The Volkswagen Kombi is alive and well – kind of. That’s because the 2016 Volkswagen Multivan Generation Six is here in all of its two-toned, retro-relishing glory.
A far cry from the original rattly, uncomfortable, underequipped and semi-impractical Kombi models of old, the Multivan Generation Six is a modern, luxurious, capable, practical and downright attractive seven-seat people-mover.
Along with a lot of standard equipment comes a big price tag. The Generation Six model starts off at $74,990 plus on-road costs, a full $21,000 more than the Multivan Comfortline long-wheelbase that opens the range. But it is $1500 cheaper than the Highline SWB version.
That pricing puts it well above some appreciated seven-seaters in the SUV space such as the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and even entry-level versions of the Toyota Prado. And yet the Volkswagen van comes in front-wheel-drive only, so there’s no potential for off-road adventure here.
But unlike all of its SUV competitors – and to a greater extent than its luxury people-mover rivals – the Volksy offers unbeatable levels of space in the cabin.
Seven fully-grown adults will easily be able to ride along for hours without any complaints, and they won’t have to leave their luggage behind, either – the boot of the Multivan adjusts in size depending on where you slide the rear seats, but if you’re a Tetris master you’ll be able to stack plenty of suitcases in there even with the rear seat all the way back.
And while it may appear pricey on paper, it doesn’t want for much. The standard equipment list includes LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights, front fog lights with static cornering, auto headlights, auto wipers, adaptive cruise control, 18-inch alloy wheels (no spare – tyre repair kit), and a 6.3-inch media screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity – and on test the CarPlay was a bit glitchy, requiring the phone to be unplugged to get the audio going again after using the voice functionality.
Bluetooth phone and audio streaming is standard, too, and the VW has eight speakers fitted, but you miss out on built-in navigation – that can be had with the option of the upgraded Discover media system that also adds voice control.
The Multivan misses out on push-button start and smart key entry. It also lacks an electric opening/closing boot, which could be a big issue for some smaller people. The tailgate will electronically latch itself when you swing it closed, though, and the side doors both offer electric operation, too (including buttons on the key).
The sliding doors both feature small opening sections, and all the rear windows (including those on the sliders) have sunblinds to keep your passengers comfortable.
There is lighting above both rows for readers or if you need to see what’s happening in the dark, as well as ventilation for all three rows of seats, too.
Safety is well accounted for, with fatigue detection, a rear-view camera and front/rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning with city emergency braking and the full complement of airbag coverage – dual front, front side and full-length curtain ‘bags (note: in the long-wheelbase Multivan models you miss out on curtain airbag protection).
For those with little ones, the Multivan offers ISOFIX child seat anchor-points in both the second row captain’s chairs, and in the outboard third-row seats, too. Top tether points are available for all five rear seats.
The amount of space in the rear depends on how you position the seats. The rear bench can be slid fore and aft to allow better boot room, while the two captain’s chairs can be forward or rearward facing, and they slide fore and aft, too. They can also be removed completely if need be.
And, in true Kombi style, you can flip down the bench seat to make a bed. It’s not luxury hotel comfort, but as a last resort it would be fine.
Storage in the cabin is plentiful - there are enormous lower pockets on the front doors and smaller upper door pockets as well. Further, there is a pair of compact twin gloveboxes and a shallow dashtop bin, and there is a cup holder drawer and a drop-down bottle cubby between the front seats.
The second-row seats feature sliding storage drawers underneath, too, but those in that row may need to get the people in front or behind them to store their drinks, as they don’t get cup or bottle holders.
As for the drive experience, we found this tester to be vastly different to the Multivan Highline we had for our luxury people-mover comparison earlier this year.
The 2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine in this test car has the same grunt numbers as the model we tested previously – 150kW of power at 4000rpm and 450Nm of torque from 1400-2400rpm – and it also has a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission channelling the go to the road via the front wheels.
The drivetrain was so much better in this test car than it was in the previous one. Admittedly, there was still some lag from a standstill as the drivetrain attempted to figure out what needed to happen after the stop-start system fired up, but the hesitation was, in this instance, mostly manageable.
There wasn’t as much lurch under hard throttle in this vehicle, either, with the diesel unit offering linear power from low in the rev range. There’s easily enough torque to deal with day-to-day duties, whether you’ve got just one or two on board, or a full load of people.
The engine, though, is a little noisy when cold. Speaking of cold, we had issues with the climate control system in our tester – the heater and A/C both took about half an hour to react to changes. We’ve raised this with VW.
The ride comfort of the VW is mostly good – the suspension still banged over some big bumps, but even this felt better than the model we had tested previously (not as sharp). And while there is some torque steer in the wet, it wasn't as much of a squealer as our previous tester, either.
It has adaptive dampers, with Normal, Comfort and Sport settings. The Sport mode was a bit rigid over bumps, where Comfort was a bit wallowy and slow to settle. Normal, thankfully, was fine.
The steering of the VW was reasonably responsive, but a little heavy at higher speeds but still accurate on the highway. At lower speeds, it was a cinch to park, and part of that came down to the vision from the driver’s seat.
Whether it’s looking over your shoulder to reverse park, or looking over the cars ahead of you due to the height of the van, you get a much better view of the road than you would in, say, an SUV of a similar size. The bonnet isn’t stretched out in front of you, and the windscreen is quite upright. This is a truly commanding driving position.
The VW model is covered by a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, and it has a decent capped-price program lasting 90,000km or six years. With intervals every year or 15,000km, the average visit cost is high at $619.
This tester was vastly different in the way it behaved around town, enough so to make us reconsider our score compared with the fidgety Multivan we had in our luxury people-mover test.
As such, it jumps up a full point to 8.5 out of 10. We just hope all 2016 Volkswagen Multivan models drive as well as this one did…
Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Volkswagen Multivan Generation Six images by Sam Venn.