With stricter vehicle emissions laws being introduced in both the UK and further afield in Europe, Governments are banning the sale of new petrol and diesel powered cars from 2030, and all new hybrids from 2035. Whilst it is being contested on whether this is really feasible, the looming deadline is forcing car manufacturers to switch their new models to be electrified.
Volkswagen are one of the manufacturers that have made pledges to convert some, or all of their range to electric before this date. CEO of Volkswagen, Thomas Schaefer stated that the German manufacturer will produce 10 new, battery powered ID. models by the end of 2026. We’re already seeing the success of the VW ID. range, with the ID.3 model representing 3% of all electric cars sold in the UK in 2022.
Now, Volkswagen are expanding their range further, launching what is potentially the most exciting and hyped model to come from the brand in recent years. The new model is of course, the ID. Buzz. Volkswagen’s EV version of the iconic VW Bus, or Transporter, that first make its debut in 1949. The original, Splitscreen model, and subsequent models since its launch have quite a large following, so Volkswagen have big shoes to fill with the launch of this new ID. Buzz.
Gallery: Volkswagen ID. Buzz UK first drive review
Currently, there are two versions of the ID. Buzz, a cargo van, with up to three seats, or a minivan with five seats for passengers and a large boot. I had the opportunity to drive the latter, and with it being a VW Bus, I had to take it to the beach. Unfortunately, this meant a 300 mile round trip, but a perfect opportunity to really test the Buzz and it’s electric range.
The ID. Buzz’s design is arguably the reason why this vehicle is the most exciting new car to come from Volkswagen in recent years. Although I’ve heard mixed opinions, I think it’s looks great. Buyers have the option of several paints, with two-tone options available also. With a large, central VW badge at the front of it, hearkening back to the original 1949 model. This is then mixed with the modern headlights that are featured on much of the ID. Range. Volkswagen have opted for light bars both at the front and rear of the Buzz, which gives it more of an EV feel on the road.
The front bumper features a honeycomb mesh style, housing the radar that guides the adaptive cruise control and other functions. The Buzz sits on 20 inch wheels, wrapped with specific tyres for electric vehicles, a first that I have seen. Rear passengers receive sliding doors, which can be electric as an optional extra. With the darkened a-pillar, it gives the illusion that the windscreen and windows are all one piece of glass, and really set off the design of the vehicle. The rear three quarter panels feature a three stripe design element, that give off a retro theme, leading onto a small roof spoiler that overhangs the barn door boot lid, with ‘ID. Buzz’ adored in the middle of it.
Inside, VW have opted for a minimalist, but spacious feel. The five seats are two toned, orange fabric and white leather. The driver and passenger seats get arm rests either side for added comfort, and the rear seats fold flat to enable camper van conversions to fit a bed in the back. Volkswagen have been clever to add a little compartment in the boot for your charging cables when needed.
The driver gets a small screen for your speed, charging information and remaining electric range, and behind the steering wheel are two stalks, one for selecting your drive mode, and the other for indicators, wipers and headlights. All very minimalist. The centre console features a 10 inch touch screen, with clever gesture controls beneath it for radio volume and air conditioning. The interior even has ambient lighting, where you can select up to 30 different colours to light up the inside. Between the two front seats is the ‘Buzz box’, which essentially is your storage, and houses an ice scraper, bottle opener and various compartments for storage. This box is completely removable, allowing occupants to remove it and walk through into the rear part of the Buzz.
The ‘Style’ trim level that the press car came as had a 77 kWh battery. This sent 201 bhp to the rear wheels, giving the Buzz a top speed of 90 mph and a 0-62 mph of 10.2 seconds. The price on my particular model was a touch over £67,000. With a gross weight of 3 tonnes, the ID. Buzz has an official range of 255 miles, and is capable of charging to 80% in 30 minutes from a 170 kW rapid charger. This meant that my trip to the beach would need to include an all-important, charging stop. More on that later.
Sitting behind the wheel and driving VW’s latest EV for the first time was a nice experience. The driving position puts you in eyeline with trucks on the road, but with the wraparound style windows, the visibility is excellent, and the with the design of the Buzz, the edges of it are literally where the windows end, making it easy to drive. The dashboard features a wooden trim that ran behind the infotainment screen, and there are emblems of the Buzz embossed into the leather in the rear, which add really nice finishing touches. Naturally, the Buzz turned a lot of heads as you pass along the road, reminding you of the hype behind these vehicles.
