VW Multivan Life 1.4-litre TSI eHybrid UK review

Amazing new MPV with standard wheelbase and plug in hybrid powertrain

The MPV market is almost dead due to the advent of the SUV. VW has made a smart decision to keep a presence in the market with a model that not only replaces the VW Sharan and VW Touran but also the VW Caravelle. While nobody wants to drive an MPV anymore, many people will long for the beach lifestyle that the VW Volkswagen Caravelle (and other VW vans) offered as a free option.

We have been impressed with our experiences with the VW Volkswagen Multivan so far, despite trying to cover such a wide market segment.

It’s one those models that is more than the sum its parts and comes along when you least expect it. Although the Multivan is a van, it has the most unique interior design. It has the same dimensions as a van and even has a van name. However, the Multivan drives like a car due to its MQB underpinnings. These are used on many VW Group models including the VW Volkswagen Golf.

These underpinnings allow it to be compatible with all MQB-compatible powertrains. This plug-in hybrid version is one example. The engine combines a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol motor of 148bhp with an electric motor of 114bhp (a combined output of 215bhp), and drives the front wheels via a six-speed DSG transmission. The battery’s range is listed at 31 miles.

Recently, we tried the 200mm-longer version of the ‘Long’ model in Style with a 2.0-litre non-hybrid petrol-engine. We are now sampling the standard 4973mm-long model in the Life trim. This entry-level trim also offers an intriguing hybrid option.

The standard and long versions have little in common. The Long version has a little more boot space, more of a storage area behind the third row of seats. You can place a parcel shelf above it to keep your items out of sight below the back window.

Its interior is extremely flexible, with five to four rear seats and optionally four rows. The middle row can be rotated 180 degrees, while the middle row can slide fore-aft. The centre console can also slide along rails from the driver’s side to the back row. It’s clever stuff that is easy to reconfigure and use, turning the Multivan into a studio apartment in West London, sized for a minibus, in a matter of seconds.

Dynamically, the pair are indistinguishable: predictable, but not engaging handling (it is still a van after all), an acceptable ride and light steering, all delivered out of a commanding driving posture (very van-like) that provides excellent visibility and a great view of the road.

The hybrid powertrain is a little underpowered for such large and heavy vehicles. The extra torque from the electric motor makes it a little faster off the line, but the acceleration becomes slower as you go higher in the speed range. It’s quiet, smooth, and refined when you make use of the estimated 20-25 mile range of the electric motor. However, it can grumble a little when the battery is low and whine a bit when under heavy throttle loads.

All of this depends on how you judge it using car standards and what we have seen with the powertrain in Golf models. It is acceptable if you judge it by van standards. The powertrain enjoys the effortless progress that you are more likely to make with the Multivan’s position.

Due to the stress the engine was under and the heavy Multivan, I expected much worse economy than the 35mpg indicated when the battery died. This is a decent figure for a car this small and should keep your running costs down. However, you need to charge the battery regularly and stick with the lower mileage models.

This Multivan version could be a good choice. Although it costs around PS4500 more than the non-hybrid petrol version of the Multivan, running costs will be lower and it is futureproofed against any legislation against non-electrified vehicles should you decide to buy it and keep it for a long time. If a fleet manager offers one, you have the option to add it to your company’s car list. Or, you can choose your own vehicle.

While the Multivan maintains the VW van’s iconic style and well-known usability, it is now a vehicle that is very much in the present.