UK Drive: What does a diesel engine bring to the Volkswagen Multivan?

What is it?

Volkswagen Multivan
The Multivan has been designed with practicality in mind


Volkswagen’s Multivan appeared as a refreshingly striking alternative to the Caravelle that it replaced. Now, we’ll admit that some of its limelight may have been stolen by the electric ID.Buzz but, for many drivers – particularly those looking at a long-distance people carrier – an electric powertrain still isn’t the most viable option.

We’ve tested the Multivan in plug-in hybrid form before but here, we’re looking at the traditional diesel-powered version. It could turn out to be an excellent mile-muncher, but should you choose it over the hybrid? Let’s find out.

What’s new?

Volkswagen Multivan
The middle section can be slid forward and back


The Multivan is based upon the same underpinnings as you’ll find underneath the Golf, rather than one adapted from a van as the old Caravelle was. The idea behind this is that you get a more car-like driving experience, without forsaking outright practicality or spaciousness. The level of scalability in these new platforms is quite impressive, given that the Golf is so much smaller than the Multivan, yet shares so much with it.

It’s available in a variety of different colours – including a rather eye-catching split orange-and-grey colourway – though our test version came in a more subdued all-black. It already looked fitting for a private car hire firm.

What’s under the bonnet?

The squared off rear end makes parking easy
The squared off rear end makes parking easy


As already mentioned, you can get the Multivan with a clever e-Hybrid setup, combining a compact 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor and battery. It’s a great option for those drivers who often do shorter commutes – where its 29 miles of electric-only battery will no doubt come in handy.

However, for long-distance drivers this diesel version will no doubt be more attractive. It’s a familiar 2.0-litre turbocharged setup, sending 148bhp to the front wheels via a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. The economy figures are particularly impressive for a car of this size, with Volkswagen claiming up to 42.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 173g/km.

What’s it like to drive?

Volkswagen Multivan
The Multivan is surprisingly easy to drive


With a diesel engine plonked up front, the Multivan enters into more familiar territory than its electrified stablemate. It’s a quiet and relatively refined engine, too, though it can feel a little gruff under heavy applications of throttle. The model we’re looking at is a Long version, too, so you do need to be a little wary of its extended extremities when you’re reversing or parking.

The DSG gearbox is a touch hesitant to get the power down, but when up and running it’s silky smooth and very relaxing. The only thing we did notice was that the ride could feel slightly firm – particularly around town – with the long wheelbase of this extended version no doubt playing into this slightly. However, once on the motorway it remains comfortable and refined, with only a slight amount of wind noise generated as a result of that rather upright design.

How does it look?

Volkswagen Multivan
The front end design incorporates Volkswagen’s new badge design


This new generation of Volkswagen people-movers is the most futuristic-looking to date. It’s leagues ahead of the old Caravelle and looks far departed from the older van-based model. In truth, we quite like the two-tone colour setup that you can get with the Multivan, as it helps to give it a slightly funkier, less straight-laced appearance.

It’s why the black-on-black look of our test car, though stealthier, didn’t really add much ‘fun’ to this model. However, neat touches such as the super-thin headlights and rear lights do bring an extra element to the van’s exterior design.

What’s it like inside?

Volkswagen Multivan
The interior gets Volkswagen’s latest tech


Space is the name of the game for the Multivan and that’s just what you get, particularly in this long wheelbase version. There’s acres of room, making it a sure-fire hit with larger families as well as drivers who have the need to frequently transport a number of passengers.

The level of fit-and-finish is good, though there are some slightly lower-quality plastics to be found here and there. The basic architecture of the forward part of the cabin is straight out of the latest generation of Golf and, just as we’ve found in that car, it’s let down in areas by the over-heavy use of gloss black plastic which doesn’t feel great to the touch and attracts dust and fingerprints very quickly.

What’s the spec like?

Volkswagen Multivan
There’s plenty of storage on board


Multivan prices kick off at £43,720, with entry-level ‘Style’ models getting seven seats, a 10-inch central touchscreen system and adaptive cruise control all fitted as standard. Move up to ‘Style’ grade – which our test van was finished in – and you’ll find features such as electric sliding doors, heated front seats and a full digital dashboard setup included as part of the van’s price, though this is increased to £55,510 in the process.

In fact, on ‘Style’ versions there’s almost too much standard equipment to mention. Importantly for tech-loving passengers, there are loads of USB-C charging points, too, with two ports in the front of the cabin and four available for those in the back, so there shouldn’t be too many arguments about who gets to top up their device first.

Verdict

In diesel form, the Multivan feels as though it’ll be a very appealing prospect for many drivers. Of course, those covering smaller daily routes will no doubt lean towards the plug-in hybrid and its decent electric range, but if you’re travelling further afield, it’s this version that will no doubt prove the most efficient.

In ‘Long’ form, it’s incredibly spacious and practical too, while all three rows of seats offer loads of legroom. Throw in its high-speed refinement and you’ve got a package that’ll be up for tackling all sorts of adventures.

  • Model: Volkswagen Multivan Diesel

  • Price: £56,860

  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel

  • Power: 148bhp

  • Torque: 360Nm

  • 0-60mph: 11.4seconds

  • Top speed: 118mph

  • Economy: 42.8 mpg

  • CO2 emissions: 173g/km