The popular Volkswagen Kombi recently saw the addition of a 7-speed DSG gearbox for the short wheelbase derivative and I tested its capabilities in and around Cape Town. I wanted to do something out of the ordinary for this test and seeing that the Kombi is first and foremost a people mover, I needed a few people to join me on my escapade. To solve the problem, I rounded up four under privileged kids from a surf outreach program in Muizenberg and in true Kombi spirit, embarked on a surf mission.
Imposing PresenceThe Volkswagen Kombi is a large vehicle with imposing dimensions at just over 4.8 m in length and almost 2 m in height. This test unit came in a rather attractive Olympia Blue Metallic colour with optional dark tinted windows all round and rides on 16-inch alloy wheels, which are standard for this Kombi in Comfortline trim.
The oversize exterior mirrors in body colour help immensely and there are two sliding doors on either side, which greatly improves access to the rear seats. A large rear tailgate provides access to a low loading bay, which makes loading heavier items easier.
Space GaloreThe Kombi is designed to seat eight people comfortably with a generous cargo bay that offers 1 200-litres of space with all the seats in place. The seats can be folded in various ways to create more space or they can be taken out completely that turns the Kombi into a van. The seats are rather heavy though and require some man power to move them around. The Kombi swallowed five surfboards and general surfing paraphernalia with ease.
The front seats offer decent lumbar support and arm rests for both the front passenger and driver are standard. Air conditioning is standard and flows through to the rear, keeping all passengers cool on those hot summer days. Passenger windows feature roller blinds to block out the sun as well.
Storage space up front includes a lockable glove compartment with a storage net on the underside, stowage pockets in the doors and front cup holders. Other standard niceties include an 8-speaker Radio/CD/MP3 player, electric front windows, electric side mirrors, multifunction on-board computer and step illumination lights for the sliding doors. This model also came fitted with an optional tilt and slide sunroof with a sunblind, which was a nice feature.
Bus DrivingPowering this Volkswagen Kombi is a 2.0-litre TDI engine that develops 103 kW and 340 Nm of torque. This is mated to a 7-speed DSG gearbox. These numbers are sufficient to power the Kombi around town, but it’s on the highway where that torque ensures decent overtaking power, making the Kombi a great long distance cruiser.
The DSG gearbox works hard to find the ideal gear in congested traffic situations and doesn't always get it right, which results in jerky, indecisive gear changes at slower speeds. On an open highway however, gear changes even out nicely with consistent acceleration inputs. With the DSG, you don’t have to worry about shifting gears and can rather focus on keeping the Kombi on the road, which makes it that much easier to live with.
Like driving a bus, the driver sits high up in the Kombi, which improves all-round visibility and you can’t help but feel like a bus driver behind the wheel. The Volkswagen Kombi can be a challenging vehicle to drive in the city. It’s big and long which means the driver needs to be extra alert around every corner and care needs to be taken when choosing a place to park, so the optional Park Distance Control (PDC) will definitely be useful.
In terms of fuel consumption, Volkswagen claim 8.0L / 100 km, but in the week we drove the Kombi we managed to achieve in the region of 10.6L/100 km.
Conclusion and SummaryThe Volkswagen Kombi is a decent product overall with high levels of versatility. It can be a comfortable people mover or it can transform into a house mover if need be. Engine performance is good but I feel the DSG could be better. The Kombi is quite expensive so it’s worthwhile comparing the Kombi with its competitors. If a smile on a child’s face is anything to go by, then the Kombi could very well be the perfect companion on a long-distance family holiday and is well worth consideration if you are looking for loads of space.
Second OpinionThe Volkswagen Kombi is hard-coded into South African history so it's hard not to feel a little nostalgic when jumping behind the wheel of the new one. It's now expensive but infinitely easier to drive thanks to the DSG gearbox, even though it can be a bit sluggish between shifts at slow speeds. There's nothing small about this bus as it handles eight passengers and luggage with ease. If you have a big family you want to cart around or you're starting a kids lift club, this is the vehicle for you.
Volkswagen Kombi Price in South AfricaThe Volkswagen Kombi is available in both short and long wheelbase formats with Trendline and Comfortline trim on offer. This Kombi Comfortline SWB with DSG is priced at R549 500. The Kombi Manual SWB is priced from R459 100 and the Kombi Comfortline LWB is priced from R557 500. We Like: - Practicality and versatility - Loads of space - Long distance capability
We Don’t Like: - DSG could be better - Expensive
Volkswagen Kombi Quick Specs
|Power||103 kW @ 3 500 rpm|
|Torque||340 Nm @ 1 750 – 2 500 rpm|
|Wheels||16-inch Cartagena alloy wheels|
|Fuel Economy||8.0L/100 km (claimed)|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||80-litres|