- Wireless smartphone mirroring
- Frugal diesel engine
- Clever rear seat design
- No keyless entry or electric seats
- The Cruise should have the TDI450 engine
- Not cheap to buy or run
Volkswagen has had at least one camper van/people mover in their range since the brand’s debut in Australia in 1960. Now 51 years on, there is still a place in the Volkswagen range for a big seven-seat van dubbed the ‘Multivan’. The Multivan name has only been around now since 2004, so it is relatively new compared to the rest of the Volkswagen van range. The model we tested here is the 2021 Volkswagen Multivan Cruise TDI340, which is at the pointy end of the Multivan range.
Now known as the T6.1, the new range of VW vans have been revised for the 2021 model year. Despite the SUV onslaught, the Multivan does still have its fair share of rivals even in 2021 – the Kia Carnival, Toyota Granvia, Hyundai Staria and Honda Odyssey all still exist. These vans don’t sell in the numbers they used to a decade ago but this is not to say that there isn’t demand for them, as you can see above there is still a lot of models available. So does the Multivan come out on top? Let’s find out.
Price & Specs: 7/10
The 2021 Volkswagen Multivan range kicks off with the Comfortline Short Wheelbase TDI340 variant, which is priced at $58,990 plus on-road costs. From there, the $61,990 Comfortline Premium Short Wheelbase TDI340, the $64,990 ‘Comfortline Premium Long Wheelbase TDI340 and then there is the model we tested here: the Cruise. The 2021 Volkswagen Multivan Cruise has a starting price of $73,990 plus on-road costs. Only offered in the Short Wheelbase bodystyle, the Cruise variant of the Multivan is only overshadowed by the Multivan Highline TDI450, which is priced at $84,990 plus on-road costs.
Standard fit on the Multivan Cruise are 18-inch alloy wheels, a 9.2-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation, a 10.25-inch digital driver’s display, a six-speaker audio system, tri-zone climate control, automatic LED headlights, LED tail lights, rain-sensing wipers, LED interior lighting, a power tailgate, power rear sliding doors, heated front seats, dual-tone ‘ArtVelour’ upholstery, front and rear mud flaps, heated and auto-folding exterior mirrors, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and rear privacy glass.
The Multivan Cruise also comes with the full suite of Volkswagen safety systems which include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, automatic high beam, tyre pressure monitoring, front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, adaptive cruise control, crosswind alert (this counteracts crosswinds), lane departure warning, lane keep assist, driver fatigue detection, hill start assist, auto parking, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and six airbags. The only safety features that the Multivan misses out on are front cross traffic alert, automatic rear braking and a 360-degree parking camera.
We would like to see the addition of keyless entry and start, electric front seats and live traffic updates to the 2021 Volkswagen Multivan Cruise.
Rivals to the Multivan Cruise include the $70,490 drive away Kia Carnival Platinum and the $75,603 drive away Toyota Granvia VX. The Carnival Platinum has an extra airbag (seven verses the Multivan’s six), an alarm, keyless entry and start, a 360-degree surround view camera, rear AEB, pedestrian avoidance for the AEB system, larger 19-inch wheels, a 12-speaker sound system to the Multivan’s six, speed sign recognition, electric front seats with memory, cooled front seats, heated rear seats and an extra seat over the Multivan. Although the Multivan only has auto self parking, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a digital drivers display and tyre pressure monitoring over the Carnival, we think the Kia is much better value for money.
There are only three colours available for the 2021 Volkswagen Multivan Cruise, all of which come at no extra cost and they are also dual-paint colours. On offer are ‘Indium Grey with Reflex Silver’, ‘Starlight Blue with Reflex Silver’ and our test car’s ‘Fortana Red Metallic with Reflex Silver’.
Performance & Economy: 7.5/10
The sole engine available in the 2021 Volkswagen Multivan range is the brand’s familiar 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel four-cylinder unit. It is available with two different states of tune across the range: the TDI340 or the TDI450, and the Cruise variant is only available with the lesser TDI340. The TDI340 engine available on the Cruise produces 110kW of power and, as the name suggests, 340Nm of torque. The TDI450 produces 146kW of power and 450Nm of torque thanks to the addition of an extra turbocharger.
Peak power is available from from 3,570rpm and peak torque is on offer between 1,500-3,000rpm. Having peak torque offered this low down in the rev range means the Multivan doesn’t feel sluggish when taking off from a standstill. In fact the 2021 Volkswagen Multivan Cruise never feels like it is lacking power, there is good mid range and even when burying your foot on the go pedal you will be surprised at acceleration this 2.2-tonne van can muster.
The standard and only gearbox option available for the 2021 Volkswagen Multivan range is seven-speed dual-clutch DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) transmission. It is very quick to shift and offers barely any delay between gears. Unlike other iterations of this transmission in other Volkswagen products there is minimal lurching when setting off from a standstill. Although it does shift into second gear rather quickly after takeoff.
The Kia Carnival comes with a 2.2-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine that produces 148kW of power and 440Nm of torque. Yes these numbers on paper are better than the ones seen on the VW, but when behind the wheel, the Volkswagen seems lighter on its feet. The Carnival also puts its power down through an eight-speed torque converter automatic to the front wheels. The Toyota Granvia uses a 2.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 130kW of power and 450Nm of torque, power is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission.
