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Volkswagen Multivan

Introduction

For years, Volkswagen’s Caravelle was a brilliant choice for those that needed to transport a large number of people, their luggage or assorted cargo. From 2022 though, the Caravelle is no more, and this is its replacement: the all-new Volkswagen Multivan

With familiar but modern looks, it’s all-new underneath, and has space inside for up to seven in various different layouts. It also boasts all manner of modern features, including plug-in hybrid power, bright LED headlights and more than 20 different safety and driver assistance systems,

Select's rating score* - 3.8 / 5

At a Glance

The Multivan is part-van, part-people carrier, created to span the gap between the two. Volkswagen says it listened to previous Caravelle customers, who said they wanted something that kept the practicality but was more car-like in terms of the driving and the level of interior quality. The Multivan is the result.

Known by the codename T7, it’s based on the same mechanical underpinnings as some of Volkswagen’s other cars, including the Golf, which means it can use a lot of the same engineering features. This includes the ability to fit plug-in hybrid tech, meaning the Multivan can do short journeys on electric power alone.

It has a very flexible seating arrangement in the back, with up to five separate seats in a variety of configurations, thanks to a sliding rail system running down the length of the car. There’s also a table and cup holder unit that can either sit between the front seats, or slide back to the passengers in the rear.

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Key Features

The Multivan comes in standard and long body styles, the latter offering 20cm of extra length and more interior space, although the wheelbase remains the same. Power comes from a choice of two petrol engines or a plug-in hybrid system that gives up to 31 miles electric-only driving. A diesel model is due to follow in the Summer of 2022.

If you’ve been in a Caravelle before, you’ll notice the extra interior space in the Multivan, and there are new features that you wouldn’t have been able to get before. As well as the PHEV option, you can spec a panoramic sunroof that really opens up the passenger area in the back. 

That area has a rail system for the seats that opens up lots of layout options; face them forwards, or backwards so everyone can chat, or even remove them completely. You could have seats on one side and, say, bikes stored on the other. 

There’s a foldable multifunction table included as well, which can hold cups between the front seats or slide back to be used by passengers in the back.

On top of all this, the new Multivan is better to drive and more car-like behind the wheel than the old Caravelle, and has more up-to-date features. These include a ‘Digital Cockpit’, which is a configurable screen behind the steering wheel, which shows assorted driving information, as well as the latest version of Volkswagen’s infotainment system.

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Range & Batteries

The plug-in hybrid model of the Multivan uses a 10kWh lithium-ion battery with its electric motor and petrol engine, which gives it a zero-emission range of up to 31 miles. It can travel on electric-only power at up to 70mph.

Performance & Drive

The Multivan’s predecessor, the Caravelle, was based on the Transporter van, which meant it drove… well, like a van. But Volkswagen has built the Multivan on the same modular engineering platform – called MQB, if you want some pub facts – as cars like the Audi A3, Seat Leon, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf.

This makes it some 200kg lighter and considerably more car-like to drive than its predecessor, and it’s noticeable almost straight away. Through corners the Multivan feels far more composed than any van we’ve tried, staying flat and confident through the bends. 

The steering has plenty of weight and feedback, and it’s far more agile than we suspect most customers will expect.

All Multivans have a dual-clutch ‘DSG’ automatic gearbox, which makes driving more effortless than a manual, and also frees up space between the front seats, either for storage or access to the back. 

Various assistance systems are also available, including adaptive cruise control, which keeps a set gap between you and the car in front, and takes much of the stress out of long-distance journeys.

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At launch, you’ll be able to choose between two petrol engines or the plug-in hybrid, and a diesel will be added in Summer 2022. Much attention will be focused on the PHEV model, which combines a 1.4-litre petrol engine, with around 150 horsepower, with an electric motor with 116 horsepower. That makes a total system power of 218 horsepower, making it the most powerful Multivan available. 

However, it is also heavier than the petrol models, which means acceleration is a leisurely 11.6 seconds from 0-62mph. The hybrid system works well, switching seamlessly between electric and petrol power. You can decide to use pure electric power as much as possible, or alter the balance between petrol and electric to, for example, save battery for later in your journey.

The downside of the PHEV model is that it doesn’t feel as sprightly as the 2.0 TSI petrol model, which is lighter and fizzier when you put your foot down. If you’re happy gently cruising around then that shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but the petrol model is noticeably faster to 62mph (9.4 seconds), and feels more nimble around the bends thanks to its reduced weight. There’s also a 1.5-litre TSI petrol model with 136 horsepower. Diesel models will arrive later in 2022.

Charging

You can plug the Multivan PHEV into a home wallbox or a public charger, although unlike a fast-charging pure electric car, charging speed won’t exceed 3.6kW. That means it’ll refill the battery in around 3hrs 40mins. Use a standard three-pin plug, and it’ll take around 5 hours. This should be fine for those that keep their van plugged in when they’re not using it.

Running costs & Emissions

The Multivan is due for release in Spring 2022, which means at the time of writing we don’t know what the leasing costs will be.

When it comes to running costs, the PHEV model should give you the best fuel economy, but it’ll be dependent on how you use it. If you can keep the battery charged, and you do mostly short journeys on electric power only, a tank of petrol will last you for ages. 

But if you do a lot of long motorway journeys, the battery will drain quickly and you’ll be leaning on the petrol engine instead, which will drain the tank too. Officially, Volkswagen claims up to 188mpg, but that figure is A) based on the outdated NEDC testing method, rather than the newer, more realistic WLTP method, and B) almost meaningless in the real world, as PHEV fuel consumption is so dependent on how you use your car.

