Tested: Volkswagen T5 Kombi DSG Comfortline SWB

The vibrant memories

I’ve made a huge mistake. Desperate for clever ways to start my recent reviews, I encouraged readers to remember certain vehicles. Now I’m staring at the Big Daddy of most people’s motoring past and feel a bit sheepish using the same angle: do you remember the old Kombis?

My wife certainly does. In a clear demonstration of her vs. my parents’ automotive choices, she immediately jumped into the pilot’s seat, fired the beast up and started spilling colourful tales of her family’s many vacations while threading this descendant of Mnr Kramer’s Volksiebus through afternoon traffic.

Meanwhile, I was silently listening on the passenger seat and trying to drink in the whole Kombi-ness of it all. Geez Louise, this is a massive car. And at 4.89m from nose to tail, our test car isn’t even the longest available model. Other dimensions include 1.99m height and 1.9m width (excluding mirrors).

Available in Trendline or Comfortline trim, you can also choose from two engine specifications and three gearboxes; this seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission being the latest addition to the Kombi range and previously only available in long wheelbase Comfortline or Transporter/CrewBus models.

Our Kombi’s 2.0 TDi engine spits 103kW or 340Nm to reach 100km/h in 14.7 seconds (we got a blistering 12.89 at sea level) or an alleged top speed of 172km/h. Trendline models can also be ordered with a weaker (75kW/250Nm) engine while luxurious Caravelle models get the uprated 132kW Bi-TDi motor.

While I find some DSG’s to be jerky, drive to these front wheels is extremely smooth. The turbo-diesel’s big torque output ensures plenty of shove while the last ratio in this ‘box is geared for better fuel efficiency. Volkswagen claims an average of 8L/100km from the 80L tank and we’re delighted to confirm this.

Driving hard, uphill and/or in town will tilt 10L/100km but a relaxed cruise can dip into the mid-sevens and many of our journeys ended with 8-9L/100km on the instrument cluster’s multi-function display. This unit, together with various trim, lighting and convenience features, is reserved for Comfortline Kombis.

All Kombis feature eight seats, Climatic air-conditioning, sun rollers, full size spare wheels, a radio/CD sound system, eight speakers, two airbags, a full raft of 3-point seatbelts, ISOFIX anchors, alarm, immobilizer, reading lights, 12V sockets, as well as ABS, EBD, ESP, an electronic differential and EBC engine brake control.

Where old Kombis only had one sliding door, these new ones have one on either side. Presumably to catch obstinate children or assist tourists who insist on embarking from the wrong side of the car. Both slidey doors feature child locks, heat-insulating glass and sliding windows.

After finally having wrestled the Kombi keys off my spouse, I set off for a boy’s weekend of camping and general debauchery. Traveling at the posted limit is no sweat for this Kombi, road holding is commendable for a two-ton rectangle and high-speed overtaking simply takes a bit of forward planning.

Thanks to its 3m wheelbase, 11.9m turning radius and 165mm ground clearance, it easily traversed the rather rough farm tracks leading to our camp site. The only disappointment – shared by fellow Kombi aficionados – is that you can’t fold the seats to make a continuous bed, as you could in the old cars.

All seats tilt and fold in many ways yet the only way to get a flat surface is with a set of spanners and some of my camping buddies. Which boils down to the same thing. Still, everyone in attendance was curious and had mostly praise to bestow on Volkswagen’s big people mover.

The rear air-con (once activated by the master switch) has its own controls, there are two enormous storage binnacles in the front doors, a card holder and covered 12V socket on top of the dashboard, as well as daytime running lights in case someone somehow overlooked a gigantic box heading their way.

Right. Should you wish to purchase one of these comfortable vans, set aside at least N$536,500 for this model. The simpler Trendline is N$62,000 cheaper while the long-wheelbase model costs a very reasonable N$8,000 more. All Kombis carry a 3-year/120,000km warranty and 5-year/60,000km maintenance plan.

Dawid and his red shoes are not included in the purchase price but, judging by the many happy faces and vibrant stories this car drew out of my loved ones, the new Kombi retains its ancestors’ most important feature: it’s ready for you to make new road trip memories.


Performance

0-10km/h: 0.66 seconds
0-20km/h: 1.23 seconds
0-30km/h: 1.90 seconds
0-40km/h: 3.06 seconds
0-50km/h: 4.02 seconds
0-60km/h: 5.55 seconds
0-70km/h: 6.90 seconds
0-80km/h: 8.51 seconds
0-90km/h: 10.73 seconds
0-100km/h: 12.89 seconds
0-110km/h: 15.38 seconds
0-120km/h: 18.99 seconds
0-130km/h: 22.70 seconds
0-140km/h: 27.66 seconds

0-100m: 7.93 seconds @ 76.61km/h
0-200m: 12.08 seconds @ 96.44km/h
0-300m: 15.55 seconds @ 110.37km/h
0-400m: 18.68 seconds @ 119.18km/h

Maximum acceleration G-force: 0.52G

Altitude: 51m

All data captured by Racelogic® Performance Box

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