I particularly liked Volkswagen’s touch on the pedals, with the accelerator marked with a play button, and the brake pedal marked with a pause, giving the vehicle more of playful feel. The adaptive cruise control on the ID. range is worth mentioning too, as it’s capable of anticipating speed limits, slowing down for sharp bends and roundabouts, meaning you only need to focus on the steering and what’s around you.
Programming the satellite navigation to take me to my destination, it automatically works out your estimated range, and plans in a charge stop at the fastest possible charging station. Perhaps being a little bit overcautious, I decided not to follow the advice of the navigation for fear of running of battery, and decided to stop at a motorway services earlier, to give the Buzz a bit of a charging boost. This unfortunately is where my problems began and I’m sorry to say that after four years of driving various electric cars, the infrastructure in the UK has not improved.
The first charger I visited refused to work, and took payment off my card without giving me any electric. A phone call with Shell confirmed that this charger was in fact not working. The next services advertised another Shell charging station, which turned out not to be built yet, but thankfully in a neighbouring car park there were other chargers, which unfortunately were already full. Having waited for a charger to become free, I finally was able to get some charge into the Buzz.
Upon leaving the charger, the navigation still recommended we stopped at the next supercharger to charge the Buzz to 80%. Perhaps my cautiousness of the first charging stop was unnecessary, and I was intrigued to try a supercharger, so decided to follow the navigation, which took me to a local Tesla Supercharger. Unbeknown to me, Tesla actually opened up their chargers to all electric vehicles, following a pilot scheme in 2022. This was great, as the Tesla chargers were much easier to use, however, with me driving a non-Tesla vehicle, I was limited to charging at 70 kWh, as opposed to the full 250 kWh that’s available to Tesla users.
ID. Buzz charged, I was able to progress onto my final destination, the beach! Here, the Buzz felt at home, and attracted the attention of other Transporter owners parked at the same location. On the drive home, I learnt from my ways and followed the navigation’s recommendations of stopping at a nearby charging point. At this charger, I couldn’t get it to start charging, once again giving me issues with the infrastructure. This charger was owned by BP, and the team on the helpline couldn’t have been more helpful, being able to start the charger remotely for me.
To summarise, I made it home from my trip following no less than four, yes FOUR charging stops. Not all of these were necessary, I accept, but it made what should have been a 4 or 5 hour round trip turn into what was more like 7 or 8 hours. What’s more, with all of the charging apps I’d downloaded throughout the day, and all of the chargers I’d used, I’d spent the best part of £60 in charging. £60 for a 300 mile trip is arguably more expensive than filling up with a tank a fuel, which would provide more miles of range. With the rising cost of electricity, it’s almost making using electric vehicles more expensive than combustion engine vehicles.
Naturally, the UK infrastructure isn’t at the fault of Volkswagen, but it’s really a point I feel passionate about, and I am adamant that the UK will not have the infrastructure in place for a 2030 EV deadline if we continue at the rate we are going with installing new (and working) EV charging points.
I feel that the typical buyer of an ID. Buzz would want to take it on longer journeys like the one I took it on. With an official range of 255 miles, my concern would be the constant stopping to top up the battery. In addition to this, to preserve the battery, it is not recommended to charge past 80% full. The Buzz even stops charging at 80% unless you tell it otherwise, meaning you lose 20% of your range instantly, reducing your driving range even further.
The ID. Buzz itself was a pleasure to drive, and I didn’t come away feeling fatigued after a long journey. I loved the little features, such as the emblems on the pedals, the handy bottle opener and ice scraper that doubled up as dividers in the storage tray, and the overall design of the ID. Buzz that gave both a nod to it’s models from previous generations, but also incorporated a futuristic feel. Although only running a single motor and with a top speed of 90 mph, the Buzz never felt underpowered, and with the good visibility, it was easy to manoeuvre through small spaces, too. The Buzz really brings back the novelty feel of driving a VW Transporter style model, and turns heads as much as a classic Splitscreen or bay window transporter from the earlier decades would. Driving it, I found I had a constant smile on my face. I just wish that charging infrastructure would be a much more pleasant experience as opposed to something to worry about when driving an EV.