The claimed average fuel economy of the 2021 Volkswagen Multivan Cruise is 6.6L/100km which is quite impressive for a big van. There is an 80-litre fuel tank which means you should get roughly 1,100km out of a tank. Our time in the Multivan with a mixture of city and highway driving saw an average of 7.3L/100km, which is close to the claim. In comparison, the Kia Carnival’s claimed average fuel consumption is 6.5L/100km, which is ever so slightly better than the Transporter, although our testing of the Carnival resulted in a higher 8.7L/100km.
Ride & Handling: 7/10
The ride of the 2021 Volkswagen Multivan Cruise may surprise you – while it is on the firmer side, it still offers a great level of comfort for longer journeys or for the daily commute. The 18-inch wheels do make the ride a little choppy at times but when at speed and out on a highway the Volkswagen Multivan rides like a dream. The suspension was revised for the current T6.1 model and it was made more composed than the van before it.
There is a new steering rack which was introduced for the T6.1 Multivan/Transporter, which has improved it a lot. This new steering rack is capable of turning the Multivan around in 13.2-metres. This is a great number, although the Kia Carnival has a lesser 11.8m result.
In terms of cornering, the Multivan is no Golf GTI but the Multivan can hold its own – there is less body roll than the Kia Carnival and not too much loss of traction when cornering. It is also worth noting that the Multivan’s safety systems are best in class, everything works in the background to make all seven passengers safer when driving. The blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert really helps with a van this size and the lane departure warning isn’t oversensitive like the one in the Kia Carnival.
Interior & Practicality: 9/10
The interior of the 2021 Volkswagen Transporter Cruise is both funky and retro, which we love. The seats are covered in the company’s ‘ArtVelours’ material, which is really soft to the touch and comfortable. The dash design is carried over from the Volkswagen Transporter, albeit with a few more buttons thanks to its higher standard of kit. There is also the most storage we have ever seen in a passenger car.
There is storage everywhere in the Multivan, just in the front cabin where the driver and passenger are is a large glovebox, three cupholders (although the ones on top of the dashboard are quite shallow), a storage tray above the glovebox, deep door bins, more storage trays in the tops of the doors and another storage tray that runs the length of the dash. Then in the back, under each seat is a door which once opened can fit roughly a shoe box of cargo space.
The quality of materials used in the Volkswagen Multivan is rather good – there is soft touch armrests which are to either side of the first and second row seating, the doors also have some soft touch materials to them and the dash also has a soft-touch portion. There are some hard plastics in the cabin but they feel like they are built to last – they won’t get scratched easily by kids bashing toys against them.
The 9.2-inch colour touch screen that is fitted as standard in the 2021 Volkswagen Multivan Cruise is quite good. There is no physical volume knob, which can get annoying and there is also no live traffic updates to the satellite navigation, but that’s where the negatives stop. The screen is fantastic quality and a great size. The satellite navigation is easy to operate and the menus are intuitive and easy to read. The wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is easy to set up as well, and looks great on the screen.
The rear seats in the Multivan are very clever. The second row seating can be swivelled around to face the backwards but are also fully adjustable like the front seats are with both backrest and leg adjustments. The third row can be folded down just like a regular car to hold more cargo room, or they can be slid forwards or backwards to allow for either more cargo room or more legroom for rear passengers. But the most clever thing is that it can be folded out into a makeshift bed. Even when the ‘bed’ is there, four seats remain in place.
The boot of the Multivan may not be as big as you’d think. While Volkswagen doesn’t quote any numbers for the Multivan’s cargo space with all seats in place, there is about two or three average suitcases worth of space in the back (standing upright). Moving the rear bench seat forward or folding it down creates more space that’s much larger than any SUV.
Service & Warranty: 7/10
Volkswagen offers its five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with the 2021 Volkswagen Multivan Cruise, which is on par with what is offered with the Toyota Granvia – although the Granvia comes with a further two years of warranty on the engine. The Kia Carnival has the best warranty in class and offers seven-year/unlimited kilometres of warranty. There is 12-months of roadside assist offered with the Multivan, the Kia Carnival also comes with 12-months of roadside assist but it is extended at every scheduled service for up to seven years. The Toyota Granvia doesn’t come with any form of roadside assist.
The Multivan requires servicing every 12-months or 15,000km, whereas the Kia Carnival needs a service every 12-months or 10,000km and the Toyota Granvia needs servicing even more frequently at every six months or 10,000km. The cost to service the Multivan over the span of five-years or 75,000km is $3,082, ($616.40 per service). The Kia Carnival will set owners back $2,573 over five-years or 50,000km, which is an average of $514.60 per service – though that’s to 25,000km less than the VW.
2021 Volkswagen Multivan Cruise TDI340 DiscoverAuto Rating: 7.5/10
The 2021 Volkswagen Multivan Cruise TDI340 is a van which combines retro styling, modern technology and grand practicality all in one easy to drive package. The drivetrain is user friendly and frugal, meaning trips to service stations won’t be frequent. The Kia Carnival is much better value when you add up standard equipment features but it isn’t as well built as the VW, nor is it as nice to drive.
The Volkswagen isn’t cheap to service, it isn’t cheap to buy and nor does it sell in great numbers but the Multivan does have a place in modern day Australia. The seats are extremely comfortable and the dual colour paint job looks fantastic, especially in the lovely red and silver our test car is painted in. So would we consider a Volkswagen Multivan if we were after a van to haul more than five around? Definitely, and so should you.