Volkswagen Multivan MPV review
"The latest Volkswagen Multivan represents a successful update of VW's popular posh MPV but it's expensive and the lack of a diesel option could put some buyers off"
- The latest tech
- Plug-in hybrid available
- No diesel yet
- Vague steering
The Volkswagen Multivan is a replacement for the Caravelle, which built up a loyal following over the years. Name change aside, the Multivan offers some significant upgrades that should excite fans. Many may have to wait for used examples to filter through, however, because in plug-in guise the Multivan is expected to cost more than £50,000.
That’s a lot of money for a seven-seat MPV, especially in a class where sales have been decimated by the unstoppable rise of SUVs, many of which are available with seven seats. The Multivan doesn't have many direct rivals, with only the Mercedes V-Class offering a similarly upmarket experience for a car of this size. More mainstream models include the Citroen SpaceTourer and Ford Galaxy, or you could pick up a Land Rover Defender or fully loaded Kia Sorento for similar money.
The Multivan still offers the advantage of van-like interior space without a commercial feel once you get inside. Rails allow the rear seats to slide and swivel by 180 degrees, while a storage cubby with a fold-out table can travel along the middle of the MPV to where it's wanted. There's also a 469-litre boot behind the third row of seats, which is something very few cars can offer. In the long-wheelbase version, cargo space with the rear seats removed is 4,005 litres, with the only downside being the inevitable calls from friends and family to help with house moves.
Volkswagen's latest infotainment setup and technology has been neatly integrated into the Multivan's upright dashboard, and it all looks contemporary and fresh. VW's media software has come in for some criticism in the Golf but the 10-inch touchscreen looks sharp and responds quickly to inputs.
In a surprise move for such a large vehicle, there's no diesel at launch, with Volkswagen instead offering a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) setup and a pair of petrol engines. We've tried the PHEV so far, which uses the same 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, electric motor and 10kWh battery combo seen in the Golf and Passat GTE. With 215bhp, it sounds powerful but the reality is a bit more pedestrian, with smooth acceleration at a gentle pace but a fairly harsh sound if the combustion engine needs to work hard. Handling feels secure and light steering helps disguise the Multivan's size while maneuvering in tight car parks.
We like the Multivan's sharp new design, interior space and clever seating but it's very expensive in plug-in hybrid guise. The petrol versions will be cheaper but owners tend to rack up lots of miles, so we're not sure how acceptable the fuel economy figures of the petrol Multivan will be. While diesel power is being phased out in smaller classes, it's still likely to prove popular in a large MPV like the Multivan.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The big news here is the eHybrid powertrain, which is similar to the plug-in hybrid setup already found in the Volkswagen Golf GTE and Volkswagen Passat GTE. It pairs a 1.4-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, along with a 10kWh battery. When fully charged at home or using a public charge point, this gives it a zero-emissions range of around 30 miles.
Full efficiency figures haven't been revealed yet but the Multivan eHybrid should easily be able to slip into London's ULEZ without paying a fee, and appeal to company-car drivers. Charging the battery pack from 0-100% takes just under 3.5 hours using a 3.6kW wallbox.
In a move that shows just how much Volkswagen's approach has changed in recent years, the only other engines available at launch are petrol. There's a 134bhp 1.5-litre and a 201bhp 2.0-litre, while a 2.0-litre TDI diesel won't arrive until later.
Engines, drive & performance
The Multivan might be quite a bit more advanced than the old Caravelle but it still feels quite like a van once you get out on the road. It doesn't lean over too much in bends but the steering is very light and there's almost no feel for what's going on between the wheels and the road.
This isn't entirely a bad thing because in town the light steering makes the Multivan feel easy to manoeuvre, helped by its tight turning circle. Anyone used to driving an SUV is likely to feel right at home behind the wheel, thanks to its high seating position and good visibility.
With 215bhp from the petrol engine and electric motor, the eHybrid doesn't feel quite as sporty as the headline power figure may suggest. This is made evident by its mediocre 11.6-second 0-62mph acceleration figure, and the Multivan never feels especially punchy. There's smooth acceleration - especially from the electric motor - but the petrol engine sounds slightly coarse when it kicks in to lend a hand.
Interior & comfort
The Multivan is fitted with VW’s latest infotainment setup, as seen in the current Golf. The 10-inch infotainment screen is sharp and responsive and when paired with a 10.25-inch 'Digital Cockpit' and head up display, the Multivan feels upmarket - this is an expensive MPV after all.
Most of the surfaces you'll touch, including the steering wheel and dashboard, have a quality feel but it's easy to find some hard plastics if you're sat in the back or go hunting in the lower reaches of the interior. A panoramic sunroof is offered for the first time, and an integrated eSIM means there's a permanent connection for online services and connecting to the Multivan remotely via a smartphone app.
Practicality & boot space
The seven-seat Multivan is designed for its rear occupants as much as those in the front and so there's now a new party trick in the back. A rail system allows the second and third rows to slide forwards and backwards, or turn 180 degrees. In higher spec versions all seven seats can be heated and the individual seats are also 25% lighter to make it easier for one person to remove them for maximum luggage space. It's also possible to specify the Multivan with six seats.
A central table can also slide up and down the interior, giving the front, middle or rear passengers cup holders and a height-adjustable fold-out table. It's handy but the creviced rail system does look like the perfect collection device for dirt, crumbs and other debris. There are USB charging ports and storage bins throughout the interior, ensuring the Multivan feels like a base camp on any family expeditions.
There's also more outright space than in the outgoing Caravelle, with 469 litres behind the third row of seats, stretching to 1,844 litres with the rear seats removed. The Ford Galaxy can only manage 300 litres with all seven seats in use. With both rear rows removed, there's 3,672 litres or a huge 4,005 litres in the long-wheel base version.
Reliability & safety
It might be a large, boxy MPV but the Multivan is actually based on the same MQB underpinnings as models like the Golf and Passat, which are both well proven. It also uses tried and tested engines, including the plug-in hybrid powertrain. If there are any glitches, we'd predict they could come from the electronics but any bugs here could in theory be solved by over the air software updates.
The move to the MQB platform also brings VW's latest safety kit, including features like autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping and road sign recognition. It's also equipped with 'Car2X', which can communicate with other vehicles and local infrastructure to warn of delays and hazards in the area.