The Volkswagen ID Buzz Is a Fabulous Example of Retro Car Design Done Right

The Volkswagen ID Buzz has been a very long time coming. It all started with the Microbus concept from the 2001 Detroit Auto Show, which was set to go into production a few years later but was canceled in 2004. Then 2011 brought along the lovely compact Bulli concept, which was followed by the uglier Budd-e concept in 2016. Neither of those went anywhere, and then VW showed off the ID Buzz concept in early 2017. This fourth, electric version of VW's retro van revival was promised to really, truly go into production this time. After more than five years the production ID Buzz is finally here -- and it's fantastic.

A lot of, ahem, buzz has been made about the ID Buzz's styling over the past few years as spy shots of test mules started popping up, followed by VW's officially released (and rainbow camouflaged) prototypes. People whined that it didn't look exactly like the concept, that it looked too much like a normal van, that it looked boring and bad. But after seeing the ID Buzz in person and poring over all the details, I'm here to tell you that Volkswagen absolutely nailed the design, putting out one of my favorite new cars in years and a shining example of retro design done right.

The ID Buzz you see in these photos is a Euro-spec short-wheelbase model; the US is only going to get a long-wheelbase version that will debut in 2023. That's a shame, because I think the SWB Buzz's proportions are basically perfect, especially when put up against an original Type 2 microbus. It's identical in length to the Tiguan SUV we get in the US, but the Buzz's wheelbase is almost 8 inches longer. The overhangs are super stubby, and the smooth wheel arches are nicely filled out by the available 21-inch wheels. I especially like how the cutlines for both doors match each other in the way that the doors meet the arches, and there's enough surfacing to keep the car from looking too slab-sided.

Jeffrey Lear, project manager for MEB-based cars, told me that even though the Buzz is a retro design it needs to fit into Volkswagen's ID family design language, and I think it's a success. The LED headlights feature a light bar that cuts across the nose and meets at the large VW emblem, and the thin taillights stretch all the way across the rear. The headlights are lower and more angular than the concept, giving the Buzz a bit of a furrowed brow, and I'm into it. The gradient diamond pattern forming the lower grille is an ID hallmark, with that motif echoed in different places across the car, and the way the intakes are designed makes the Buzz look like it's smiling. The three trim pieces on the D-pillar mimic the Type 2's engine vents and also feature the ID diamonds.

The Volkswagen ID Buzz Is a Fabulous Example of Retro Car Design Done Right

The transition between windshield and nose isn't as seamless as on the concept -- VW needed to fit windshield wipers and make the whole thing production-feasible and ready for rigorous crash testing -- but the production ID Buzz's nose is a marvel. The Buzz has the most cab-over look out of any current production vehicle, and there's a lot of clever trickery to make that happen. The front seats are actually far back, with your body positioned about where the Buzz's B-pillar and front door handles are and the steering wheel lining up with the side mirror -- the driver and front passenger sit fully behind the front wheels. Large quarter windows help achieve the blunt-nosed look, also giving the Buzz a great view out, and the long dash cowl isn't that noticeable from the driver's seat. There's no frunk, with the nose instead opening to reveal the washer fluid port, but it would be hard to engineer in one anyway.

Being a retro microbus revival the ID Buzz is of course available with two-tone paint schemes, which are extremely well suited to the design. Available with candy white on top paired with bay leaf green, energetic orange, lime yellow or starlight blue, the two-tone look is, to me, a must-have. The color split follows the U-shaped front end cutline, cleverly flowing across the upper body through a seam inside the chamfered character line that contains the rail for the rear sliding doors. At the rear the colors are split by the light bar. The two-tone color scheme is brought inside too, with the Buzz's white interior getting lots of accent colors on the dash, door panels and seats to match.

Speaking of the interior, VW nailed that too. The slim, wide dash has enough hints of the Type 2 to be immediately noticeable, especially when it comes to the ample storage shelf on the passenger side. Thin air vents run the length of the upper dash and sit atop a cool light wood trim piece. The Buzz has the same smallish digital gauge cluster and central touchscreen as the ID 4, which is a bit of a shame because that system is not great, but with the rest of the Buzz being so good I think I can forgive it. Also: 30-color ambient lighting is available, which looks really cool when fully lit up in the dash and door panels.

The front seats have dual adjustable armrests, and the door panels have enough of an arm rest to be comfortable as well. The center console between the seats is removable, and it features two little tabs that pop out to reveal themselves as a bottle opener and an ice scraper. Other clever storage features abound, like a wireless charging pad in the dash and pop-out cupholders, and the Buzz has tons of USB-C ports, including in the doors -- there's even one in the windshield for mounting a dash cam. The Buzz's cabin has lots of easter eggs too, like smiley faces in the plastic fastener covers and a bunch of ID Buzz profiles embossed in the sides of the seats and the cargo area.

The Buzz has clever stuff going on when you get farther back, too. The second row of seats aren't removable but they do fold to create a flat surface, and the Buzz will be available with a height-adjustable cargo floor that can be raised up for a completely flush, flat area behind the front seats. The front seats have pockets on the backs to hold phones, and the bench slides and reclines. A six-seat configuration with rear captain's chairs will be available, and in that setup the front center console can be clipped in between the second row. The cargo area has a bunch of clips and hooks, the charge port and wheels don't intrude into the walls, and the two-tone color scheme is extended to the panels on the sides.

This short-wheelbase ID Buzz will go on sale in Europe this summer, alongside the ID Buzz Cargo van that looks pretty much identical save for the lack of rear windows. While the longer Buzz that we'll get probably won't be as proportionally perfect as the Euro model, the rest of it should be just as excellent. Our LWB ID Buzz isn't going on sale in the US until 2024, but based on this first look, I think it will be well worth the wait.

Volkswagen's Retro ID Buzz Is Super Cute and Fully Electric

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