Kombi’s have been around a long time now. In my mind they’re a bit like the Beetle. Yes I know the Beetle was produced for a hundred million years and trillions of them rolled out the factory doors, but I’ve only been alive for 24 years and both the Beetle and the Kombi have been around at least that long.
Unlike the Beetle however the Kombi has undergone a number of modifications over its lifetime. A sort of vehicular evolution if you like, from what was a bread box on wheels to the one I drove recently. And my, what a transformation.
I’ve never particularly liked people carriers because let’s face it, they’re ugly. Like Wayne Rooney ugly, which, so I’m told, is the worst kind. I guess the physics behind squeezing at least 7 people into a vehicle that one can still drive on a normal code driver’s license dictates the shape to be uncompromisingly square.
Other manufacturers have attempted to combat this issue by creating raking wedge nose front ends. Unfortunately this actually makes the car look worse somehow. VW though have put some thought into this issue, employed some engineers (Germans like engineers) and designers and come up with a people carrier I would seriously consider spending money on.
The new Kombi has that unmistakable VW front end. The shadowed halogen headlights, striking slatted grille and massive badge shout the new face of the company. And, oddly enough it must be said, I’m quite the fan.
Inside, as you will have imagined, is simply massive. There’s enough space to literally walk from the front to the back of a car. I’m convinced Kombi owners will lose their children for days on end, only to find them wondering around amongst the seats. Versatility is key for a people carrier, so obviously this is another well engineered aspect of the Kombi. Two sliding doors, one on either side, allow for easy access to the two rows of rear seats (seating 6 in the back, 8 in total) even in tight parking lots. All the seats slide fore and aft, or can be removed entirely leaving an indescribably cavernous load bay of close to 7m³ with the ability to swallow everything including the kitchen sink.
Safety is also on the menu and again the Germans have used every ounce of their engineering know how to make this three ton house safe – after all there will be at least one of your children running around in the back, the other five aren’t of real concern. All seats have three point safety belts while airbags are found sporadically around the cabin. A full host of driver aids come standard, like ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution), EBC (Engine Brake Control), TCS (Traction Control System), to name but a few. And as you can see this is all very, very German.
Since the Kombi will more than likely be an exponent of long distance family travel, it’s really comfortable. Three zone climate control (with vents above the rear seats) will keep the kids from whining the aircon doesn’t reach them at the back and can be protected from the sun by blinds that come out of the doors – while those up front can enjoy nifty arm rests, seat heaters, an eight speaker audio system and if you’re willing to cough up some extra bucks, a cooler box.
Now for the bit in which dad will be interested. All Kombi’s come with varying degrees of 2.0 litre turbo-charged diesel engines. My test model had the 103kW, 340Nm TDi coupled with a six speed manual ‘box, which has a short chunky action to it. Fuel consumption figures average around 7.5 on the combined cycle, which is respectable.
Unfortunately tipping the scales at three tons doesn’t help acceleration or handling. But for such a large vehicle, it’s a blast to drive. I think it’s the ridiculousness of sitting at the helm of something that is over five metres long that caused me to smile every time I got behind the wheel.
The independent front and rear suspension does wonders in ironing out imperfections in the road (quite literally). While the steering is astonishingly precise and there’s an adequate amount of grip to be had, however under steer is the order of the day once you start throwing the weight around.
Being 24 years old I’m clearly not in the market for a people carrier and all my mates find the thought of owning one to be quite depressing. But VW have put a light at the end of the tunnel. They’ve shown that people carriers don’t have to mark the end of motoring fun. And I have a feeling that once the other manufacturers catch on, the people carrier market will become quite a lively place.
Price: R 456,410
Engine: 2.0 litre TDI 4-cylinder
Power: 103 kW
Torque: 340 Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 14.2
Top speed (km/h): 173
Fuel consumption (l/100km): 7.5 (claimed)
Photo Credit: Quickpic