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Volkswagen ID. Buzz – practical EV or fashion choice?

Volkswagen describes the ID. Buzz Cargo as 'the return of an icon', but how will the retro electric van stack up as a tool of trade?

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Volkswagen is describing the ID. Buzz Cargo, its first van designed as an electric vehicle from the ground up, as ‘the return of an icon’, harking directly back to the T1 Transporter of the 1960s which as an MPV and camper van was beloved by the hippy generation.

You can certainly see such inspiration in the styling of the ID. Buzz – but is this a vehicle all about looks and nothing more? Or has the fact that the designers were able to take advantage of the packaging advances of a compact electric powertrain made this newcomer a viable alternative to more conventional electric vans?

The Volkswagen MEB electric platform, which forms the basis of both the ID. Buzz Cargo and its sister passenger MPV, offers many potential advantages. The battery pack is housed under a completely flat floor, and the wheel-on-corner design, with the driving cabin placed further forward than in conventional vans, potentially liberates lots of interior space.

The vital figures are a 3.9m3 loadspace, sufficient to take two Euro pallets which can be loaded between the wheel arches either lengthways or sideways. The cargo bay is 2.2 metres long with a maximum load width of 1.73 metres and the maximum payload is 650kg.

So how does this compare to potential similar-sized electric van rivals? Well actually, it’s no radical advance. We’ve matched up three electric van rivals that are of similar size to the Volkswagen ID. Buzz Cargo – the Citroën e-Berlingo (in its longer, XL version) and the Nissan e-NV200, plus the standard version of the e Deliver 3 from rapidly-growing Chinese brand Maxus – there is also a significantly longer variant.

Footprint first – of the four contenders the Citroën e-Berlingo XL almost matches the VW in external length, at around 4.7 metres. The Nissan and Maxus both sit in-between at around 4.5 metres long each.

Both the Nissan and Maxus outdo the VW in loadspace – the e-NV200 offers 4.2m3, the eDeliver 3 a massive 4.8m3. The Citroën in XL form manages 3.8m3, so just under the VW. All also offer cargo bays of similar internal dimensions, both overall and between the wheel arches, and all offer side-loading doors for easy loading.

There’s some differences in payload rating, however, with the VW’s 650kg looking rather paltry in this company. The Nissan will accommodate up to 705kg, the extended Citroën 803kg, and the Maxus at least 865kg – the heavyweight contender?

That weight capability tells, however, in range. LCV manufacturers prefer to quote the WLTP-certified ‘City Cycle’ based on the fact that most of these vehicles will spend their time in urban environments. The Maxus can only manage around 140 miles with the standard battery, just over 200 with an optional larger one. Mind you, 140 miles will likely be more than sufficient for the intended city-centre daily working lives of these vans.

Citroën quotes between 170 and 250 miles for the e-Berlingo again depending on battery options, while the Nissan is rated at around 180 miles. And the VW? We don’t have confirmed figures yet for the ID. Buzz Cargo but the MPV version is being touted at around 210 miles between charges.

So no big gains yet for Volkswagen’s newcomer but there is one aspect in which the ID. Buzz Cargo knocks all its rivals into touch – appearance. This is one highly stylish LCV – it doesn’t look like a van and its proportions and detailing are a world away from the likes of the very utilitarian Maxus.

And then one comes to price… With Government plug-in van grants taken into account, less than £24K buys the Nissan, around £27K the Citroën, £30K the Maxus. The Volkswagen? The basic price of the passenger MPV (before VAT) is just under £47K but we don’t yet have a price for the van, and so can’t work out how much that price might be cut by the grant. But the MPV price suggests that the VW may well be the more pricey option.

So in terms of pure practicality and economics, it looks likely that the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Cargo is not exactly going to revolutionise the LCV market – but then again it doesn’t need to. This van will find a ready market, particularly amongst those business users for which image is highly important and who will value the head-turning reactions as vehicles bearing their livery pass by.

And the Volkswagen ID. Buzz should also be considered a standard-bearer – a message to those rivals, showing that once they start designing electric vans that are not based upon vehicles in their existing combustion-engined range but created from a clean sheet of paper, they really don’t need to look like the vans we are used to today. Are we entering an era of truly stylish LCVs?

Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is the News and Road Test Editor for The Van Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars and vans for more than 20 years, and attends many new model launches each year.

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