SITTING behind in the pilot's seat, there's something about being a man with a van. Or a woman for that matter…but it doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
Not so long ago I was of the thinking that to wield a van was to have given up - you're telling the world you have succumbed to nappies, soccer and the Wiggles on repeat.
But there's something about a van which inspires.
Vans wearing the VW badge have become iconic the world over. While the Multivan doesn't inspire Kombi visions of old, it does possess modern reliability, an ability to maintain the national speed limit and air con which isn't dictated by open windows or a dash-mounted fan.
At just above $50,000 it's not a bargain buy, but when you need to move an adult netball team it's among the best options.
All aboard. Sampling the long wheelbase variant, the Multivan offers easy entry and exit via dual sliding doors. Standard set-up are four captain's style chairs in the first two rows with a three-seater bench in the back.
The air-conditioning is controlled at the front but the back has its own zone with roof-mounted vents and lights for those in the back. Adults will appreciate the excellent head and leg room.
Quintessentially Volkswagen up front, there are some refined looking brushed silver and piano black finishes across the dash and everything is easily located.
Some of the operations are more commercial compared to the latest VW passenger cars, like the stalk-mounted cruise control, but the set-up remains simple to operate.
On the road
You can't escape the sizable dimensions. At 5.3 metres long and with a 13-metre turning circle the Multivan is a big hauler, although the four-cylinder turbo diesel does an admirable job of providing the motivation.
While there is an uprated version of the oil-burner available on Highline and Executive models, that will set you back at least $75K.
Getting along quite nicely, rarely do you feel like more punch is needed. Typically van-like in handling, you have to ease into corners and allow for additional space when hooking around sharp bends.
The driver sits high for an SUV-like position, which many will appreciate, and once you get used to the length the Multivan is a simple proposition.
Partnered to a seven-speed automatic, the gear changes are usually timely, although on occasions it can hunt for the right cog on downhill sections.
Parking can be a challenge, and often it's best to make use of the reversing sensors and camera rather than driving into positions.
What do you get?
Among your givens are 17-inch alloys, dual zone air con, sliding doors on both sides, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear view camera, cruise control, full audio and phone Bluetooth connectivity, CD stereo with eight speakers and 16cm colour touch-screen display as well as USB connection for access to Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Safety kit is well looked after, with the likes of electronic stabilisation program, anti-lock brakes an brake assist, electric differential lock, traction control and hill start assist all standard. There is also the system which analyses driving inputs and tells you when to take a break, as well as the autonomous braking function which stops the vehicle after an accident to avoid further collisions.
The closest rival is the Mercedes-Benz Valente which has a similar rail-seating set-up ($58,100), while there is also the Hyundai iMax CRDi ($43,490), Kia Carnival S ($41,490), Citroen C4 Grand Picasso Exclusive ($44,990) and the petrol-powered Honda Odyssey VTi ($37,690).
All five seats in the back have child seat anchorage points, and they can also be completely removed for a pseudo van (nearly three metres in space). The pew and the chairs sit on rails, so you can push and pull them into desired positions, but it does take some elbow grease on occasions.
Look around the cabin and it's easy to see the lineage to Volkswagen's commercial range. The large front door pockets, dash-mounted dual cup holders, storage box next to the gear lever, upper compartment with lid as well as a lockable glovebox…and you can even option a table for the back.
Parents will love the sun shades which cover both rear window panes on each side.
But in the rear there is a lack of the little extras you expect from a people-mover, with no cup or bottle holders and only pockets in the rear seatbacks. The large rear door can also be a challenge to close and open in tight car parks while you need to lift items 571mm to get them into the back.
With 17-inch alloys it's not an offensive offering, but it's a people-mover and when moving people is the priority then sex appeal takes a back seat…but you do have space for that in the back if you so desire.
Vans are on top of very few shopping lists. That's a shame, as many buyers are lured into the well-trodden SUV path before investigating the benefits of the load-luggers.
The VW Multivan offers a quiet and relaxed environment for seven adults which can easily be converted into a mobile board room or removalist chariot.
While lacking a few luxuries, it makes up for it with cabin flexibility and overall comfort.
Driving experience 16/20
Features and equipment 15/20
Functionality and comfort 18/20
Value for money 17/20
Style and design 17/20
What matters most
What we liked: Surprisingly easy to drive, robust diesel engine, space for seven adults.
What we'd like to see: Curtain airbags for second and third row like short wheel base models, cup holders and storage spots in the rear.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year and unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist for the same period. Capped price servicing is available and average price for the first six maintenance visits is $605, services are required annually or every 15,000km.
Model: Volkswagen Multivan LWB Comfortline TDI340.
Details: Front-wheel drive seven-seat long wheelbase people mover.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 103kW @ 3500rpm and peak torque of 340Nm @ 1750-2500 rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Consumption: 8.2 litres/100km.
Bottom line plus on roads: $53,990.
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