The Volkswagen Multivan Kombi 70 has all the right ingredients to surf on the waves of nostalgia. But underneath the retro chic exterior, does it actually stack up as a people mover?
I have a love-hate relationship with the old Volkswagen Kombi, mainly because I fell out of one when I was a child growing up in Germany. It was moving. Quickly. On an autobahn. I’ll spare you the grisly details, suffice to say I am extremely lucky to be sitting here writing this review of the 2018 Volkswagen Multivan Kombi 70.
So what is it exactly? In short, it’s VW’s popular Multivan people mover with some extra bling and a characterful two-tone paint job.
History shows the original Type 2 Kombi began its life in 1950 (production started in 1949, with the first example rolling off the production line in November that same year). Technically that makes this the 70th year of production, and marketing types are well known for hanging ideas off any claim.
It’s a handsome-looking Multivan, for sure, and that two-tone paint really does send waves of nostalgia coursing through the heart. Those polished 18-inch alloys finished in chrome and white nicely set off the retro feel. And it turns heads everywhere you go, with people of a certain generation often stopping to comment on its dashing looks. I've driven supercars that garnered less attention than the Kombi 70.
That bling and attention come at a cost, though. The Kombi 70 is asking for $64,990 drive-away, which is around $12,000 more than the similarly specified Multivan Comfortline. The price of nostalgia is high, it seems. And limited, with just 120 examples winging their way Down Under.
The features list runs high, with LED headlights, two power sliding doors (one on each side), a power tailgate, and power mirrors with heating. Inside, a rich feast of leather trim and Alcantara does lend an air of plushness. There’s a 6.3-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, although if you’re looking for inbuilt sat-nav, look elsewhere. You’ll need your smartphone’s data if you don’t know how to get to where you’re going.
There’s a rear-view camera to help park the 4904mm beast, as well as front and rear parking sensors, while three-zone climate control will keep all occupants comfortable. So too the sun blinds in the rear, offering just that little bit of extra protection from the sun’s rays.
There are lots of storage options too, with big drawers under the third row that can swallow plenty of road-trip essentials. And if you can wade your way through the six pages of instructions in the owner’s manual, the third row features what VW dubs a ‘Multiflex Board’, which morphs that bench into a bed extension.
The Kombi 70 shares the same powertrain as other Multivans in the range, a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with outputs of 103kW (3500rpm) and 340Nm (1750–2500rpm). There are more powerful Multivans in the range, with outputs of 150kW and 450Nm from a twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel, but the Kombi 70 misses out on that beefier unit. Drive is sent to the front wheels via VW’s seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) transmission.
It’s spritely enough, offering plenty of pep around town for such a large vehicle, while on the highway the Kombi 70 happily motors along with minimal effort. The DSG transmission works well enough, with none of the hesitation we sometimes experience in this application, although interestingly the 70 has a propensity for engine braking, and quite ferociously, when coasting downhill. It catches you by surprise the first few times it happens, such is the jarring nature – not to mention the noisy rev load – of the downshift. It does mar the overall driving experience. Switching to Sport mode via the gear shift lever only exacerbates the problem.
Volkswagen claims 7.7L/100km on the combined cycle, although we returned exactly 10L/100km over our time with the Kombi 70. To be fair, we did spend a portion of that with seven full-sized adults on board, and that claimed figure is unlikely to have come carrying a similar payload.
On the road, the Kombi 70 can’t hide its delivery van origins. The high-riding seating position feels like you’re driving a van, even if those Alcantara seats are comfortable. And the noise inside that cavernous cabin resonates.
The ride around town is... Let’s call it busy. You certainly feel everything in the cabin. It feels a little unsettled, even over minor road imperfections, while large obstacles such as speed bumps aren’t swallowed with refinement. And adding a busload of six passengers did little to settle the Kombi 70, which continued to jar and jolt its occupants, especially those in the third row.
It’s a shame, really, because the interior is actually a pretty nice place to be. Volkswagen has gone all out up-speccing a run-of-the-mill Multivan to turn it into something semi-premium. The front seats, both in the captain’s chair style, are comfortable and finished in leather. There are plenty of soft-touch materials on the dash and the steering wheel is finished in leather and feels nice in hand. Looks good too.
The second row seats two, again in the style of the captain’s chair, and these can be rotated through 180 degrees to face the third row, if you so wish. There is an abundance of room too, both in the second and third rows. If you value leg room, then the Kombi 70 won’t disappoint. The floor is finished in a faux wood trim, again said to invoke feelings of nostalgia, while those second-row seats can be slid fore and aft along rails that run the length of the cabin. They can be removed entirely too, if you need to free up space.
It is spacious, though, for passengers. The third row seats three across, and it’s a genuine three adults. There’s a heap of room back there, unlike some seven-seaters that have a compromised third row. This is a genuine people mover if space is your number-one criterion.
Access to that third row is a cinch too, with the two-seat layout of the second row allowing for a small walkway down the middle. No contortion required. And those electric sliding doors on each side make for easy access to the rear cabin.
The cabin ambience is light and breezy too. There’s plenty of glass, meaning light suffuses the cabin. Even the most claustrophobic of passengers won’t be too uncomfortable in the back row.
Interestingly, Volkswagen doesn’t quote boot space numbers, probably because there isn’t very much of it. You do get a rechargeable torch, though.
Safety-wise, there’s a full suite of airbags covering all three rows. The Kombi 70 does miss out on modern safety tech, though, with no lane-keep assist or autonomous emergency braking, and cruise control is of the non-adaptive variety. There are four ISOFIX points, though, two in the second row and two in the third, while all five rear seats feature top-tether points.
The Volkswagen Multivan Kombi 70 is covered by the company’s three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, while servicing schedules are a standard 12 months/15,000km. Those scheduled services will cost $469, $690, $545, $1194 and $469 for the first five years or 75,000km.
There’s no question the Kombi 70 tugs at the nostalgic heartstrings for those who have enjoyed a previous relationship with the original Kombi. It looks fun, and it largely is.
But despite its hippy, happy exterior looks that hark back to long and winding road trips with nothing more than a mattress in the back and camp cooker to burn your sausages on, this nostalgic Multivan remains a people mover compromised somewhat by its delivery van origins.