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VW ID.Buzz first look: An EV that makes vans cool again

VW’s reinterpretation of the classic Microbus is slated for release sometime in 2024.

We're in the middle of an EV revolution and every day it feels like there's a new electric car, truck or SUV hitting the road. But if you want an electric van, your options are a lot more limited, which is precisely what VW is hoping to address with the upcoming ID.Buzz.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the ID.Buzz’s official debut back at SXSW, so when I heard that it would be making another appearance at the New York International Auto Show, I made sure to stop by and check it out. Now technically, VW isn't calling the ID.Buzz a van, so I’ll let you decide where this thing fits among other EVs. But what we do know is that it’s slated to go on sale sometime in 2024, featuring a 77-kWh battery with two rows of seats for the European model (which is what version VW had on display) or a full three rows of seats and slightly longer chassis for the US market. Other specs like its range and price are still to be determined.

While the Euro spec version of the ID.Buzz only has two rows of stats, the US model will feature a longer wheelbase and a full three rows of seating.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

But make no mistake, unlike the countless number of Microbus concepts we've seen over the past 20 years, this is a production-ready car, so it's more or less what you'll see at dealers. And I think it looks absolutely fantastic, which is actually kind of impressive. Normally, when you think about buying a van, it feels like you’re giving up on being hip or cool in favor of practicality.

Just like the original, VW has kept the Microbus' two-toned color scheme. Though if that's a bit much for your taste, there will also be less flashy single-color paint jobs. Meanwhile, to bring the Microbus' design into the 21st century, the company has gone minimalist with a lot of its details, opting for clean lines and a big VW logo in front and back, along with blacked-out pillars that makes the bus look like it's wearing a visor.

Inside, VW continues the new styling by using the same diamond pattern seen on the front grille, and a two-toned interior featuring animal-free upholstery and vegan leather. The infotainment system is similar to what's available in the VW ID.4, with a small display behind the steering wheel and a larger touchscreen in the center sporting icons that can be made to match the Buzz's paint job. There's also a thin lightstrip that runs across the base of the windshield that serves as a heads-up notification system, though I didn't get to see it in action because it's typically only active when the car is in motion.

My favorite thing about the ID.Buzz's interior are all the little usability touches. I spotted no less than four USB-C ports — one in every door — and I'm willing to bet the US version will have at least one or two more for third-row passengers. VW also made it so that you can completely remove the center console between the front seats, giving passengers more room to move about. It even threw in some fun easter eggs like a smiley face behind the front passenger's interior door handle and little ID.Buzz logos on the rear windshield and the base of the rear seats. And while VW didn't have it on hand, there's even an accessory that goes in the trunk to create a flat load shelf. That means you can throw a mattress in back and use the Buzz for stuff like camping, which was one of the best things about the old Microbus.

One of the many easter eggs scattered around the VW ID.Buzz.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Perhaps most importantly, when you step back and look at the future van market, VW is leading the way with the ID.Buzz. Sure, Ford is working on an electric version of the Transit, and Mercedes has an EV version of Sprinter. But those are designed to be commercial vehicles, not something that the average person might buy. And that's kind of sad, because hauling kids or animals short distances around town is the perfect use case for an electric vehicle.

So when the ID.Buzz finally arrives sometime in 2024, it'll be well ahead of competitors like the Chrysler Pacifica, which currently only exists as a plug-in hybrid. Not only has VW made what looks to be a great reinterpretation of a classic, the ID.Buzz is a pioneering electric van. Oh, and if you just want to haul stuff around, VW is planning to make a cargo version of the ID.Buzz too.