A serious alternative to the VW Bulli - Just a dream?
VW T6 - King of the minibuses?
The VW bus, affectionately known as the "Bulli", looks back on a history of over 70 years. There is hardly any other vehicle that has enjoyed such popularity over such a long period of time - until today. Six generations of Bullis have already rolled along the world's roads. The current VW Bus is called the T6.1 and is available in Transporter, Caravelle, Multivan and California variants. While the Transporter is popular in the trades, the Caravelle is suitable as an everyday vehicle. The Multivan offers more comfort, with its rail system also more variability and thus presents itself as a perfect leisure vehicle. The camping version of the VW T6 is called the California. The successor model to the T6.1 is still scheduled for market launch in 2021: The VW T7. The equipment of the T6 is varied and naturally includes modern assistance systems. In addition, all-wheel drive is also possible. For winter vacations, there is the option of auxiliary heating. The engines have a strength of 84 to 204 HP. According to the list, the price for a T6.1 starts at 42,000 and goes up to 82,000 euros.
For camping fans, there are numerous SCA roofs suitable for the VW T6 (and at the same time for the predecessor T5) [Link: SCA homepage VW T5/T6]: SCA 194 and the newer SCA 290 roof are particularly spacious, the latter also offering a panoramic view of the countryside. The roofs SCA 190, 195 and 196 differ in the side on which they are mounted and the surface of the roof shell. Designed for the long wheelbase of the T5 and T6 are again the roofs SCA 192, 193, 198 and 199. Alternatively, a fixed high roof, namely SCA 460, can be mounted on the T5 or T6. For the long wheelbase there are the roofs SCA 462 and 463, which vary in height by 17 cm. Older VW buses such as the T4 can also be retrofitted with a pop-up roof: SCA 112 developed for the short wheelbase, SCA 114 for the long wheelbase. Among the variety of pop-up and high roofs, you are sure to find the right one for every taste - making traveling with the VW bus even more enjoyable.
The Bulli is not only cult - for a long time it was also considered to have no alternative. But what does it actually look like in practice? In the meantime, several manufacturers are offering similar minibus concepts. And some of them are really promising.
Mercedes: V-Class and Vito - large sedan or robust minibus
The Mercedes V-Class and Vito models have the body panels and most of the drive technology in common. However, the two minibuses differ in their equipment. While the Vito is kept rather simple and is therefore particularly attractive as a panel van for trade businesses, the V-Class scores with high-quality extras and can therefore confidently be considered a large-capacity sedan. Both models offer modern vehicle technology: LED headlights, assistance systems, seven-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive - everything is possible. While the interior design of the V-Class focuses on aluminum and polished wood, the cockpit and interior of the Vito appear simple and robust. The V-Class is powered by diesel engines with between 163 and 190 hp. In the meantime, a facelift has even made a sporty 239 hp possible. The Vito is available in versions with between 88 and 190 hp.
For camping, both the Mercedes V-Class and the Vito can be equipped with a pop-up roof: The spacious pop-up roof SCA 152 is very comfortable when sleeping: the recliner is specially equipped with a slatted frame and disc springs. This plus is particularly well suited to the classy V-Class - but the Vito can also be equipped with it perfectly for traveling. The V-Class can definitely be considered an alternative to the VW bus. In terms of comfort, technical equipment and safety, it is in no way inferior to the VW T6. For its part, the V-Class sets standards with its high-quality and versatile equipment. Friends of electric driving get an alternative drive with the EQV model. At Volkswagen, a corresponding equivalent with the ID. Buzz is not due to hit the roads until 2022. In terms of price, however, the V-Class can easily keep up with the T6 as well: The cheapest model starts at around 38,000 euros, but with all the desired extras, the cost can certainly quickly rise toward the 100,000 euros mark. For those who don't want to dig deep into their pockets, the Vito offers a vehicle similar to the V-Class at a price of between 26,000 and 60,000 euros, but of course this means compromising on driving comfort, equipment and interior design.
Citroën Spacetourer | Peugeot Traveller | Opel Zafira Life | Toyota Proace Verso - four-strong team with modern technology
Not one alternative, but four? In fact, the minivans from Citroën, Peugeot, Opel (all part of the PSA Group) and Toyota are identical and differ mainly in the brand-specific design of the front. The equipment also varies somewhat. Extras include leather seats, xenon headlights, 3-zone automatic climate control and auxiliary heating. The Opel Zafira Life even offers a panoramic roof. However, none of the models comes close to the classy look of the V-Class interior: Peugeot, for example, relies primarily on hard plastic for the interior. Technically, all four models are state of the art. Diesel engines from Peugeot with 120 to 177 hp are installed. An AdBlue tank is integrated for exhaust gas purification. Electric versions with 136 hp are also offered.
