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VW’s Kombi a nostalgic experience

20.05.2016

I grew up at a time when the Volkswagen Kombi, Volksie Bus or Microbus (as it was called) was at its peak.

From Subaru-engined Dr Frankenstein Microbus sleepers to well-used family camping machines, these vehicles are iconic.

The “Exclusive” badging found on many models has been used by other vehicle owners throughout our country on everything from Toyota Minibuses to MK1 Citi Golfs. I recently had the new T6 Kombi on test and I must admit, it’s quite different...

The first thing that the discerning Kombi owner will take note of is the exterior; up front we have the familiar VW front-end, giving the van some identity, while the side and rear sections are, well, as one would expect from a vehicle of this nature, boxy and simple. Inside is very likely one of the nicest interiors in the segment.

Sure, the Mercedes-Benz V-Class is luxurious, but you also pay for that luxury. The Kombi competes against the Mercedes-Benz Vito and the Hyundai H1, while striking a better balance between premium and utilitarian than its rivals. There is an easy-to-use infotainment system with Bluetooth/USB compatibility, while the driver gets cruise control and airconditioning as standard.

My test unit was the 103kW/340Nm 2.0-litre turbo diesel and was equipped with the DSG gearbox. The combination of the oil burner and the dual-clutch gearbox continues to be a winning recipe. Despite having the aerodynamic properties of a loaf of bread and weighing in at over 2 000kg I still managed to get the consumption down to 8.1 litres/100km over my 800km+ journey. That means that with an 80-litre fuel tank one can expect around 1 000km from a tank of diesel, which is impressive.

I also found the vehicle performed well, with enough power and torque to overtake when necessary and enough to transport a few people. There is comfortable seating for eight people while the boot remains respectable. With some clever seat-folding you can get up to 4 300 litres of loading capacity. The vehicle can also tow up to 2 500kg, making this a very good option for those with large families who go on extended trips. There are cloth seats too, which I have found work better when transporting large groups of people who generally make a mess.

The T6 is a very comfortable vehicle to drive around, you’re fully aware of the fact that you’re in a large van-type vehicle from the raised driving position and angled steering wheel. However, on the open road and even in town, the level of comfort, visibility and usability is impressive for a large machine.

As with many vehicles that I find myself driving of late, the pricing is quite steep. The Kombi 2.0TDI SWB Comfortline auto that I had on test will set you back R612 700, which is a lot of money for a van but its key rival, the H1, will cost you the same and it comes with more kit and can seat nine. The Vito is more costly than either of these two and can only seat seven although its service plan will run for five years/120 000km while the Hyundai gets a five-year/90 000km service plan and the VW a five-year/60 000km plan.

The Hyundai H1 is a very solid competitor and the Vito also makes a good argument. Nonetheless, I feel that the Kombi strikes the best balance of the three, making it my choice within this segment.

Article written by Sean Nurse
20.05.2016
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