UK Drive: The Volkswagen Multivan eHybrid blends space and efficiency

The Multivan is available with a number of powertrains, but the hybrid version aims to be the greenest. Jack Evans tests it out.

Volkswagen Multivan
Volkswagen Multivan

What is it?

Volkswagen Multivan
The Multivan is smooth and easy to drive

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Volkswagen’s Caravelle became a byword for family-friendly motoring, with its seven-seater layout and practical focus turning it into a hit with buyers. It was, however, based on the regular Transporter platform, which meant that it wasn’t quite as refined as your traditional MPV.

However, the new Multivan looks to address this. Sitting on the same platform as the latest Golf means that it should, in theory, be even easier to live with than the Caravelle. Though we’ve already tested it abroad, this is the first time we’ve been able to drive the Multivan on home soil. So let’s dive in.

What’s new?

Volkswagen Multivan
The Multivan’s seats are on rails

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That new platform is core to the Multivan’s appeal, of course, but more on how it drives later. Elsewhere, we’ve got some of Volkswagen Group’s latest technology, which means a more screen-heavy interior than we’ve seen before in a van like this. The exterior also delivers a blend of retro and modern features, with our test car’s split-colour design being particularly eye-catching.

There are also flexible seating solutions to help deal with whether you need to prioritise passenger space or load area.

What’s under the bonnet?

Volkswagen Multivan
The charging port is handily located

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The Multivan is available with a number of powertrain options, but the one we’re looking at today incorporates a plug-in hybrid setup. It’s a system that is being used across many of Volkswagen’s vehicles, combining a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a 10.4kWh battery and an electric motor to help reduce emissions and allow for up to 29 miles of electric-only runtime.

It also enables brisk performance (for a van of this size) with 0-60mph taking 8.8 seconds. But the real focus is on efficiency, so it’s good that Volkswagen claims fuel economy of up to 156.9mpg (when fully charged, of course) and low emissions of just 41g/km. Run on electric power for much of the time and you’ll see fuel bills fall drastically compared with a traditionally-powered van.

What’s it like to drive?

Volkswagen Multivan
The front end design combines modern and retro touches

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Seeing as it’s got the same platform as the new Golf sitting underneath it, it’ll probably come as no surprise that the Multivan drives in a far more car-like fashion than its predecessor. It rides better, with less jolting coming through to the cabin. This makes it more comfortable overall and definitely better suited to families. The low-speed ride can be a little fractured, mind you.

The hybrid powertrain is fine when you don’t demand too much from it. A good electric range means it’s perfect for sauntering around town, but that little 1.4-litre engine can be a little vocal when called upon. Thankfully, light steering and good visibility mean that it’s not a tricky car to pilot, despite being relatively large.

How does it look?

Volkswagen Multivan
The Multivan is ideally suited to long journeys

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Opting for a retro-influenced design can sometimes make a modern car look a little odd, but that’s not the case with the Multivan. The split-colour design may not be to everyone’s tastes but, to our eyes, it really does help the van to stand out. More conventional shades are still available, of course.

The traditional boxy dimensions are still in place, but the rounded front end helps to soften them off a little bit. Lots of glass is a key theme with the Multivan, while a small spoiler hanging over the rear screen is a nice flourish at the end.

What’s it like inside?

Volkswagen Multivan
The cabin area is clean and packed with storage options

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Space is the name of the game in the Multivan’s segment and it delivers in this respect. There’s acres of room to be found throughout the van and regardless of which row you’re sitting in you’ll be able to get comfortable. There’s the option of six or seven seats and, since they’re all mounted on rails, you can easily chop and change between legroom or boot space. Plus, they’re light so they’re simple to remove; doing so frees up panel van-like levels of load area.

Plus, the centre console of the Multivan is also positioned on rails, so you can move this forward or back through the cabin depending on need. Loads of cubbies and storage areas mean you can keep the cabin nice and clutter-free, too.

What’s the spec like?

Volkswagen Multivan
The central armrest can be moved

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Our test car – with its plug-in hybrid powertrain and kitted out in ‘Life’ specification, came in at £52,741 which is a lot of money. There were only two optional extras added, too, in the form of keyless entry (£438) and Volkswagen Discover media and navigation system which, at £768, is a box worth ticking thanks to its 10-inch colour display and connectivity options.

Life models come with loads of extra equipment, too, including adaptive cruise control, a rear-view camera and plenty of USB-C charging points dotted throughout the cabin so that occupants can keep their devices topped up.

Verdict

The Multivan goes to show just how flexible modern car underpinnings can be. It’s spacious, comfortable and far easier to drive than its predecessor, but it has lost none of the practicality that people looking in this segment are after. The option of a plug-in hybrid is a good one, too, particularly for those who can conduct many of their journeys on EV power.

However, with prices for the regular Multivan starting from £43,720, unless you’re going to maximise the saving benefits of the plug-in hybrid through its electric driving, you might be better served to go for another powertrain.

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