1990 Volkswagen Vanagon GL 2.1 litre water-cooled flat four from North America
Although low-powered, it is the ultimate family people/cargo-mover
A lot of things go wrong with a car/van over the course of 350,000 miles, but much of it could be expected. Among the surprises were six water pumps over the first 150,000 miles, four A/C overhauls (two major and two minor) and several trips to the body shop (the fiberglass bumpers shatter easily and cost a bundle to replace). The engine was replaced at 204,000 miles, but the mechanic who disassembled the old one said it could have been fixed with just a head job. It has been carefully maintained and between repairs, oil changes, filters, fluids, tires, brakes and everything else, we have spent over $28,000 over the 17 years and 350,000 miles. Despite toting six kids for all those years, the upholstery is still in remarkably good shape.
This is our third Vanagon (and fourth Type II), a perfect combination of space utilization and compact overall dimensions. The seats are all comfortable and large and the knee and head room accommodates even the most long-legged.
The cargo area in the rear over the engine holds an enormous amount and folding down the rear and middle seats enables an entire truck-load to be carried and then convert back to a passenger van in less than 30 seconds. It will carry a load of 12-foot-long lumber or 4'x8' sheets of plywood and weight has never been a problem. Yet it will turn around in any average intersection, is as nimble as a VW Bug and measures only 15-feet long.
Even with a three-speed automatic (our previous Vanagons had manual four-speed transmissions) the low-end torque is incredible: it will beat almost anything except a muscle-car off the line.
This car runs smooth and quiet on the interstate and is a great family vacation car. It is a reliable, hard-working everyday family car as well. Considering how tall it is, it is remarkably stable and good-handling. It gets 18-20MPG regularly and uses basic regular gasoline. It has never used oil and has been a great all-around transporter.
Its one Achille's heel is that being an unusual vehicle, not many know how to work on it or want to learn. The engine sits so low, it is amusing to see the instant oil change guys looking for the engine. A quick check of the rear shows that the cargo floor is too low for the engine to be in back ("it's not back here, it must be in front; no it's not here either- where is it?").
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 9th June, 2007
I know this is an old review, but... there are some inconsistencies, such as "low power" and performance "3 out of 10", but "will beat anything but a muscle car off the line"? That makes no sense whatever. Also, the gas mileage seems a bit higher than reality, and these vehicles are hardly known for their "stability" either. I'm not sure I would trust this review.