‘Cool car, dad.’
And thus, the five-year-old stamped her imprimatur on the 2019 Volkswagen Multivan Black Edition before clambering into the cavernous back and running lengths of the cabin, because you, well, just can.
The Multivan might not have the charm or appeal of its Type 2 Kombi antecedents, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the spiritual incarnation of the Kombi. Certainly, the Black Edition we have on test here makes a compelling case.
People movers make for a viable alternative to the plethora of seven-seat SUVs flooding our roads and highways. Whereas those seven-seat SUVs often – but not always – come with compromise, especially for those sentenced to a trip of discomfort in the third row, people movers offer the ability to haul a large family or convention of VW nerds in relative comfort.
This generation of Multivan (dubbed T6) has been around since 2015, and while it trails segment leader the Kia Carnival by some margin on the sales charts, it remains a popular option for buyers in the segment.
The range kicks off with the $53,590 TDI340 Comfortline and tops out with the $84,490 TDI450 Executive long-wheelbase variant. Nestled in the middle of the range is the Black Edition, which at $63,490 (plus on-road costs) sits atop the TDI340 tree.
But what do you get for your extra coin? Surely it’s not just some black paint and stickers? And the good news here, it’s not.
The Black Edition does score the obligatory gloss-black contrasting roof and B-pillars, black 18-inch alloys, and some black decals. Those black trimmings are festooned onto a Black Edition palette of six colours: two at no cost (Candy White and Cherry Red), the rest asking for an additional $1720, including the Acapulco Blue we have on test here.
Out front is a blacked-out grille framed by Black Edition signature LED headlights, while inside contrasting piping on the cloth-trimmed seats lifts the interior ambience. So, too, the faux wood parquetry flooring.
But perhaps the biggest embellishments on the Black Edition come under the skin where a lowered suspension and new, stiffer shock absorbers, along with a new front anti-rollbar, target improved ride and handling characteristics.
There’s also speed-sensitive power steering; a boon around town where the lightness of touch is appreciated. Starting to feel like an extra $10K well spent over the base Multivan Comfortline.
Slide inside and there’s an overwhelming sense of space, no matter the row allocated on your boarding pass. Up front, the elevated nature of the cabin and the huge expanse of glass afford easy visibility. It feels light and airy, because it is.
The leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel is typical Volkswagen fare, meaning it feels nice in hand and looks schmick. There’s a 6.33-inch colour touchscreen integrated into the dash.
It’s a touch on the small side, especially in a vehicle this large, but it’s functional, easy to use, offers Bluetooth connectivity as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
The system misses out on sat-nav and DAB radio – not ideal in a vehicle likely to set you back around $70K once on the road. The six-speaker stereo system isn’t the latest in audiophilia, where any sound it puts out is quickly swallowed up and bounced around inside the cavernous cabin. In a word? Tinny.
There’s a CD player for those who prefer shiny silver discs over streaming services. And just one USB point (hidden in the glovebox) services the entire vehicle.
The second row comprises two ‘Captain’s Chairs’ which, like the pair up front, are comfortable and supportive as well as offering a lovely elevated position. They can be slid fore and aft on rails, rotated 180 degrees to face backwards, creating a communal space that can then accommodate the optional ($420) multifunction table for a spot of gin rummy or whatever else takes your fancy.
The third row of three seats can also be moved fore and aft and, like the two second-row chairs, can be removed entirely if you need to free up cargo space, meaning you can have any combination of Multivan you like – a two-seater, four-seater, five-seater or seven-seater. It’s all very clever.
Getting in and out of the back is a cinch, too, with huge sliding doors on both sides. Additionally, with the two-seat layout of the second row, there’s a generous aisle down the middle of the Multivan giving easy access to the third row, as well as providing a running track for my five-year-old.
And the electric tailgate can be programmed to open at a set height. Additionally, the Multivan will alert you if you park too close to an obstacle that will prevent the tailgate from opening.
As for how much stuff you can lug? Volkswagen doesn’t quote a litreage, but with the way the second- and third-row seats can be shuffled, swivelled and removed, there’s a decent amount of storage for most road trips. You just need to be clever with your seating arrangements if you plan on carrying seven people and their stuff.
And if you are carrying seven people and their stuff, you’ll need some poke from the Black Edition’s drivetrain. It follows a familiar formula, with a 2.0-litre, turbocharged, inline four-cylinder diesel doing the heavy lifting.
It’s the same unit as found in other Multivans and with the same outputs of 103kW (at 3500rpm) and 340Nm of torque (1750–2500rpm). Drive is sent to the front wheels via VW’s seven-speed DSG transmission.
Zero to 100km/h? You’ve got to be kidding, but be assured the Black Edition remains sprightly and sharp around town, even with a full load on board. It’s also surprisingly quick off the mark, certainly in city traffic, and despite its size (4904mm long, 1904mm wide and 1970mm tall) the Black Edition remains nimble and athletic.
It’s a comfortable highway cruiser, too, settling into an easy rhythm at 100km/h. Sadly, there’s no adaptive cruise control, the Black Edition lumbered with the more traditional (i.e. old) system.
The seven-speed DSG is fine, for the most part, with seamless shifts and none of the laggy hesitation that was common in dual-clutch boxes of days past. Some of the downshifts can be a little coarse, however, marring what is otherwise a pleasant driving experience.
The tweaked suspension and ride height do make the Black Edition feel a little more car-like and settled on the road. There’s certainly decent bump absorption as the van settles back into its rhythm easily and quickly. Road noise, too, is reasonably isolated, although the vast expanse behind the front row does amplify, rather than insulate, any noise in the cabin.
Volkswagen claims a 7.7L/100km fuel consumption figure on the combined cycle. We saw low nines, although that was over a predominantly urban week.
On the warranty front, Volkswagen has come to the five-year/unlimited-kilometre party, while its capped-price servicing plan will set you back $3433 for the first five years/75,000km.
Service intervals are 12 months/15,000km, whichever comes first. VW also offers three- and five-year prepaid servicing plans that offer some decent savings over pay-as-you-go customers. Currently, VW offers three years of servicing for $1450 and five years at $2300.
The Volkswagen Multivan misses out on an ANCAP rating, remaining untested. Front-row occupants score head and side airbag protection, while the passengers in the second and third rows are covered by curtain airbags. In terms of safety tech, it misses out on advanced systems commonplace today: lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and autonomous emergency braking are notable absences.
And that’s the nub of the Volkswagen Multivan Black Edition. For all of its bling and cool styling treatments, it misses out on some key equipment, both in terms of safety and convenience.
And yet, despite those omissions, the undeniable charm of what is – at least until VW signs off on production of the ID.BUZZ – the continuation of the much-loved Kombi remains a practical solution to ferrying seven people, and in this Black Edition certainly stands out on streets crowded with SUVs. Even to five-year-olds.