Classic CARmentary: 1999 Volkswagen EuroVan MV

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

I specifically reserved the EuroVan for this particular week because one of my best friends from Florida was coming to visit with his wife and one-year-old son.  His wife was attending a conference in downtown D.C., so we graciously offered to let them stay with us in our apartment in Arlington.  As the conference was only for the weekend, we figured that’s about as long as they were staying.  We found out later that they were staying an entire week.  In our one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment.  As icing on the cake, the son was born in a botched C-Section which mostly incapacitated the mother for a year and caused an unusually strong dependent bond between the infant and his father.  Basically, whenever my friend was out of sight (like going to the bathroom), the kid would scream like a banshee.  It was a very long week, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we didn’t start having children of our own for seven more years.

We did make good use of the EuroVan during the week.  Most memorably, we drove it down to Central Virginia to show them our new townhouse and some of the touristy sites in the area.  Even though I wasn’t terribly impressed with the EuroVan, my friend loved it.  However, when he replaced his wife’s Escort GT with a minivan shortly after returning to Florida, it was with a V6 Caravan.  My guess was that, like for most buyers, the high price and horrible gas mileage took the EuroVan out of the running.

The following review was published on August 26, 1999

When a model fails to generate interest and is pulled from the market, you generally don’t see it again. But, after a six-year absence, the Volkswagen EuroVan, descendent of the legendary counter-culture Microbus, returns.

Aside from some cosmetics, the biggest change lies under the hood. Volkswagen’s ubiquitous 2.8-liter VR6 engine replaces the anemic five-cylinder engine, although it loses 32 horsepower for utility duty. Unfortunately, ALL of its competition offer larger, higher output six-cylinder engines, making the EuroVan one of the slowest minivans on the market, and its gas mileage is atrocious.

Unfortunately, nothing else has changed. You step up, high up, into the cabin. The steering wheel is still at a bus-like angle. Although you can walk into the cargo area, you have to make sure that you clear the floor-mounted shifter and emergency brake. A fourth sliding door is not offered. Finally, the price is higher than the price American’s thought was too high in the early 1990s, making it one of the most expensive minivans on the market. Oh yeah, it looks like a brick on wheels, too.

We have to remember, however, that the EuroVan wasn’t designed for us, but for the European market. They don’t have big Econolines or RamVans, so businesses use smaller vans like this. Furthermore, Europeans don’t have Winnebagos, so campers use it too, and Americans can outfit theirs with goodies like a pop-up roof and refrigerator right from the dealer. These factors make for some interesting features unique to the EuroVan. While it’s only about as long as a base Caravan, it’s about as tall as a full-size van, yielding incredible cargo room in an easier-to-manage package. While the base GLS has all forward-facing seats, the middle two seats of our MV face rearward with a pop-up table in between. The cargo area has a rigid, removable, padded shelf that works in conjunction with the rear bench to form a bed, if desired. And, of course, with so few out there, it’s one of the few vans that attract attention.

Compared to its competition, purchasing a EuroVan makes little sense. I guess those who do purchase it are as counter-culture as their Microbus-owning ancestors.

For more information contact 1-800-444-8987


Type: 3-Door Minivan
Engine: 140-horsepower, 2.8 liter VR6
Transmission: Four-speed Automatic
EPA Mileage: 15 city/20 highway
Tested Price: $33,975