A Volk­swa­gen that fits into a niche of its own

Daily News - - BR MONEY - WILLEM VAN DE PUTTE

THE VOLK­SWA­GEN bus, or “Kombi” as we re­fer to it col­lo­qui­ally, has a long and il­lus­tri­ous lo­cal his­tory, from panel vans to campers – we’ve seen and had them all.

I re­mem­ber well, while at school ( yes, that long ago), the par­ents of a friend of ours owned an art gallery and had one of those round- nosed panel vans, pow­ered by a 1.6- litre air- cooled en­gine.

He had a li­cence and reg­u­larly, on a Satur­day night, a bunch of us would pile in the back, hide un­der blan­kets and car­pets, and only pay for the driver and pas­sen­ger at the drive- in – like I said, that long ago.

Their fam­ily trans­port was a Volk­swa­gen Type 2 ( T3) or Mi­crobus as it was called, dad drove a MercedesBe­nz and when his el­der sis­ter turned 21, she was given a Golf. Guess what their home lan­guage was?

Point is, not only is the VW DNA in­ter­twined in our col­lec­tive mem­ory but the “Kombi” specif­i­cally has pro­vided fam­i­lies and busi­nesses with trans­port for decades, helped im­mea­sur­ably by David Kramer and his red Vel­lies all those years ago.

Which brings us to the lat­est up­date of the sixth gen­er­a­tion T- Se­ries which, since its launch in 2015, has sold 10 097 units lo­cally.

Dubbed the T6.1 the ex­te­rior up­grades in­clude a larger ra­di­a­tor grille that flows in to a new bumper, new front and rear LED lights, newly de­signed rims, six ex­te­rior colours, and seven new two- tone op­tions.

In­side, how­ever, there’s a lot more than just a nip and tuck, and lick of paint.

Now fit­ted with VW’S 10.25- inch vir­tual cock­pit, it adds a whole new di­men­sion to the T6.1. The graph­ics and screen qual­ity are ex­cep­tion­ally good, and the var­i­ous screen con­fig­u­ra­tions are eas­ily changed with the view but­ton on the mul­ti­func­tion steer­ing wheel, which has also been made slightly smaller to give it more of a car- like feel­ing.

There’s also wire­less Ap­ple and An­droid con­nec­tiv­ity, and an in­duc­tive charg­ing slot.

Also new is elec­tro- me­chan­i­cal power steer­ing, which re­duces fuel con­sump­tion, makes steer­ing more di­rect and also al­lows for ac­cess to a num­ber of new driver as­sis­tance sys­tems, such as cross­wind as­sist – which helps the driver in high cross­winds by au­to­mat­i­cally ac­ti­vat­ing the brakes with­out you be­ing aware. It’s par­tic­u­larly handy in this ve­hi­cle, with a pro­file as big as a brick out­house.

And it’s com­fort­able too, with heated front seats, cli­mate con­trol and two arm­rests for both driver and pas­sen­ger.

The whole range is pow­ered by three vari­a­tions of their 2.0- litre turbo diesel en­gines. The 2.0- litre TDI de­liv­er­ing 81kw and 250Nm, the 2.0- litre TDI de­liv­er­ing 110kw and 340Nm and the flag­ship 2.0- litre BITDI with 146kw and 450Nm, which was in the Car­avelle we drove on the launch.

The Car­avelle is, no doubt, very much in a niche mar­ket but you would be mis­taken to think of it merely as a peo­ple or fam­ily mover.

The Car­avelle is prob­a­bly the best “bus” on the mar­ket by a long stretch, in terms of qual­ity fin­ishes, con­nec­tiv­ity, looks, safety fea­tures, han­dling and driver com­fort.

The 4MOTION, de­liv­er­ing power to all four wheels, kept it steady on the long stretches of dirt road we trav­elled and on tar it han­dled long curves over passes with ease.

Fit­ted with a 7- speed DSG gear­box, that smoothly gets through the gears on the open road. I did find, how­ever, that on over­tak­ing slower trucks up steep in­clines, it tended to hunt a bit be­fore find­ing the right gear.

Much of the dirt roads we trav­elled were badly cor­ru­gated and here the length and vol­ume of the ve­hi­cle counted against it. There were quite a few rat­tles, most no­tably from the cen­tre tray ta­ble be­tween the sec­ond row of seats.

On the tar though, it’s a dif­fer­ent story and, for its size, it is re­mark­ably quiet with very lit­tle wind noise.

Over­all, the up­graded T6.1 is a classy pack­age and, with Elec­tronic Sta­bil­ity Con­trol, Au­to­matic Post- Col­li­sion Brak­ing, Hill Start As­sist, Hill De­scent As­sist, Tyre Pres­sure Loss In­di­ca­tor, Lane As­sist, cruise con­trol, Park As­sist, Trailer As­sist and Light As­sist, you’re go­ing to be hard- pressed to find any­thing that com­petes with it in that price class..

The Volk­swa­gen Com­mer­cial Ve­hi­cles Pick Up, Panel Van and Crew Bus range comes stan­dard with a three- year/ 60 000 km Easy Drive Ser­vice Plan, two- year/ un­lim­ited km man­u­fac­turer war­ranty. The Kombi, Car­avelle and Cal­i­for­nia range comes stan­dard with a five- year/ 60 000km main­te­nance plan and a three- year/ 120 000km war­ranty. The en­tire T6.1 range comes stan­dard with a 12- year an­ti­cor­ro­sion war­ranty.

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