- The author says the ID. Buzz doesn’t come off as a nostalgic design at all. Rather, it’s a contemporary execution of what is mostly a box.
- Its interior offers thoughtful, flexible storage and clever, functional features. The only area that may put people off initially is the long distance between the driver and the windshield.
- Does the arrival of the ID. Buzz and Lexus LM suggest a large percentage of automotive buyers who love their SUVs might have a change of heart toward minivans?
I am aware that for most people, writing about a minivan in a Design column would seem to be a setup for a parody. It also risks sending automotive enthusiasts, who I would like to think read this column occasionally, off to some other section of Autoweek, perhaps never to return. But bear with me, because the Volkswagen ID. Buzz may be the vehicle that changes your perception of what a minivan can be.
The all-electric ID. Buzz has been on sale in Europe since late last year and won’t be available here until sometime next year, with our version differing in spec with a longer wheelbase and overall length because it will be a 3-row instead of 2, and with a larger battery and more power. It will be the first all-electric minivan sold here.
And even if you won’t see them on the streets for a while, VW showed the concept version of the vehicle back in 2017. Actually, VW showed a Microbus concept way back in 2001 that evoked the Type 2 (introduced in 1950 and fondly remembered as the means of transport for ‘60’s era counterculture) and very much in the same vein of ID. Buzz, so this vehicle has had a long gestation before reaching production.
And it will be the appearance that gets the most attention. Some of the graphics and the available two-tone paint schemes will remind some of the Type 2, but others who have no frame of reference will like this new interpretation regardless.
Leveraging “heritage” from an old product can be tricky, as it may have a limited shelf life. VW knows this too well with the New Beetle.
But the ID. Buzz doesn’t come off as a nostalgic design at all. Rather, it’s a contemporary execution of what is mostly a box, and in this respect it is very product-like. It’s not unlike some of the designs that architect and product designer Michael Graves did for Target years ago—functional, with just a touch of whimsy.
The interior of the ID. Buzz follows the same pattern, with thoughtful, flexible storage and clever, functional features. The only area that may put people off initially is the proximity of the driver to the windshield. It is so far forward that compared to other vehicles, the driver may feel as if seated in the second row, much like GM’s U-body “Dustbuster” minivans of the 1990s.
But what’s surprising about the ID. Buzz besides its looks, is that it exists at all.
Since 2000, the highest year for minivan sales, the market has been in steady decline, with an unexpected bump in the last few years. The minivan’s fall from favor has been exhaustively explained: It’s for soccer moms or old folks; it’s unpopular with a whole generation of kids who were chauffeured about in them; today’s form of utility vehicle (those with a “sport” in front of the name) are uniformly preferred.
Which is a shame, really. Because for pure utility and practicality, there is no better vehicle than a minivan. For its given footprint, there is no better people carrier because, again, it’s just one big box.
Like an SUV, there’s a tall seating position. But because ground clearance is more like a typical sedan—thanks to their front-wheel-drive platforms—rocker height is lower, making entry and exit easier. The same is true for loading in the rear of the vehicle.
And while car-derived crossovers tend to drive more like a car than a truck, this has always been an advantage with minivans. Place the battery pack underfloor in the ID. Buzz and you have an even lower center of gravity in what is inherently a tall vehicle. Despite the vehicle’s height, it has a respectable drag coefficient of only 0.29, which also helps achieve the potential range of 250 miles.
Recently one other manufacturer has introduced a new minivan. The hybrid-electric Lexus LM—available in Asia and Europe but not the US—was designed from the start to focus not on utility, but luxury.
Available as a 7-seater, it’s the 4-passenger variant that is noteworthy because it is meant to be chauffeur-driven with spacious accommodations in the rear for two that resemble a private jet more than a car, and unlike any production van seen before.
It appears Lexus has realized that this type of architecture—with more interior space, more head room, and higher seating position than in a comparable sedan—would make for a great next-generation limousine. Shown at the 2023 Shanghai Auto Show and clearly for the Chinese market, we may never see it here.
And while it’s aimed at a very different customer than the ID. Buzz, it is interesting that a long-overlooked market segment is now getting renewed attention, in different forms.
Does this mean that the large percentage of automotive buyers who love their SUVs might have a change of heart toward minivans?
But I suspect their kids will love them.
Dave Rand (pictured right) is the former executive director of Global Advanced Design for General Motors.