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Volkswagen Multivan 2021 review: Cruise Edition

The Mystery Machine lives on in 2021. And people love it.

Daily driver score

3.9/5

Urban score

4.1/5

One must maintain several affections in one's life, I think that's fair. I don't mean that in the life-partner sense, that would get me blamed for marriage breakdowns. But then, as a motoring journalist, you do sometimes wonder if your recommendations send a few relationships over the edge.

What I mean is, having a few interests keeps life interesting. In this context, I'm thinking of two things that move me. Special Editions (of pretty much anything, except superhero movies) and VW vans. I can't stress enough how much I - and, as it turns out, just about every other road user - love a Volkswagen van.

Put these two excellent things together and you have the Volkswagen Multivan Cruise, a special edition that somehow commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Kombi. I don't care how, I'm just intrigued by its existence and, by the grace of The Great Editor, I spent a week behind the wheel and a good chunk of that time exploring the interior of the Multivan Cruise.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Cruise fits between the Comfortline Premium and the Highline, which itself comes in underneath the conference-room-on-wheels Comfortline Exec. The full title for the two-tone terror I had for a week is the Multivan TDI340 Cruise Edition T6.1 SWB. So from that you can tell it's a turbodiesel-powered Multivan on the shorter of the two available wheelbases and part of the T6.1 update for the van range.

The Cruise Edition comes with 18-inch alloys, a six-speaker stereo, multi-zone climate control, reversing camera, front, side and rear parkings sensors, active cruise control, digital dashboard, electric sliding side doors, powered tailgate, sat nav, auto LED headlights, park assist (with automated steering), auto wipers, power front windows, a clever seating system, LED taillights and sliding side windows.

The Cruise Edition comes with 18-inch alloys. The Cruise Edition comes with 18-inch alloys.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Volkswagen's approach to this design is all about function but has yielded quite a strong result. That seems a bit silly if you just give the car a cursory glance, but if you spend a bit of time, it's a really nice job. The clay model clearly started as a big rectangular block and it was largely spared the chisel from the windscreen back.

Volkswagen's approach to this design is all about function but has yielded quite a strong result. Volkswagen's approach to this design is all about function but has yielded quite a strong result.

In white it's close to anonymous but the Cruise's two-tone paint job adds a certain strength and some real character. I spent a lot of time looking at it and admiring the sparseness, but also what a clean design it is. That makes me sound slightly bonkers, but few cars get away with so few design features and look this good. Mitsubishi tried a basic design approach 10 years ago and the cars looked awful.

Perhaps the bigger surprise was the interior. Few commercial vans scrub up this well, so much so that you'd be hard-pressed to identify the Multivan in that way. The materials on the dash are typical VW - which is to say very good - and it doesn't feel or look like a knockabout interior, with some carpet and nicely covered seats in it.

Few commercial vans scrub up this well. Few commercial vans scrub up this well.

How practical is the space inside?

This needs a very solid breakdown because there is a lot to know about this particular car. Starting with sliding doors on both sides, which are electrically operated, and there are buttons on the remote to open and close them.

There is a phenomenal amount of storage inside. The driver's door alone has two storeys of pockets to carry plenty of different-sized and shaped items. There's so many places to put things you can almost get decision paralysis.

The driver's door alone has two storeys of pockets to carry plenty of different-sized and shaped items. The driver's door alone has two storeys of pockets to carry plenty of different-sized and shaped items.

Down on the floor between the seats is a handbrake that seems to have been borrowed from a helicopter, but it's that long because it's attached right down on the carpet. That means you can walk from the third row all the way through the van, flip up the armrests on either of the captain's-chair style seats and plonk yourself down. Or vice versa. 

It doesn't feel or look like a knockabout interior. It doesn't feel or look like a knockabout interior.

The second row features two separate captain's chairs (again) that are set on rails. You can slide them back and forth and - most impressively - swivel them through 180-degrees to face the third row so you've got yourself a meeting room on wheels, complete with the USB-C ports on one side of the back row, just above a double-cupholder set up. The seat belts for the second row are integrated into the seats themselves, which is why you can use them in motion.

You can slide the second row seats back and forth and swivel them through 180-degrees to face the third row. You can slide the second row seats back and forth and swivel them through 180-degrees to face the third row.

Incidentally, the back row can also slide back and forth and can fold down as well. There are cupholders either side of the row, too (the previously mentioned double along with a generous-sized one that came with its own thermal cup...I think that's what it was) and with the aforementioned USB ports.

On top of all that, there are window blinds, little porthole windows in the sliding door windows themselves, a place to put, say, a clipboard on the dash in front of you and a cupholder with two USB-C ports next to the shifter.

The total cargo volume is gigantic. The total cargo volume is gigantic.

Being a van, the total cargo volume is gigantic. If you hoof the seats out, the cargo area is 2.532 metres by 1.627 (1.220m at the wheelarches). The height is 1.32m, meaning if you're under five feet tall, you can walk without bending over. Suffice it to say, you can fit an enormous amount of stuff in.

