First Drive: 2021 Volkswagen T6.1 Kombi
South Africans have always had a slight obsession with the Volkswagen Kombi. For many, it conjures up memories from childhood - being collected from school in a great, big Kombi. To some, it’s that annual holiday trip to the beach, with hours spent in the back of SA’s favourite family mover.
Today, the Kombi still remains as popular as it was in 1980 when the original was introduced. Perhaps a sign of SA’s love affair with the Kombi is the fact that we’re the only country that still produces this derivative - a clear sign that it’s been incorporated into our rich, diverse culture.
VWSA has released its all-new and improved T6.1 line-up. Aside from the Kombi, the model line-up consists of the Caravelle, Crew Bus, single and double-cab Pick Up, Panel Van California, and Kombi.
So, what does the restyled Kombi T6.1 have to offer? Well, for starters, it sports a new grille and bumper. Teamed with chrome detailing, this lends the bus a cleaner, more modern look. The range kicks off with the Trendline, priced at R728 700. A more luxuriously equipped Trendline Plus is available at R909 800. A collection of paint finishes are available, with the two-tone options (R33,300) adding plenty of flair. Both models offer front and rear parking sensors - essential on a vehicle this size - as well as hill and crosswind assist.
Just one engine, a two-litre turbodiesel, is offered in various states of tune. The base-model Trendline has two options - an 81 kW five-speed manual or a 110 kW seven-speed DSG are available. The range-topping Trendline Plus has the sole 146 kW 4Motion DSG derivative available.
Our time was spent with the 110 kW DSG-equipped model. The smooth-shifting transmission shifts through the gears effortlessly. While bigger than most vehicles on the road, you cannot help but feel confident behind the wheel. The size may be intimidating at first, but handling the large Kombi is easy. The steering is light and direct, which makes placing the large bus on the road a surprisingly easy task. On top of all this, the Kombi has exceptional fuel efficiency - VW claims an average of just 6.6 L/100 km.
For most consumers, the highlight of the Kombi is the versatile cabin. We’re happy to report that the Kombi’s interior provides excellent comfort and remains as family-friendly as the generations that came before it. In the front, the driver and passenger benefit from an additional storage shelf. Would-be owners will be pleased to know that a raft of additions have been given to the cabin, too. Spec wise, an all-new multifunction steering wheel updates the cabin while welcome tech such as a wireless charger is available, too. A 6.5-inch infotainment system offers both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay - an essential for long road trips.
The updated Kombi has certainly lived up to expectations. Not only does it represent good value for money, but manages to be more modern and comfortable than its predecessor. It’s family friendly, particularly for larger families, and far more stylish than ever before. While the heyday of the Kombi may be long gone - the ubiquitous SUV still rules the roost - driving the Kombi is a nostalgic trip down memory lane that has been thoroughly modernised for 2021. Owners are certain to reap the benefits of this wonderful family bus.