In Plain Sight

Aug 15, 2022

Modern German engineering paired with plug-in electric practicality ensures Volkswagen’s new T7 Multivan PHEV has all the grace and pace of a conventional SUV. But here, it’s family-friendly space that gives the Multivan the edge.

The main headline attached to the arrival of the new Volkswagen Multivan PHEV is that it’s the very first electrified offering from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in New Zealand. It’s the beginning stage of a journey which, at present, will eventually lead to the exciting fully electric retro-flavoured ID. Buzz and ID. Buzz Cargo vans, due to arrive here during 2023.

While the ability to supplement power from the Multivan’s conventional 1.4-litre petrol engine by plugging in and gaining an extra 50km or so of emissions-free motoring is a great advent, another big attribute of the new van is hiding in plain sight. And Volkswagen Commercial is keen that it be known.

The Volkswagen Multivan does everything an SUV does, and more. If you have requisite people or cargo to move on a regular basis, it actually leaves most SUVs wanting. It’s the perfect alternative.

Uncontestably modern inside and out, and with Volkswagen’s latest architecture underpinning it, the T7 Multivan still wears its heritage proudly. Look beyond the electric plug, the wireless phone charging, or the 30-colour ambient interior light system, and there remains a direct line to be drawn right back to the original Kombi. In ‘Energetic’ trim as seen on these pages, that lineage is doubled down upon even further with a duo-tone exterior paint scheme (three different duo-tone colourways are available).

A smart exterior look is one thing, but it’s on the inside where the seventh generation Multivan comes into its own.

Unlike its stablemates in the Volkswagen Commercial line-up, the Multivan was designed for people first, cargo second. There is no compromise here when it comes to good, spacious, comfortable seating for up to seven. Until that is, you don’t need seating for seven…

The T7 Multivan’s party piece is undoubtably its configurable seating. Offering up countless passenger or load-lugging solutions, the five seats in the rear of the Multivan can be rearranged to suit different scenarios to assist with work or play. Or they can be removed completely. Dressed in premium-feel Alcantara upholstery, the seats are around 25% lighter than in this model’s predecessor. A simple ‘rip cord’ at the bottom of each seat unclips it from its channel in order for it to be removed. Reaffixing the seats back in place is similarly easy too.

There are other clever functional touches everywhere inside the van, such as under-seat storage drawers, wastepaper bins integrated into door pockets and, as you’d expect of a modern family-focused machine, places to plug in devices both in the front and back.

The literal centrepiece of the rear passenger space is a multi-function table, which can slide back and forth in a dedicated channel right up to sit between the front seats if so desired. With its adjustable height settings, fold-out table surfaces and storage pockets, this standard feature trounces anything a conventional SUV might be able to offer its back seat passengers, beyond something bespoke from a coachbuilder in a vehicle costing many miles north of the $78,800 plus ORCs asking price for the entry-level Multivan ‘Family’ (the Multivan ‘Energetic’ costs $106,000 plus ORCs).

Further convenience (and electric functionality) comes in the form of sliding doors each side of the van and a powered rear tailgate too.

On the road, the 5-star ANCAP safety rated Multivan offers up plenty of power: 160kW combined power from the lithium-ion battery and petrol engine, and 350Nm of torque. Because of its hybrid-electric set-up, it also boasts incredible fuel economy of just 1.7-litres/100km.

It sounds like a bit of a cliché, but it’s an unavoidable one here: the Multivan PHEV is very ‘car-like’ to drive. Because it’s designed as passenger transport first and foremost, there are none of the usual acoustic compromises you’d expect from a conventional van.

Don’t be fooled by that cavernous interior and stylish nose up front: the Multivan doesn’t feel like a large vehicle to pilot through city streets. A responsive, planted feel at cruising speed is matched with a good turning circle and light steering manoeuvrability when in garage gears, and the big glasshouse (paired with its rear-view camera system) makes for excellent outward visibility.

The MQB platform it rides on is what Volkswagen uses in engineering its popular SUVs. But its ability to ape the best qualities of an SUV are more than skin deep. Despite technically being a part of Volkswagen’s Commercial vehicle line-up, there is nothing basic and utilitarian about the T7 Multivan PHEV’s feature set, nor the way it deftly approaches convenient mobility for Kiwi families.