The Production Volkswagen ID Buzz Isn’t Quite The Retro EV Microbus The World Was Hoping For But It’s Still Great

Iid Buzz 1+

Are you familiar with the sexual practice known as “edging?” You pretty much live on the internet, like all of us do, so I bet you have some idea of what this is. Essentially, it’s about prolonging a particular sensation as long as possible, delaying, um, completion as long as you can. That sort of feels like what VW has been doing with their resurrected and electrified Type 2 Microbus, of which prototypes and examples have been trotted out by VW for over 20 years.

Seriously, that first re-born Microbus concept is old enough to buy beer now.

Bus TimelineI mean, look at this: modernized buses since 2001, teasing us over and over, with each new revision.

I’d also like to note that I was pushing for VW to introduce a new electric bus as early as 2015, since I saw it as VW’s best chance to get a favorable reputation back after the whole Dieselgate fiasco.

I’m going to quote myself here, and you can’t stop me:

“Volkswagen has been developing electric vehicles for a while now, and the e-Golf is already available. A purpose-built EV platform like a new EV Bus would allow for packaging efficiencies like Tesla-style floor/chassis-mounted batteries and would work especially well for the packaging of a big box like the Bus. VW has the technology to do this already.

It has to be the Microbus because a New Beetle-style modernized bus has been hoped for by a large spectrum of potential VW customers — and it’s a set of people that goes beyond the usual car-enthusiast crowd. It’s an iconic vehicle with a large reservoir of nostalgia and goodwill; it could have appeal to old people who remember the original and young people looking for something novel, with character.”

The chain of concepts ended with that 2017 ID Buzz, which I quite liked, in show-car form. The translation from concept to production isn’t easy, but I think VW pulled it off remarkably well, considering all of the significant hurdles that a production car brings.

Also, no grayish tires, which is a shame, too. Let’s take a look at some of the big differences between the concept and the production ID Buzz:

Buscallouts

Overall, I think VW has pulled it off really well; they’ve made an EV that currently has no real counterpart in the market: a practical and fun electric van, a real van, is pretty much a category of one at the moment, and I think this should prove to be a really attractive alternative to some boring-ass crossover or SUV.

To capture the feel of the original, iconic Microbuses, VW leans heavily on that two-tone paint job to do the work, but, let’s be honest, it always was a game-day player in VW Bus design, contributing a lot to the iconic look. Plus, the colors shown are real colors, vibrant and bright and unashamed, and that alone is novel in the modern, boring grayscale carscape.

Painting the pillars black instead of white or body color is, I think, the biggest single visual departure from the concept, and I’m not sure I like it. It was the safe call, as nearly all modern cars do this, and does make the bus look a bit more sleek.

But do we want the bus to look sleek?

I think the white pillars of the concept convey the original bus’ character better. The same reasoning seems to be behind VW sticking with modern, pissed-off looking headlamps instead of friendlier, more welcoming round lights per the original. Contemporary auto design seems to dictate that all cars must look, at least to some degree, like they’re sick of your shit, and I suppose VW felt they needed to play it safe there.

Maybe there will be aftermarket light kits to let these buses look happier.

Buzz Interiors

The interiors look good, too: extremely roomy, as you’d guess from what is essentially a massive box, and good use of color on the inside. For vehicles that likely will be hauling families with kids and people likely doing all manner of questionable things inside them, I sure hope that white upholstery is able to be easily cleaned, though.

I’m also curious to see how those seats fold down; can they go totally flat, so you can sleep in this? I’d hope so.

Martin Meiners
Martin Meiners

The cargo version works well, too–perhaps even better, because it avoids much of the pillar-blackening issue. While there are a few other electric cargo vans out there, I think the ID Buzz can do really well in this space, because it’s inherently visually interesting, and has plenty of custom branding room on the sides.

Considering how the road from concept to production tends to be a well-oiled de-interestification machine, I think VW managed the transition remarkably well; I’m curious to see what the price and range of it will be, as those will be significant factors in how well it does. We won’t get it in the US until 2023, but I don’t think it’ll differ much from this Euro-spec one that was shown.

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19 Responses

  1. IMO, for something like this, well, if they make the camper/weekender version an option, first of all, I think I’d be interested in it. But more than most EVs on the market today, a high range option is paramount for such a vehicle, and I don’t think VW got that memo, which is disappointing.

  2. It’s actually coming so I’ll take what I can get. I think this is my next vehicle. I actually think it looks pretty close to the concept all thinks considered. I would prefer that the pillers stay white/ roof colored. I’ll be interested to see pictures of the stretched version, which I believe is the only one coming to the US.

  3. I’d love to see a quick shop of black roof, black pillars, black upper body, and contrasting lower body. I think that would look very sleek.

    Interestingly enough, my wife is actually somewhat interested in a vehicle like this. She does want it with seats down or without seats for dog transport duty, but I still prefer dogs in under the topper in the bed of my pickup. One shake when they are wet and it is game over for interior.

  4. Speaking of aftermarket items such as headlights, there will no doubt be literally hundreds of inventors and tinkerers who will come up with all manner of useful, quirky, and amusing add-ons. Wish I had some ready cash to pursue this market. Unfortunately, as a 75 year old curmudgeon living on SS and a retired military paycheck keep me out of contention.

    PS Remind me to tell you about a surefire product from Germany just waiting for an entrepreneur with $50K to invest!

  5. As a Vanagon owner – this is one of very few modern cars that I am considering as a new daily driver. I also wish the carmakers would stop with the angry headlights and just anger management in general (I am talking to you new Tundra). The new Kia and Hyundai Ioniq things are really cool too, but not as practical as this for schepping.

  6. My ex-wife and I had a 1980 Vanagon that was very good except for poor reliability, inadequate power, and relatively poor fuel economy. This vehicle may not have those limitations.

    Our Vanagon was the base model with rubber mats instead of carpets and leatherette seats, which came in handy for cleaning up after hauling kids, firewood, mulch, etc. I doubt that this vehicle will be offered in such a utilitarian version.

  7. I do not actually need a new car, and I know that the most environmentally reasonable choice is simply to use my old car until it is no longer functioning. Sure. Fine. And also, my first EV will be the Busz (that’s the ess-zet sharp-S for you German speakers out there).

  8. Thank you for reminding me about the 2007 concept, based on the rear-engined Up! prototype. It’s my favourite of them all, and looks like something that could be done on VW’s upcoming sub-MEB platform.

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