The Volkswagen ID Buzz is one of the most highly anticipated vehicles of the past few years, if not the millennium. We've been waiting for VW to successfully pull off a Microbus revival since the first concept debuted in 2001, especially as the brand hasn't had a culture-capturing hit product, retro or otherwise, since the New Beetle launched in 1998. Now the ID Buzz is finally here, and it's coming at a crucial time for VW. The brand is still shaking off the Dieselgate stink, and its pivot to a fully electric future has been marred by software issues, leadership shakeups and, well, products without much real character. Thankfully, the ID Buzz is buzzing with personality (I swear that will be my only pun) and packs more than enough positive attributes to back up that cute face.
Volkswagen absolutely nailed the Buzz's design. It's the perfect blend of retro and modern, with enough fun design cues to be cheeky but not kitschy. It seems to be a hit with the general public, too. As I drive around Copenhagen, Denmark, and Malmö, Sweden, my Bay Leaf Green Buzz is getting more attention than I've ever received in a car, including high-end luxury cars and rare hypercars. People point and smile, scramble to take pictures with their phones and ask lots of questions at stoplights. It's a car that brings people joy, just like the original Microbus.
Currently the ID Buzz is available with a single powertrain configuration in Europe, which is the same setup as the ID 4 crossover. It has an 82-kilowatt-hour battery pack with 77 kWh of usable juice and a single motor with 201 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque powering the rear axle. Instead of the instant torque punch of most EVs, the ID Buzz instead has smooth, linear acceleration. It reaches 60 mph in about 10 seconds, but it doesn't feel that slow and there's plenty of passing power on the highway. A more powerful dual-motor all-wheel-drive version will likely arrive next year, and it should be considerably quicker.
My Buzz wears 20-inch wheels with efficiency oriented Continental EcoContact 6Q tires, and the ride quality is stellar. The Buzz soaks up Copenhagen's cobblestone streets and potholes with ease, and there's minimal wind and road noise, even on the highway. (With the front windows down I do experience a strange, loud buffeting from the headliner, which hopefully is just a preproduction issue.) Its steering is light and direct, and while there's quite a bit of body roll, the Buzz is actually pretty fun to throw into a corner or a roundabout. The Buzz also has a super tight turning circle. I do wish that the Buzz's regenerative braking was stronger, though; it won't bring the car to a complete stop in most situations.
It helps that the ID Buzz's interior is a fabulous place to spend time. The front captain's chairs are supportive and comfortable and have an adjustable armrest on each side, plus the door panels' design gives me two different places to easily rest my elbow. There are tons of smart storage cubbies and USB-C ports in the dash, along with a cool faux wood panel and a fold-out pair of cup holders. The center console is fully removable, and it has pop-out dividers that can double as an ice scraper and a bottle opener.
When you get the two-tone paint, the interior gains matching accents on the seats, door panels and dashboard, which adds to the car's unique look. The Buzz uses lots of sustainable materials inside, including the lovely cloth seat upholstery, and plastic pieces like the door panels have a unique texture that looks and feels cool.
But my favorite thing about the ID Buzz is the view out. The large windshield and tall quarter windows give a panoramic view that's unlike any other car, and VW did a lot of design trickery to make it work. Despite the Buzz looking cab-forward, the driver and front passenger sit completely aft of the front axle, which means there's a massive plastic cowl ahead of the dashboard inside -- much like the original VW New Beetle. But the design of the cowl makes it seem much smaller, and I can't even see all of it from my vantage point. Helped by short overhangs and a 360-degree camera, the Buzz is super easy to maneuver around a city or a tight parking lot.
There is one elephant in the room: The ID Buzz's infotainment system. It's the same setup found in the ID 4, pairing a small digital gauge cluster that doesn't show much beyond speed and trip info with a large central touchscreen sitting on top of the dash. This Buzz has the optional 12-inch screen, and while the size and positioning is great, the actual software is terrible. A lot of the graphics look nice, but the menus and layouts can be confusing, burying useful information. Temperature and volume are still adjusted with capacitive touch controls that don't light up, and the steering wheel has the same annoying capacitive buttons as other VWs. But unlike with many of the company's other offerings, I think the ID Buzz is more than good enough to make up for its software shortcomings, and hopefully the brand will do a major overhaul of the system before the van hits our shores.
We aren't going to see the US-spec ID Buzz debut until sometime in 2023, and it won't hit dealers until some point in 2024. The overall design will be basically identical to the Euro-spec Buzz, but the US model will have a longer wheelbase and three rows of seats as standard. (From what I've heard, it'll be about 10 inches longer overall.) It should also have a larger battery pack, potentially even a 100-kWh one, which should give the Buzz a longer range than the Euro model's 260-mile estimate. Best of all, the US-spec ID Buzz will apparently only be offered with two-tone paint, including a bunch more color schemes that we haven't seen yet.
Luckily, the changes to the US model should actually make it a better vehicle. Because of the shape of the doors, the Euro-spec Buzz doesn't have windows that open for rear-seat passengers. It's also only available with a bench seat for the second row, while the US model will likely offer captain's chairs, and rear passengers in the Euro model don't have their own climate vents or controls. And as great as the short-wheelbase model looks, it really is small for a modern minivan, coming in at about the length of a
Volkswagen has yet to introduce lower-end trim levels for the ID Buzz in Europe, offering only the well-equipped Pro model in Germany. The Buzz starts at about $55,000 excluding tax, which rises to nearly $70,000 fully loaded. VW hasn't said anything about how much the Buzz will cost in America, but expect pricing to be similar, if not even higher to start. That might seem like a lot for a van -- especially one that's the rebirth of the "people's car" -- but I think the Buzz is well worth the price. This is a halo vehicle, one that's much more about how it makes you feel than what you can find on a spec sheet, and the ID Buzz makes me feel wonderful. It's finally the right product at the right time.
Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of CNET's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.