Volkswagen Bulli Concept at 2011 Geneva Motor Show

By David Thomas  on February 27, 2011

  • Looks like: VW’s answer to the Scion xB
  • Defining characteristics: Electric powertrain, seats six
  • Ridiculous features: An iPad controls onboard entertainment
  • Chance of being mass-produced: Better than iffy

In 2001 Volkswagen debuted a concept Microbus that to this day looks fresh and makes us long for it to star in a “Little Miss Sunshine” sequel. VW says it didn’t forget about that concept and has developed a new one, called the Bulli, to take up the mantle as the next small van from the company.

The verbiage from the Geneva International Motor Show makes this sound like a compact van, with an electric motor with a 186-mile range. The range alone makes us want one, as most EVs on the market today or planned for the near future top out at 100 miles. A high-speed charging station could fully charge the Bulli in less than an hour, VW says. If electric isn’t your thing, the company says small power plants — think 1.0- or 1.4-liter — will also fit under that puggish hood.

But at 157 inches long, this is one small, small van. Mini’s new Countryman SUV is 161 inches long. A Scion xB is 167.3 inches long. That means when you recline all the seats to form a “large reclining surface” or bed, there might not be room to stretch out.
When the rear seats are completely stowed for maximum cargo room, the Bulli has 56 cubic feet of storage. The Countryman has just 41.

We’d worry more about the specs if this were a production vehicle, but automakers rarely give them out for concepts like this. Instead, they focus on unusual interior treatments, like the integrated iPad dock that controls onboard entertainment features such as music.

There are also few controls, like a traditional shifter, since it’s an electric concept. Clearly, if they do put an engine in it, they’d need to put one somewhere …

Volkswagen 2011 Geneva Motor Show Concept Cars

Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon.  Email David