Volkswagen has spiced up the Multivan with a powerful TSI 350 petrol engine hooked up to a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission. Until now the people carrier Multivan was only offered with diesel engines, so the addition of the petrol engine broadens appeal. The ‘350’ indicates the maximum torque available from the engine.
Explore the 2012 Volkswagen Multivan Range
The new Multivan TSI350 features the same equipment levels as the TDI 400 (diesel) models in either Comfortline of Highline. Bluetooth is optional on Comfortline and standard on Highline. Our test Multivan was the Comfortline specification starting at $54,990 (before on roads) with the Highline TSI 350 starting at $71,990.
The 2.0-litre petrol engine with turbo intercooler and direct injection is a sophisticated piece of machinery that at no times suffers under the 2.1 tonnes of the Multivan. The new engine packs a bigger punch than you would expect from that smallish capacity. This is due to direct injection technology along with a little intercooled turbocharger.
There's 150 kW of power on tap with maximum torque of 350 Nm available from a low 1500 rpm. Driveability is excellent. The engine is mounted transversely and sits low over the front wheels. The fact that maximum torque of 350 Nm is on tap over a broad band of 1500 to 4000 rpm means it is never found wanting. There is little turbo lag and torque steer is non existent.
The last freshen up in styling came two years back when the commercials adopted the corporate VW appearance with a broad, horizontal grille which is simple, yet effective. We are not a fan of the huge rear cargo door as you need at least two metres of rear clearance for the door and the person opening it. This is because this type of door is needed for the van's role as a cargo holder in the Transporter line.
The interior is all about functionality for carrying seven passengers in a 2-2-3 format, plus luggage, in as much comfort as possible. What facilitates this is sliding doors on either side and the second and third rows of seats running on floor rail system. You can have almost as much cargo area as you want - or as little - depending on where you slide the second and third row of seats. Or, you can fold the third row altogether and make it a four seater with a bundle of cargo space.
Both the second and third row of seats get overhead consoles with air conditioning and lighting controls. So there's three-zone air-conditioning and four drink holders and three 1.5-litre bottle holders. We like the step inserts provided for passengers in both the front and rear plus the fact they are illuminated. There are 12 v sockets for all three passenger rows and retractable blinds on the side windows for the second and third rows. We also like the grab handles above all passenger doors, as it's a vehicle that you need to climb into.
The Multivan seems to have just about every bit of safety apparatus going around - but not one of the most important for a vehicle of this size and use: There is no standard reversing camera on Multivan although there are front and rear parking sensors. As a seven seater you would expect to see this vehicle at hotels, airports and resorts - places that abound in people chaos, including little people.
A reversing camera is available as an option. What there is, is impressive: front and side airbags and rear curtain airbags, stability program, ABS brakes, brake assist, anti-slip regulation, hill holder, rear fog lamps, auto locking after take off, electric child safety locks on rear doors and child anchor points on back of rear seats.
One of the things that has not changed with Volkswagen vans is the forward vision from the driving position. It has always been excellent. The interior layout of the instrument panel and dash is very Volkswagen, easy to navigate and use. The seating position is like a pilot's chair in a ship: comfortable with arm rests and support where you need it. The only reservation we had from a driving perspective is the gear lever that comes out from the dash is close to the steering wheel and indicator stalk.
Three times in the first two days we knocked the gear shifter into neutral when reaching for the indicator. It didn't happen again after this, so it's something you become accustomed. During our test we recorded 8.3 litres/100 km on the open road and 10.5 litres/100 km around town. For most of the time we were one-up, so this consumption would rise with passengers or cargo aboard.
Volkswagen’s DSG transmissions seem to vary a lot - some are uncertain at low speeds, others not - but we found this one performed well at all speeds. It is a lovely combination with the engine and no doubt plays a major part in making the Multivan TSI 350 feel light and lively. Despite its ride height Multivan really has good road manners. Body roll is minimal making for a comfortable ride for passengers. The straight-line acceleration is quite remarkable and this is one van that will not be embarrassed off at the lights. This is a well balance package that rates among the more enjoyable vehicles we have driven this year.
A must drive for large families looking for seven seats and those needing a commercial passenger vehicle.