter-aping MPV that shares its lineage more closely with the Sharan, rather than a converted van.

It sits on the German automotive giant’s new, EV-ready, MQB product platform.

The result is that those Transporter owners in the know (that’s all of them in my experience) might not give you the full cheery wave treatment they preserve for others that have taken to convert their van into something with a bed, gas hob and captain’s chairs.

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Instead, though, you will get a rather more car-like driving experience, a more supple ride and the latest alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) tech.

In the guise tested here VW combines a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a 10.4kW battery and 85kW electric motor to produce a total output of 218PS and 250Nm of torque when you have charge on-board to deploy.

The battery can be charged in three hours 40 minutes when plugged into a 3.6kW wallbox.

The result is 31-miles of potential all-electric travel per charge, 41 to 43g/km CO2 emissions and claimed fuel economy of 148.7 and 156.9mpg on the rather academic WLTP combined test cycle.

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In reality our heavily-laden trip to Scotland delivered an average zero-emissions range of around 25 miles per charge and fuel economy, once the batteries charge had been deployed, of around 44mpg.

That’s good for a large, multi-purpose vehicle running on petrol at a time when diesel prices are so high.

Despite the shift away from a van platform, the Multivan serves up seven seats in its standard guise, sitting on three pairs of floor rails, allowing them to slide back and forth or be removed completely — liberating up to 3,672 litres of van-like load space.

The front seats are captain’s chairs — the driving position upright and good for visibility — while the second-row pair can be rotated through 180-degrees.

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A sliding centre console provides storage and can deploy folding platforms to create a decent-sized table.

With our test vehicle’s seven seats in place, we were left with a boot of just 469 litres, though, making for some strategic packing for the five-day trip.

Up front, the dashboard features infotainment and controls familiar to owners of the new Golf.

For some, the lack of physical controls might prove a faff, particularly on the move, but the touchscreen and hi-res, full colour instrument panel look good and functioned well for the duration of our test.

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VW has also chosen to replace a traditional gear selector with a toggle-style control on the dash, freeing-up extra interior space.

Two trims of Multivan are available, Life and the Style offering you see here.

Ambient LED strip lighting, Alcantara-style seat coverings, heated front seats and steering wheel all helped usher in a feel of comfort and style.

On the tech side, “IQ. Light” LED matrix dipped and main beam headlights, a wireless phone charging tray, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera and automated parking assistance were all among the highlights.

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Our test car also featured the optional Harmon Kardon sound system upgrade (£1,080) and a panoramic sunroof (£1,050) among optional extras which further elevated the list price of £59,035 to an eye-watering £65,659.

Even in a world of stratospheric prices for Transporter conversions, that is some wedge.

Standard Multivan Life prices start at £43,258 for the 150PS TSI petrol, £44,488 for the 150PS TDI diesel or £48,883 for the PHEV.

During my time with the Multivan it succeeded in serving-up genuine MPV flexibility with a real dose of modern comfort and style.

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Behind the wheel, the driving position was good and the drive fairly stress-free. Only regenerative brakes (they feed energy back into the battery) which lacked initial bite and any real feel made life awkward.

On broken surfaces — like the concrete drive leading to our holiday accommodation — the cabin could also reverberate unpleasantly.

Give and take roads brought the assistance of smooth electric power into play, though, and driver and passengers on longer journeys will find it a stable and comfortable motorway cruiser.

Clearly styled to mark it out as a new generation of VW product, the Multivan does feel like it has moved the MPV game on, particularly with plug-in tech reducing emissions and costs for shorter journeys.

Like a few days in Edinburgh, though, it’s no cheap option…