The two petrol engines promise MPG figures of up to 42.8mpg (1.5 TSI) and 37mpg (2.0 TSI), but again, those are based on NEDC tests, and real world figures will be lower. The stats for the diesel model haven’t yet been released, but will almost certainly be better for fuel economy, and better suited to those doing lots of longer journeys.

Interior & Technology

Volkswagen has made a concerted effort to bring the Multivan closer to its regular cars in terms of interior quality and tech, and it’s certainly done that. The dashboard is definitely car-like, with a big 10.0-inch infotainment screen and the Digital Cockpit looking very smart, and material quality a step up from the company’s other vans. 

That said, some of the plastics used are pretty hard, almost brittle-feeling. In fairness, that’s understandable when you consider how massive the interior is, how much plastic is needed and how the company has to work to a budget.

The infotainment system features sat-nav, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone connectivity. It looks slick at first, but it’s our least-favourite part of the car, and feels like a step backwards from previous Volkswagen systems. 

It can be slow to respond and the lack of shortcut buttons means it can be tricky to navigate, especially when you’re on the move. The Digital Cockpit screen, replacing traditional dials, is good though, and means you can choose which information you want ahead of you when driving.

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Practicality & Boot Space

You’ll be looking to lease a Multivan because you want interior space, and on this it delivers brilliantly. There are two lengths of bodystyle available, one 20cm longer than the other at the back, giving extra boot space. But both have cavernous interiors, with up to seven seats available. 

There are sliding side doors on both sides, which are electrically operated on most models.

A rail system in the floor means you can slide individual seats backwards and forwards, turn them to face the front or rear, or even remove them completely for ultimate luggage lugging. The seats themselves are 25% lighter than those in the Caravelle, which makes it a doddle to remove and change them. You will need somewhere to store them if you take them out, however.

The side rails are electrified, which means the outer seats in the back can be heated, if you have a high enough spec.

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The middle rail houses a ‘multi-function table’, which can slide the length of the van and rise up. You can use it as a centre console with cupholders between the front seats, or zip it backwards, raise it and unfold the tables for those in the back. 

There’s extra storage underneath it, which complements bags of storage elsewhere; there are two glove boxes, two door pockets on each front door, and cubby holes under each rear seat too.

Boot space will depend on how you’ve laid your seats out. With all seats in and as far back as they’ll go, you’ll have 469 litres, which isn’t loads but should be enough for a few bags. That improves to 763 litres in the long version. If you load up to the front seats, however, you’ll get a whopping 3,672 litres of space in the standard Multivan, and 4,005 litres in the long model.

Safety

The Multivan hasn’t been tested by independent safety organisation Euro NCAP, and as more of a van-like model than a car, it’s not likely to be. However, Volkswagen has a long and impressive history of safety in its vehicles, and the Multivan has plenty of the latest safety systems to keep you and your family from harm.

Standard features include Lane Assist and automatic emergency braking, and Volkswagen’s Car2X system, which broadcasts warnings to nearby compatible vehicles to warn them of an incident.

Some models have side assist, which warns of vehicles in your blind spot, and rear traffic alert, which lets you know of approaching vehicles when reversing. The overall list of assistance systems is around 20, so there’s no shortage of tech to keep you safe. There are also front, centre and curtain airbags.

Options

Volkswagen hasn’t announced UK specs for the Multivan at the time of writing, so we can’t go into too much detail on what the different models will be. However, we can give you the gist of the European models as a rough indicator.

Over there, the base version, called just Multivan, has LED headlights, steel wheels and the full infotainment system, keyless start and cruise control, with three seats in the back. The mid-spec Life model adds 16-inch alloy wheels (17-inch on the PHEV), electric boot lid and side doors, with five seats in the back and four USB-C sockets for passengers to charge their devices.

The top-spec European model is the Style, which has 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome bits on the outside and powerful, clever matrix LED headlights, which change the shape of their beam for different conditions. Heated seats, multi-zone climate control and more premium trim are all included too.

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There’s also an Energetic special edition model, which is PHEV only, which comes as standard with a panoramic sunroof. This is a great addition that really brightens up the rear compartment with extra light.

Expect some similar variety of trim levels when the Multivan touches down in the UK. Paint options include some very stylish two-tone options, and various metallic and pearlescent hues, as well as various option packages. It looks likely that such packages will bundle together features like electric opening and closing of the side doors and boot, extra storage functions, reversing cameras and more advanced infotainment, and the panoramic sunroof. 

There could also be various different seating options for those who do or don’t need the full number of chairs.

Rival Cars

Massive people carriers like this aren’t in massive supply, so there aren’t too many rivals for the Multivan. There’s the Toyota Pro Ace Verso, which can seat up to nine but doesn't have a PHEV option and is no great shakes to drive. The Ford Tourneo Custom does have a PHEV option, but isn’t as swish as the VW.

There’s also the Citroen SpaceTourer, which can also seat up to nine but again isn’t quite as fancy or as accomplished on the road. The same is true of the Peugeot Traveller.

Then there’s the posh Mercedes-Benz V-Class and the pure electric EQV, which are very nice, but likely to be more expensive

Verdict & Next Steps

The Volkswagen Caravelle had a relatively small but very dedicated following of families and enthusiasts that just loved its ability to do just about everything. Its successor, the Multivan, looks set to continue that, because it’s better in just about every way.

It’s better-looking, nicer inside, better to drive and more efficient, especially in plug-in hybrid form. 

The only thing we don’t love is the infotainment system, but it’s far from a dealbreaker. 

We’ll have to wait and see what the leasing prices will be like, and what the UK trim levels will give you in terms of features, but we’d be very surprised if the Multivan doesn’t become our go-to large people carrier when it arrives in 2022.

Where to next?

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**Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Volkswagen Multivan


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