If you hoof the seats out, the cargo area is 2.532 metres by 1.627m. If you hoof the seats out, the cargo area is 2.532 metres by 1.627m.

If there's still not enough room, you can tow 2500kg with a braked trailer and 750kg unbraked. A two-bar roof rack will hold a further 100kg and a three-bar 150kg. Gross vehicle mass is 3080kg from a 2266kg unladen weight, meaning a maximum payload of 814kg.

That's enough stats on practicality to keep you going.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The 340 in the long name refers to the torque figure of the 2.0-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder. With 110Kw between 3250 and 3750rpm and 340Nm between 1500 and 3000rpm, it's a solid performer. In this guise, the seven-speed twin-clutch transmission delivers the power to the front wheels.

There's a 2.0-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder engine. There's a 2.0-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder engine.

How much fuel does it consume?

Volkswagen affixes a sticker to the windscreen with a 6.6L/100km combined-cycle figure. My week with the van was pretty busy and included a thorough fact-finding day on motorways and climbing Sydney's Blue Mountains, delivering an indicated 8.0L/100km over the week, which is well within the bounds of expectation with those official figures. That's pretty good going for a two-tonne-plus van with the requisite lack of slippery aerodynamics.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Multivan arrives with six airbags, with curtain airbags that reach all the way to the third row. There are also the usual traction and stability controls, along with multi-collision brake (which stops you rolling into another accident after suffering the first), driver-fatigue detection, reversing camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, and low-speed forward AEB.

It's a pity the AEB doesn't extend to higher speeds, especially given this machine's role as a people carrier, and a further disappointment is its lack of pedestrian and cyclist detection.

The two swivel seats in the middle row feature ISOFIX points and top-tether anchors. The third row features another three ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

As with other VWs, the Multivan Cruise has a five year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is now largely the norm, albeit not among German manufacturers. You also score a year of roadside assist into the bargain, which is extended with each service.

As for servicing, you can purchase up front, with five years for $1980, representing a $781 saving on pay-as-you-go assured-pricing service. A three-year commitment is $1300 and is a saving of between $159 and $357 on pay as you go.

The Multivan Cruise has a five year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. The Multivan Cruise has a five year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.

What's it like to drive around town?

I may have given you the impression that the Multivan is fun to drive, but it's not in the usual sense. It does feel a bit van-ish with the initially awkward steering wheel angle. The driver's seat is hugely comfortable and you quickly discover that, despite being nearly as long as a Hyundai Santa Fe or Mazda CX-9, it's surprisingly wieldy, with the front wheels achieving impressive angles when you're on full lock.

It does feel a bit van-ish with the initially awkward steering wheel angle. It does feel a bit van-ish with the initially awkward steering wheel angle.

No, you're not going to pull a u-turn in a normal suburban street, but you can get some tight angles while parking and, given its shape is that of a chiselled brick, you know where the corners are, with the sensors and cameras picking up the slack.

It never feels anything like its size until you head down the driveway into a shopping centre car park and the dangling 2.1 metres clearance sign looks ominously close. It doesn't just look close, though. The view out front is awesome and you are literally eye-balling bus drivers. Dogs love it because they can talk to bus drivers out the window, as our furry idiot did.

Obviously it's long for car-park spaces, like an SUV or any other people mover for that matter, so you have to take the usual care.

So why is it so much fun to drive. Obviously it's not a GTI (although the Transporter Sportline looks like it might be...) but the diesel engine is exceptionally strong and dealt with everything I threw at it.

The diesel engine is exceptionally strong and dealt with everything I threw at it. The diesel engine is exceptionally strong and dealt with everything I threw at it.

Sadly I wasn't able to rope in a group of folks to go with me, given our current restrictions, but the 340Nm figure feels conservative. Especially when slaloming around slow-moving clowns on the motorway in the right-hand lane.

So the fun? Everybody absolutely loved this thing. In fact, to take the parlance of one of the Mystery Machine occupants, they dug it, man. So many blokes in utes looking wistfully at a van that obviously sparked a yearning for... having five kids maybe? I dunno, but people just loved it and when I posted a pic of it on Instagram, the crowd went wild.

And I loved driving it around and was sad to hand it back. M'colleague Matt Campbell is scheming to get into one, and even other folks from competing publications expressed a yearning.

Seventy-four grand is a lot of money for a seven-seater van but it's not the same as a similarly seated SUV. You can do a whole lot more in a Multivan and you can get yourself a VW badge into the bargain. There's something about that badge and the history of VW vans, though, that makes it popular. But it's got the chops to back up its history - it feels great to drive and easy to live with. It's also easy to use and phenomenally easy to get in and out of.

My wife and I genuinely found ourselves looking at each other and saying, "Yeah, we could have one of these." Obviously we came to our senses pretty quickly (we are not van people) but, if we had to have a van, the Multivan would go straight to the top of the list.

$73,990

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.9/5

Urban score

4.1/5
Price Guide

$73,990

Based on new car retail price

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