Pretend for a moment that you’re an automotive anthropologist and you’re studying the evolution of the modern minivan. You start with a rather crude-looking, boxy thing that looks better suited for hauling cargo than people. But as you make your way down the time line, the minivan slowly morphs into a sleek, plush mode of transportation packed with power doors, a big hatch, and a host of luxury do-dads. Why, it’s almost become car-like! And then you discover the new Volkswagen Eurovan and start scratching your head. Does this boxy-looking throwback really fit with the other new millennium minivans?
Well, as the old saying goes,’‘Looks can be deceiving.’’ And despite styling cues that look like they’re more in tune with its predecessor Vanagen and Microbus peace and love crowd than today’s hyperactive soccer mom, the 2002 Volkswagen EuroVan is a solid alternative for those looking for a minivan that’s “outside the box”.
What’s ‘‘inside the box’’ is plenty of room. Although that space is a little harder to access than its more car-like competitors. There’s no driver’s side sliding door and stepping into the EuroVan takes a little more effort than just opening the door and sliding behind the wheel. But once you climb into the firm, manually adjusted front seats, the EuroVan presents a big SUV-style commanding view of the road.
The EuroVan also offers a premium 6- speaker audio system and a fully automatic Climatronic climate control system with an integrated dust and pollen filter.
In the center section of the cabin you’ll find two comfortable captains chairs along with plenty of head and leg room. And on the driver’s side there’s a sliding window and rear climate controls nicely fitted into the B-pillar. The rear bench offers seating for three, bringing the EuroVan’s total seating capacity to seven.
If non-human cargo is your priority, the second and third row seat backs fold to accommodate large objects. Or the second row seats can be removed completely. Pop the large rear hatch, and you’ll find a cargo shelf for two-level storage. It can be flipped up and stowed and the rearmost seat tilts forward for increased room. Now the third row seat can also be removed, but it requires tools to do so.
An MV Weekender package continues VW’s Westfalia tradition with a pop-up roof and a small refrigerator.
There’s also a Winnebago package that comes with everything and the kitchen sink that takes the EuroVan to the next level of RV lifestyle.
Regardless of which EuroVan model you choose, it will be powered by a new version of Volkswagen’s highly rated 2.8 liter VR6 engine. In the EuroVan, this dual-cam, now 24-valve, single head, narrow angle V6, produces 201 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque.
At the track, the 4,344-pound front- drive EuroVan rolled to 60 in 10.7 seconds and on through the quarter mile in 18.1 seconds at 78 MPH. The EuroVan’s launch is steady and consistant, ASR traction control is standard, and the 4- speed automatic shifts smoothly. But our driver’s noted the VR6 seems to quickly run out of steam as it nears the redline. But once up to speed, the EuroVan has a very comfortable highway ride that’s upset only by strong crosswinds. Hit the back roads however, and you will quickly discover a fair amount of body roll, but not enough to be upsetting.
It was the same story in our low speed slalom exercise. Plenty of body roll and some typical VW rear tire lift, but never enough to disturb the EuroVan’s securely planted feeling. Enabling that feeling is the independent suspension with double wishbones and longitudinal torsion bars up front, and diagonal trailing arms with coil springs and shocks at the rear. It also comes standard with an ESP stability program for an extra measure of security. It’s the only van on the market to offer this advanced feature.
Braking comes by way of 4-wheel ABS controled discs that brought us down from 60 in a fine 122 feet. There is a slight amount of wheel lock before the rather noisy ABS kicks in but not enough to affect the control of the vehicle.
And, after a nearly disasterous pricing scheme two years ago when a base EuroVan listed for over $31K, Volkswagen finally has the EuroVan’s sticker under control. 2002 GLS models start at $26,815. MV models at $28,315. That puts the GLS right in the thick of competitors Caravan, Windstar, and Odyssey.
It’s true that the 2002 Volkswagen EuroVan doesn’t offer many of the plush accommodations that American buyers have grown accustomed to. But with its unique styling, roomy interior, and Weekender and Winnebago options it does offer a viable alternative to those who prefer their vehicles to be ‘‘ouside’’ of the box. Even when it still looks like one.
Engine: 2.8 Liter Vr6
Torque: 181 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 10.7 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 18.1 Seconds @ 78 MPH
60-0 MPH: 122 Feet
EPA Mileage: 17 MPG City 20 MPG Highway