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I never owned a Volkswagen Microbus, the rear-engined, underpowered, Age of Aquarius machine that roamed the streets in the 1960s adorned with peace signs, psychedelic art and bumper stickers proclaiming "Make love not war" and "Don't laugh, your daughter may be in here."

I've owned a few VWs, of course. Most baby boomers have. In the '60s, I owned a couple of "Beetles" and in 1980 I bought a VW Rabbit that my wife drove until 1989.Since then, I haven't logged many Volks miles. Then last week I got a call: Would I like to evaluate a 1993 Volkswagen EuroVan GL for a week? The all-new EuroVan is the replacement for the venerable VW Vanagon that had years ago replaced the Microbus. Bring it on, I told them.

It's no secret that VW's fortunes have slumped in recent years. The market niche that the German automaker had almost to itself through the '60s and '70s - small, economical imports - came up against the Japanese invasion in the '80s, and VW has been running uphill ever since.

VW also had the small van market to itself through the '60s and '70s, but Chrysler claimed the title in the early '80s, with its introduction of what became known as the "minivan." It was a knockout punch. Even the mighty Japanese, despite repeated attempts, have not made major inroads against Chrysler in the minivan wars.

The "secret" of the Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager twins' success is usually credited to one brilliant move on Chrysler's part: It took a vehicle that had always been thought of as a truck and made it more like a car.

If that is the main criterion for buying a minivan, then Volkswagen may have a problem. There is no question that the EuroVan, mainly because of its height - you climb UP into it - and its trucklike (or buslike) steering wheel, does a poor impersonation of a typical family sedan.

Is that bad? After a week of driving the Euro, I don't think so.

While I was somewhat put off by the VW the first time I drove it, particularly the ponderous steering wheel, familiarity eventually bred respect. Once accustomed to the Euro's idiosyncracies, I found myself finding plenty of excuses to take it for a ride.

Even my wife fell for the Veedub. Karen had loathed the Mitsubishi van we owned for a short time in 1988, and she had been generally lukewarm over the various other minivans I have evaluated in recent years. But she loved the Euro.

My 16-year-old daughter Kelly - she of the 3-month-old driver's license - also liked it, and my 9-year-old, Lindsay, pronounced it "cool" - the ultimate tribute.

By the end of the week, the 1993 VW EuroVan GL "midsize" van (not "mini," VW insists) was deemed an unqualified success by the Knudson household.

This suggests that VW dealers might want to offer potential customers something more than the usual 10-minute test ride before they have to decide whether to sign on for a half-decade of payments. The transition from generic sedan to EuroVan takes awhile.

But there is much to like once acclimated. Despite Chrysler's claims, VW actually created the first small van in 1947, and the German marque hasn't survived for nearly half a century - selling nearly 7 million vans - without getting most things right.

Before "carlike" became the goal, the point of passenger vans was to create a vehicle that was big on the inside but relatively small on the outside. The Euro can say "mission accomplished." It is less than 2 inches longer than a Honda Accord, the benchmark for small sedans, but is significantly roomier than most minis.

All minivans claim to seat seven adults, but the Euro really does - seven honest-to-goodness grown-up people, in comfort. Cargo space behind the rear bench seat is also generous, and total cargo space, with center and rear seats removed, is a whopping 201 cubic feet, considerably more than even the extended "Grand" Chrysler minivans - although a good part of that extra space comes from the VW's higher roofline.

Unlike its rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive Microbus and Vanagon ancestors, the Euro has its 5-cylinder, 150-CID, fuel-injected engine up front driving the front wheels. And, yes, the motor is cooled by water, not air.

Writers for the automobile "buff books" have panned the EuroVan's engine as not up to the task, but I found it more than sufficient considering that van owners aren't much interested in drag racing. Even with a full complement of passengers, the Euro had no problem going up and over Little Mountain at speeds exceeding the legal limit.

A five-speed manual transmission is standard, but I recommend the optional four-speed automatic.

If a vehicle shaped like a loaf of bread can be good looking, the EuroVan is. It is screwed together quite solidly inside and out giving it a look and feel of quality.

The Jamaican Aqua Blue Clearcoat Metallic paint is a mouthful to say, but it is one of the most striking colors I've seen and it suits the EuroVan well. Also, my youngest daughter pointed out that it made the van easy to find in the supermarket parking lot. Is that a recommendation, or what?

Same for the interior only more so. The EuroVan's seats, raised higher off the floor than usual, are among the most comfortable, firm and supportive I've yet come across. A long cross-country trip in the EuroVan would be no problem.

Also, a small thing, but the van has a very generous 21-gallon fuel tank, which means you get a lot of miles between pit stops on the highway. The van is rated at 15 mpg city and 19 highway. Admittedly, this is not great mileage by econocar standards, but this is a vehicle that will haul more people and their luggage than a Cadillac Fleetwood, the last of America's mega-sedans.

The EuroVan seems pretty pricey to me, but then what doesn't these days? Base price for the GL I tested was $20,420, but nearly $3,000 worth of such options as automatic transmission, anti-lock brakes, the usual power goodies, the snazzy metallic paint and destination charges put the bottom line at $23,745.

For that money, the EuroVan is going up against stiff competition in the minivan wars, including minivan offerings from Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Mazda and Nissan. I wish VW lots of luck in making sales inroads against those heavyweights in an already crowded field.

The GL version I tested is the midlevel EuroVan. The CL is the base model and the MV is the top of the line.