On a recent trip to Germany, Ian McLaren was handed the keys to Volkswagen’s beautifully crafted ID. Buzz, the all-electric continuation of the brand’s popular Transporter series. It’s also one of the products that VWSA will eventually use to introduce its modern range of electrified ID. products into South Africa.
Volkswagen ID. Buzz Fast Facts
- Price: TBC
- Powertrain: 77 kWh battery with a single electric motor
- Transmission: single-speed
- Power: 150 kW
- Torque: 310 N.m
- Driven wheels: rear
- 0-100 km/h: 10,2 sec
- Top speed: 145 km/h
The spiritual successor to the hugely significant Volkswagen Transporter, the ID. Buzz can be considered one of this German brand’s flagship moments in its transition to an all-electric future. While other highlights of VW’s ID. project to date include the mighty ID. R racing car and recently revealed ID. GTI concept, the instantly recognisable, ever-emotive shape of a Volkswagen people mover will always resonate – and inevitably draw smiles.
Built on the Volkswagen’s dedicated battery electric MEB platform, the ID. Buzz features various styling cues that pay homage to the brand’s original Type 2 from 1949, including a near full-length glasshouse, a distinct D-pillar design and an oversized VW badge on the nose.
Introduced as a strictly five-seater, a long-wheelbase version aimed predominantly at the US market has since been launched.
Why is the ID. Buzz significant?
By its own admission, the Volkswagen brand has lost ground in terms of how well its products resonate and stand out in terms of design. Indeed, the mandate of the new head of design, Andreas Mindt, is to oversee stable-looking and likeable designs, each boasting what he describes as a “secret source.” While Mindt was still finishing up at his previous role at Bentley when the ID. Buzz was signed off, this is surely the type of design that ticks all the boxes in terms of these requirements.
Complete with its two-tone exterior paint finish, the ID. Buzz delivered to my Munich hotel the previous evening was the first thing that my eyes were drawn to on the morning of my scheduled test drive. Shorter by around 200 mm, yet 80 mm wider than the current T6.1 Transporter, including short overhangs, front and rear, the Buzz looks plucky and characterful in the metal.
Including the ID. GTI, these are the kinds of designs that will surely get fans of the brand excited again.
What’s new on the ID. Buzz?
Bespoke exterior design aside, the ID. Buzz also introduces an impressively neat interior that features upholstery made primarily from recycled materials (no leather). In this five-seat application, the second-row backrest can be tilted for increased comfort and there are dedicated climate control vents for these passengers. The luggage area features a tiered floor with dedicated baskets for the various charging cables.
While the driving position in the ID. Buzz feels thankfully more SUV-like than perched as was the case in some of the older Kombis, outward visibility via a massive glasshouse (including larger three-quarter windows), and a short “bonnet” remains one of the noteworthy characteristics of this modern “bus.”
The placement of the transmission lever onto the vehicle’s steering column frees up space in the front footwell and there are several neat storage solutions – including a bin with two USB ports in which to place a smartphone – scattered around the cabin.
A relatively small (5,3-inch) instrument cluster nevertheless provides all necessary trip information, including the car’s remaining operating range, while a 10,0-inch touchscreen infotainment display can mirror a modern smartphone’s screen to offer navigation and audio preferences. Out of interest, while on the open road and heading for the German border with Austria, there seemed to be a discrepancy between where the navigation App on the mirrored smartphone suggested available charging stations were positioned, and where the car’s built-in navigation considered best to stop (more to this later).
One of the benefits of VW’s MEB platform is the absence upfront of mechanicals associated with an internal combustion engine allows for impressive respective steering angles. To this end, the ID. Buzz features a welcome 11,1 m turning circle, making it pleasantly manoeuvrable around town.
The short-wheelbase ID. Buzz features a 77 kWh battery with a single electric motor powering the rear wheels. VW claims an operating range of up to 345 kilometres.
A day spent with the ID. Buzz
Within the first few kilometres of driving, I was aware of the amount of attention that the ID. Buzz draws. This is an effortless cool-looking, “old-school” van that continues VW’s long-established tradition of getting families excited about heading out, even if only to the local shops.
Somehow, the weight penalty broadly associated with a modern EV feels less of an issue in a “bus.” I certainly didn’t ever feel like this vehicle was underpowered or, indeed, was I nervous to join the fast lane on the autobahn to pass slower traffic and trucks as I headed away from Munich.
Aware that we would need to charge before our return trip, we made our way into two small towns, one on either side of the German/Austria border. With no pre-paid card in the car (a system that we currently use in South Africa), it became a guessing game to find which available public charging solution required which payment solution to operate. In the end – and with our available range getting a little lower than would be considered comfortable – we found a small station that could be accessed via a registered credit card.
An hour and a half later and with just enough charge to make it back to Munich, we turned onto a nearby main road only to find a massive charging station – complete with a row of 150 kW chargers – that frustratingly didn’t appear on the App that we had been using. It, however, required a separate (and complicated) credit card registration process before it would work.
Arriving back in Munich, we again stumbled across a charging station close to our hotel. Excited at the prospect of using this 250 kW fast charger, the mood turned sombre once more at the sight of a technician showing us a thumbs-down gesture as he’d shut this unit down for repair.
Driving the ID. Buzz was every bit as exciting as I’d hoped it would be. I love the styling, packaging and feel-good factor that it exudes. With two young children of my own, I know how excited they would be at the prospect of heading out in the Buzz (bus).
And yet, by its nature and its established reputation, this is a road trip vehicle. A car that you want to be able to take on the long road, whether it be a camping trip, a surfing adventure or, indeed, a family weekend away. This means that you’re going to want to feel confident in the charging infrastructure that’s going to be available along the way – acknowledging that range anxiety is only heightened when you have a young family onboard.
While from experience I would confidently take my family in an ID. Buzz up the Garden Route from Cape Town, knowing just how good the existing charging infrastructure on this route is, I look forward to a time when more South Africans will feel as assured at the prospect of heading to their favourite holiday destination in an EV – especially one as cool as an ID. Buzz.
VWSA is looking to introduce its portfolio of all-electric ID. products in South Africa with the ID. Buzz and the ID.4 Pro (which shares the same underpinnings). A fleet of each of these vehicles is already in the country and undergoing testing. In the case of the ID. Buzz, this includes four of this car’s Cargo derivatives joining DHL on a trial basis.