Making its European debut at the Geneva motor show was the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz concept or, as it’s been called, “the new Microbus”.
Which is to do it a bit of a disservice: this isn’t just a(nother) retro re-take on the classic Type 2 Kombi, but like the hatchback I.D. Concept seen last year in Paris, a preview of Volkswagen’s future thinking. Though the exterior styling is an obvious homage, there’s its extended version of the MEB electric-drive platform – plus an interior designed for the autonomous age. We took the chance for a closer look inside with its designer…
“The T-models were really popular in the past, because the inner space was huge, and people had the possibilities to use it for adventure, for camping, for partying – so that was the main purpose, to get to that direction again,” explains Letian Guo, lead interior designer on the development programme. “It was really a fun project, but also difficult because expectations were really high, with the T-models and their history, and the Microbus was an iconic car design. And so we started with a very big picture, where we’re going to go, or want to go, and we tried a lot of different stuff with the interior space and how to use it.”
While the first I.D. Concept was more of a technology showcase, the I.D. Buzz is more about enjoying its – generous – interior space, including in autonomous-drive mode. “It was really important for us to get this living-room feeling; we tried to make a home interior as far as possible. We tried to use soft materials and light colours, to create this roomy feeling,” says Guo. “We created this modular seat system, and we have different areas like the back or lounge chairs, and the rotated seat, and this is more about use of the interior space: you can feel comfortable in the car, you can really do different stuff.”
He points out the third-row ‘cocoon’ effect: “You can see that a light colour goes from the front to the back, and goes up to the roof, so it goes to a full cocoon in the back. And now we have this movable sliding part on the side to create a more cocooning feeling. Also, this rail system allows you to change the car’s configuration for six seats, or two benches in the back, as much as possible.”
Up front, “the dash is quite clean, with this integrated steering wheel,” Guo says, indicating “the totally new structure of the dashboard; we totally closed the steering wheel.” As in the I.D. Concept, the Buzz’s wheel retracts into the dash in autonomous mode, and the Buzz has another iteration of the multi-use sliding floor console. “We called the movable centre console a ‘physical app’ - that means we have different functions for it,” says Guo. “In this car, we show an iPad holder and cupholder, the holder for the iPad docking station, and small bags on the side, and also we have by the seat different modules. We’re going to have a coolbox and portable table for picnic stuff, and also integrate the speakers on the side. Even disco lights!” And of course, a bed, to make this a real camper van, is also possible. We’re none the wiser about the gnome figurine on the dashboard, however.