SCA offers the 262 pop-up roof as the perfect camping complement for all four minibuses. Similar to the pop-up roof for the Mercedes V-Class and the Vito, the SCA 262 model is very spacious thanks to extra-high pop-up scissors on the inside and shines with comfortable extras in the reclining equipment. A panorama version can also be selected here.
More favorably than the VW T6 is the four-man team in any case. Between 35,000 and 60,000 euro one must put down for one of the four models - the prices are similar with all. Anyone who wants to choose one of them should therefore take a close look at the respective equipment and tailor it to their own needs. In addition to the price, the modern technology also speaks in favor of the four-person team. They are therefore a viable alternative to the VW bus.
Renault Trafic Combi | Nissan NV300 | Fiat Talento - handy minibus trio with low costs
Just as Citroën, Peugeot, Opel and Toyota offer identical minibuses, the Renault Trafic, Nissan NV300 and Fiat Talento are also closely related. The three models differ slightly in appearance and equipment, while the installed diesel engines from 110 to 170 hp are the same. One advantage of the three minibus variants is their low unladen weight (only around 1,800 kg, where the VW T6 and Mercedes V-Class weigh in at around 2,200 kg), which ensures lower fuel consumption. All three models are available with assistance systems. The interior looks solid - you can't expect a high-quality interior like in the VW T6 or the Mercedes V-Class, but the price for the three-person team is correspondingly low.
Four matching SCA pop-up roofs are available for the minibus trio. All four offer plenty of space for sleeping and reclining comfort thanks to integrated disc springs. The SCA 186 and 187 roofs are intended for vehicles with a short wheelbase. The SCA 186 model is also available in a panoramic version. The SCA 188 and 189 roofs are suitable for the long wheelbase.
The three minibus variants from Renault, Nissan and Fiat are (apart from the rather plain Vito) the cheapest VW bus alternatives on the market: the price range starts at 32,000 euros, for 40,000 euros you already get a well-equipped car and at 54,000 euros is the maximum price, with the Renault on average the most expensive and the Fiat the cheapest. For which of the three vehicles one decides in the long run, probably depends on the individually desired equipment, which one should compare accordingly exactly in the three cases. It should be noted that there will probably no longer be any successor models as a joint project: Since the beginning of 2021, Fiat has belonged to the Stellantis Group and will therefore certainly cooperate more with Citroën, Peugeot and Opel.
Ford: Tourneo Custom and Transit Custom - affordable with modern drive technology
While the Ford Transit Custom is considered a robust craftsman's car, the more expensive Tourneo Custom comes with some extras. Available for both are six-speed automatic (but optional can be 8 or 10 gears) and assistance systems. With Tourneo, you can also get leather seats, additional climate control, USB ports, carpeting, sliding doors or pop-up windows. So, when it comes to the interior, the Tourneo looks much more refined. The diesel engines of the Ford achieved a performance between 105 and 185 hp. A special feature is the engine variant as a plug-in hybrid. This clearly sets the Tourneo Custom apart from the competition, which does not offer this option. Around 43 kilometers can be driven purely electrically, otherwise the gasoline engine takes over. This variant has 126 hp - acceleration is correspondingly sluggish, and the top speed barely exceeds 120 km/h. The Tourneo Custom will be available in both electric and gasoline versions from 2022. From 2022, however, both the Tourneo and the Transit will also be able to drive purely electrically.
For leisure activities, the Ford can be equipped with one of the two roofs SCA 124 (for the short wheelbase) or SCA 126 (for the long wheelbase). Just as with the pop-up roof models for the other minibuses, you get plenty of space thanks to high pop-up scissors and the best lying comfort.
As an alternative to the VW T6, the Ford Transit is reasonably priced at 33,000 to 60,000 euros - but the Tourneo is in a similar price range to the VW at 42,000 to 82,000. Even if the quality of technology and equipment does not quite match that of Volkswagen or Mercedes, the Ford Transit is in a good position in terms of price-performance ratio. However, it has one decisive disadvantage: Among the minibuses, the Ford is the only one that reaches a height of over 2m with a pop-up roof - and thus can only drive in garages or car washes that are correspondingly spacious towards the top.
Alternatives - They exist!
The answer to the question "Is there an alternative to the VW Bus?" is yes. If you are looking for a car with similar comfort, you will find it in the Mercedes V-Class. However, other vehicles also score points with modern technology and extensive equipment options - many of which even offer advantages over the VW T6 in certain areas, be it through lower weight, a powerful plug-in hybrid engine or environmentally friendly electric variants. Anyone who can do without a few extras in favor of lower costs will definitely find what they are looking for in the VW competition. And they are all suitable for traveling and camping: Regardless of which vehicle you ultimately choose, no one has to do without a suitable pop-up roof.