The legendary status
Talk about a trip down memory lane. When Volkswagen invited us to attend the launch of their new, sixth generation T6 models, the manufacturer hauled out plenty of dusty memories and a few shiny examples of previous models. They even gave it an ad slogan which rightly claims that “legendary status comes standard”.
The VW people movers known locally as “Kombi” (and “Bulli” in Germany) started life in 1955 with local assembly in the Eastern Cape. 1969 saw the second model while T3 – the square Kombi most people know – arrived in 1980. T4 (1998) and T5 (2004) took over from the legend but were fully imported.
This T6 range is also brought in from overseas where it already clinched the “Van of the Year” title. Bolder, more distinctive styling brings the Kombis up to date, crisper and stronger horizontal elements hark back to T3 while following Volkswagen’s clean design language. Under that new skin, 60% of components are new.
Further innovations include optional multi-collision brake, a post-accident braking assistant as pioneered in the Golf. All Kombis roll off the showroom floor with ABS brakes, ESP stability control and at least two airbags. Some models can also be ordered with lane assistance, LED lights and a hill hold feature.
Kombi purists will be delighted to learn that some old trademarks have returned. These include, depending on model, dual-tone paint and the option of flattening all seats to make a bed. Buyers of the fancy Caravelle derivatives may also choose to have parts of the new dashboard painted in the vehicle’s exterior colour.
As with previous generations, the range includes over two dozen models which span from a single-cab pick-up (N$293,900) to the Caravelle DSG 4Motion (N$848,800). In between all this you’ll find short and long wheelbase models, manual or DSG (automatic) gearboxes and three versions of the 2-litre turbodiesel engine.
VW Commercial Vehicles also offers various Crew Cabs, Crew Busses, as well as Panel Vans in base or Sport (semi-leisure) trim. Throw in optional Trendline, Comfortline or Highline specifications on some models and VW certainly have a thoroughly wide net (and competitive pricing) to catch any potential van owners.
On our adventurous launch route around the Eastern Cape, we first sampled the luxurious and leather-clad Caravelle with metallic paint, climate and cruise control, navigation, swiveling seats and picnic table, followed by the humbler Kombi with cloth chairs, radio/CD, halogen lights and air-con.
Of course the Caravelle is a nicer cab to travel in but my journey companions and I felt no less comfortable or nostalgic in the family-friendly Kombi. Our test model’s 103kW had to work harder than the Caravelle’s 132kW version but we also learnt that the stronger motor can only stomach 50ppm Diesel.
Scenery wizzing by and road trip stories being flung around the massive cabin, we hardly noticed the miles and hours passing. Someone praised all the storage nooks in or near the dashboard, while another lauded VW for keeping a passage between the front seats. Handy for young parents and tight parking bays.
Volkswagen South Africa sold over 280,000 Kombis since 1955 which I will happily believe. My Mom’s best friend had four successive Kombis, my in-laws had three – one of which my wife learnt to drive in. An uncle of mine had six in a row, my aunt misses all of them, while another uncle still tours Namibia in his.
The reasons for Kombi’s popularity are simple. By combining space, comfort, versatility and value in a medium-sized bus, Volkswagen created the ultimate transport solution for families and businesses alike. And this new generation – thanks to its myriad of models – will undoubtedly carry on that tradition.
Pricing (November 2015)
2.0 TDI Single Cab Pick Up LWB 75kW N$293 900
2.0 TDI Double Cab Pick Up LWB 75kW N$332 800
2.0 BiTDI Double Cab Pick Up LWB 132kW N$409 800
Transporter Panel Van
2.0 TDI Panel Van SWB 75kW N$362 600
2.0 TDI Panel Van LWB 75kW N$370 600
2.0 TDI Sport Van SWB DSG 103kW N$432 600
Transporter Crew Bus
2.0 TDI Crew Bus SWB 75kW N$421 100
2.0 TDI Crew Bus LWB 75kW N$429 100
2.0 TDI Crew Bus LWB DSG 103kW N$464 400
2.0 BiTDI Crew Bus SWB DSG 132kW N$489 400
2.0 BiTDI Crew Bus SWB 4MOTION DSG 132kW N$519 900
2.0 BiTDI Crew Bus LWB 4MOTION DSG 132kW N$527 900
2.0 TDI Kombi Trendline 75kW N$481 800
2.0 TDI Kombi Trendline DSG 103kW N$513 300
2.0 TDI Kombi Comfortline 103kW N$566 400
2.0 TDI Kombi Comfortline DSG 103kW N$583 900
2.0 TDI Kombi Comfortline LWB DSG 103kW N$591 900
2.0 BiTDI Caravelle Comfortline DSG 132kW N$738 300
2.0 BiTDI Caravelle Comfortline 4MOTION DSG 132kW N$770 800
2.0 BiTDI Caravelle Highline DSG 132kW N$816 300
2.0 BiTDI Caravelle Highline 4MOTION DSG 132kW N$848 800