While everybody is seemingly busy banging on about SUVs, Volkswagen has updated its out-and-out people mover for 2021.
It’s called the T6.1 Multivan, and has landed with the broader Transporter range to renew Volkswagen’s offering in the anti-SUV segment.
Few models carry as big a stick as this Multivan in terms of heritage and icon-ness. It's central to the lore of Volkswagen, and original Type 2 Kombis – especially rare variants – sell for stratospheric amounts these days.
The full name of our tester is the 2021 Volkswagen Multivan Comfortline Premium TDI340, which has a starting price of $61,990.
Throw in the fetching Bay Leaf Green metallic paint ($1720) and you’re looking at $63,710 worth of seven-seating people mover.
|2021 Volkswagen Multivan Comfortline Premium TDI340|
|Engine||2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel|
|Power and torque||110kW at 3500rpm and 340Nm between 1750–2500rpm.|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel consumption (claimed)||6.6L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||6.8L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||Untested|
|Warranty (years/km)||Five years/unlimited kilometres|
|Main competitors||Kia Carnival, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai iMax|
|Price as tested (before on-road costs)||$63,710|
The engine is a 2.0-litre diesel using one turbocharger to make 110kW at 3500rpm and 340Nm between 1750–2500rpm. This runs through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission to the front wheels, with 4Motion all-wheel drive being an optional extra.
The 2021 Volkswagen Multivan sets itself apart from the key competition almost immediately, as you climb up and into the huge interior space. Like a Carnival, the Multivan has loads of interior space with a flat floor and more leg room than you can poke a double pram at. However, the commercial bones of the Multivan make it a very different experience to something like a Kia Carnival.
The van-like shape and nature of the Multivan mean all seating positions are high and offer a commanding view of surrounds. You sit atop comfortable seats rather than in them, with vertical tibias and feet on the flat floor. The roof is also high, with rows of lighting and air vents to service passengers.
The second and third rows of seats all operate on tracks, and able to slide forward and backward or be removed completely. The two second-row seats are able to be rotated – captain’s style – to face backwards.
Up front, the T6.1 Multivan benefits from updated technology and a slight redesign. The infotainment system – a new 8.0-inch system for 2021 – looks resplendent and works well. This can be upgraded to 9.2 inches for $990.
There is a wide array of additional options available for the Multivan: a digital driver’s display ($900), auxiliary battery and 32L cooler/warmer ($1390), integrated booster seats ($1290), electric tailgate ($890), and even upgraded suspension for rough tracks ($910). This is only a cursory glance, and there are many more.
The infotainment display has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but no digital radio or AM radio. That last omission could be problematic for rural and regional buyers, who want to stay on the amplitude modulation waves, but cannot or would prefer not to use their phone (and data) to do so.
It seems from the outside like petty cost-cutting, and is a problem that could be exacerbated during times of flood and bushfire.
Why? Because ABC Radio, which operates mostly on AM frequencies, is the national emergency broadcaster and plays an important role during such times.
No centre console limits the amount of storage you have at your disposal. Instead, generous storage in the doors and on the dashboard covers your incidentals well. One benefit of no centre console is that you can walk through from the front to the back.
And with only two seats in the second row, it makes for an aeroplane-like centre aisle down the middle of the Multivan. Add in room for three in the rearmost seats, and you’ve got a total capacity of seven. Four seats have ISOFIX points, and there are five top-tether points in total.
Despite being a proper van, the Multivan doesn’t have as much boot space as you might imagine behind the seats. You can get more by sliding the third row forward, but it can quickly fill with larger bits of luggage. There is some additional storage space strewn underneath the seats, but only for smaller things.
Coming from the strict and stringent European markets, the Multivan’s diesel engine is predictably both refined and efficient. There is selective catalytic reduction (AdBlue diesel exhaust fluid) to keep emissions in check, and our TDI340 powerplant rates itself at 6.6 litres per 100km. And thanks to some long highway stints during our testing, we kept our fuel consumption below 7.0L/100km. Not bad, especially for a big box on wheels.
And while there is a more powerful engine variant available with two turbochargers, you don’t need it: this is plenty of engine for the Multivan.
Another element that improves the fuel economy is the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Less driveline losses than a torque-converter automatic transmission, but also slightly less smoothness and ease of control in some situations.
For 98 per cent of the time, the dual-clutch gearbox is fine. It shifts with an almost imperceptible precision around town and at speed, and most take-offs are also smooth. However, faster acceleration that you might want as you turn across T-intersections, especially when they involve uphill gradients, can be less than smooth.
There is a noticeable initial delay in acceleration as you press down the skinny pedal. And after you wait, wheels start chirping as the Multivan takes off hard. It’s less than gracious.
The way that the Multivan rides and feels – around town in particular – gives away the age of the platform. T6 dates back to 2016, but is a development of the earlier T5 platform that dates back to 2005, and underpins Volkswagen’s range of Transporter commercial vans as well as Caravelle and Multivan people movers.
There isn’t as much ride comfort on offer as other human-haulers, and the driving experience is van-like. But I have to say that’s a big part of the charming appeal of this Multivan. It’s not coarse to drive, and proved to be plenty comfortable enough on the long haul. Although, a bit of road noise does emanate into the cabin.
There is no ANCAP crash safety rating for the Multivan, but there are some safety features to run through: six airbags (including curtain airbags), forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking (only up to 30km/h), blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist. That last feature is facilitated by a new electro-mechanical steering system.
Tyre pressure monitoring is great to have. And in this specification, a full-sized spare wheel is good to have.
Halogen headlights feel a bit underdone for a sixty-thousand-dollar car these days, but LED headlights can be optioned (with LED DRLs and rear lamps) for $1990.
The Multivan has a unique feel – honest to form in a way that is endearing. The seating position, ergonomics and visibility are all part of it. Although now adapted to haul passengers instead of provisions, the Multivan still drives like a van.
A good van, I should add. This isn’t a negative in my eyes.
The cold light of reason tells me that the Multivan is outgunned in terms of value for money, refinement and safety credentials by the sleeker and more car-like Carnival.
However, the 2021 Volkswagen Multivan has a sense of charm and raw practicality that cannot be matched by newer, flashier options.