ROAD TRIP: 800km coastal drive in the new Volkswagen T6.1 Kombi

By Willem vd Putte Time of article published Mar 29, 2021

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GEORGE - Almost everyone in South Africa has a Kombi story and given that it’s such an icon within our folklore it’s good to see that the Kombi is still very much part of Volkswagen’s line-up.

Apparently I’m old, I know this because millennials say so, so I still have memories of my father being part of a work lift-club in an air cooled Kombi with bench seats bolted to the floor. Then in the early ‘80s a friend buying a squarer T3 and fitting it out as a camper van with the “danger pay” he had received while doing his military service.

A lot has happened in the ensuing years but the Kombi has always been in the background while its more glamorous VW counterparts lead the motoring pages and websites.

But sales have been steady throughout and we recently had the opportunity to drive the best seller in the range, the T6.1 2.0 Trendline Kombi, sporting the Transporter badge.

It was a proper 800km road trip along the Garden Route with various road surfaces and while I know the Caravelle is the flagship in the range, this T6.1 version is all the Kombi you’ll ever need.

It’s powered by a 2.0 litre turbo diesel engine that’s good for 110kW and 340Nm sending power to the front wheels via a very smooth seven-speed DSG transmission.

Driving to George Airport, the Kombi was fully loaded with eight grown men and their luggage for the weekend. The large luggage bay swallowed it all with ease while it had no trouble over some hilly climbs along the way, the DSG transmission seamlessly gearing up and down as needed.

While it doesn’t have the fancier digital cockpit of the Caravelle, it’s really not an issue with the analogue rev counter and speedometer on either side of a digital readout that gives you consumption, gear selection and a host of other information. In fact, given that I’m old school, I actually prefer the analogue display in the T6.1 set-up.

With the changing of the season and driving with the magnificent sea views along the coast there was always going to be a fair bit of wind and we got to experience the Crosswind Assist which is part of the Electronic Stability system. It applies the brake automatically when travelling above 80km/h to detect track offset caused by strong winds, an especially valuable safety device when you’re driving around with your family.

There’s also a Post-collision Braking System that brakes automatically after an accident to prevent a second impact while the Bluetooth system can only be connected when the vehicle is stationary.

There are one or two gripes though that if you’re an owner are likely to irritate you. The most obvious one is the lack of any charging points apart from two for the driver and passenger. The Kombi will be used to drive families and inevitably that means youngsters in the back who aren’t going to be happy not being able to keep their various smart devices charged. Sure, you can plug in an extension from the front but I can’t think why the designers didn’t take this into account.

Secondly, beyond the front seats there aren’t any cup holders, not a deal breaker but again, they’re damn handy when juice boxes and bottles and open tins have to be placed somewhere during a long trip.

VW claims a combined cycle of 6.6l/100km but over two days of driving the best we could do was 8.4l/100km, which for its weight and being a square box isn’t bad at all.

I can understand why this 2.0 Trendline version is popular among buyers, it has ample space, comfortable to drive and is loaded with safety features and tech gizmos.

I just wonder why the designers couldn’t put in rear charging points and cup holders which would make it almost a perfect package.

The Kombi comes standard with a three-year/120 000km warranty and a five-year/60 000km maintenance plan.

VOLKSWAGEN KOMBI PRICES

Trendline 2.0 TDI 81kW: R725 900

Trendline 2.0 TDI 110kW: R755 300

Trendline Plus 2.0 BiTdi 146kW 4Motion DSG: R907 000

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