The Road. VW Kombi03-12-2010
Top South African motoring journalist Fraser Dodge reviews the VW Kombi for i-marbella
Ordinarily, we would hesitate when offered a test drive of a car like the Volkswagen Kombi. Why? Simply because we are an elitist bunch of car reviewers and had never tested a car like this before.
So why did we do it?
The reason is deceptively easy to see. Having started my family, cars like the Kombi are ever more present in my thoughts. That’s it. Besides that, it is also a car that has resonated with the South African public for a long time. It is almost as South African as braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolet.
Donning my reddest shoes in homage to the Kombi king, David Kramer, I went in search of answers with this supersized VW.
What first got me about it was the sheer size of it. It is massive in the long wheel base version I tested. Well over five metres in length, higher than the 4x4 I drive in a daily basis and wider than the USS Enterprise, it certainly has presence on the road. I am convinced I saw a 5ton tipper truck almost pulling out in front of me think twice and stay put, fearful of the result if I collected him.
The drive is a welcome surprise. Not only was the performance far superior to anything I had imagined, but it was remarkably easy. There was simply no effort required in getting about even the tightest of Cape Town’s streets. Granted, I wouldn’t want to try and squeeze it through tiny medieval streets of some European villages, but nevertheless it was a wieldy vehicle which belied its bulk.
With the amount of glass surrounding the cabin, it is no wonder that visibility was superb. No mater where you position yourself in the vehicle, it seems as though you have a window seat. Driver’s outlook is like watching a National Geographic Channel as you gaze at the mountains through the massive widescreen that doubles up as a windscreen.
As already mentioned, it is tall. I found myself peering down disdainfully at the likes of the Touareg and X5 drivers. With all the height, one would expect masses of bad handling and body roll, and while the vehicle is not built to be chucked about like a Mini, it handled brilliantly. It was incredibly composed at speed, and held its own in the corners.
The test unit was equipped with a DSG gearbox. While it did adequate duty taking you through the gears, it showed a lack of foresight in the way that it was all too easily knocked inadvertently into the Sport position when one was simply trying to engage Drive. Maybe the test unit had been treated badly as a child, but it also had a knack for being bumped into Neutral on the move. Then there was the fact that the selector indicator had not made the move to the right hand side of the car too comfortably. This meant that it was nigh on impossible to see what gear you were in as the display was well hidden behind the chunky gear lever, on the wrong side of the cabin to the driver. Such a simple little thing, but an irritant which never settled.
Build quality is typically VW good, even if the plastics were a bit on the cheap side. But, in a car of this ilk, it is not too much of a negative, as you will either have hoards of tourists or sticky-fingered-children though the cabin and it will clean easily.
All round, I was pleasantly surprised by the drive, manoeuvrability and composure of the car. If you are planning a large family, or lots of outings with a full rugby team, this is the car for you. But take an extra few minutes to check the cabin after a trip. It is so large and spacious, that you might find a few unnoticed stowaways living between the seats.
By: Fraser Dodge
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