Hands up if you owned, have ridden in or knew someone who has owned a Volkswagen Kombi at some stage in their lives. Quite a few of you, right? The beloved VW wagon held a prominent place in the hearts of many Aussies, and that’s why I reckon this Multivan Black Edition attracted as much attention as it did in the week I had it.
Underneath it’s just a light commercial van, sure, but there’s just something about the notion of a modern Kombi that really pushes people’s buttons.
The VW Transporter T6 range was born in the 2015, which spawned not only commercial variants but a continuation of a small range of passenger-friendly versions like the Caravelle and the Multivan.
At its heart, the T6 is primarily designed to carry stuff, so it’s big and boxy, with large door apertures, a simply massive tailgate and loads of headroom.
Its exterior shape, though, avoids being little more than a box on wheels, thanks to the sharp cut of its cab-forward design and half-decent front end treatment, which is lifted by the Multivan Black’s LED headlight signature.
The interior has been lifted with the addition of really nicely-trimmed seats and faux parquetry flooring… but it’s still a commercial van at its heart, with slide-out drawers for cupholders up front and a few other design compromises to live with. On the whole, though, the Multivan Black Edition makes a decent case for the tag of ‘new Kombi’.
Price and specs
Using the seven-seat Multivan Comfortline TDI340 as a base, the Black Edition – which will cost $63,900 driveaway – scores lowered suspension and revised shocks, along with a new front anti-roll bar and black 18-inch rims. The Multivan also gains speed-sensitive power steering.
In the cabin, there’s a multifunction display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the electric tailgate’s opening height can be set and memorised. The Multivan’s parking sensors can also tell the driver if there is enough space to open the tailgate without hitting anything.
The Multivan sports a 103kW/340Nm 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel engine that drives the front wheels via a seven-speed DSG. It comes in six colours (Cherry Red, Candy White are free, and metallics including Acapulco Blue, Tumeric Yellow, Reflex Silver and Indium Grey are $1720), and it also scores a gloss black roof and B-pillars, black cloth seats with contrasting seams, black-trimmed indicators and ‘Edition’ decals.
Big. Huge. Enormous, even. It’s nearly five metres long and about 1.9m high, while its massively long wheelbase of three metres gives the Multivan a character all of its own.
For its seven passengers, there is space in abundance; however, in this 2/2/3 configuration, it’s surprisingly not that practical when it comes to cargo space. Luckily, the rearmost three-seat bench and the two second-row captain’s chairs can be shuffled or even removed completely, allowing for much more cargo than the current config allows.
It’s got 826kg of payload capacity, speaking of cargo, and it can also tow up to 2500kg of braked trailer.
Because it’s based on a commercial vehicle, the Multivan hasn’t been tested by safety body Euro NCAP, which means there is no ANCAP score, either.
However, VW hasn’t skimped on passive safety, adding front and side airbags up front, full-length curtain airbags across the second and third rows, four ISOFIX baby seat mounts and tether points for all five rear seats.
It also added a reverse camera and sensors front and back.
While it scores a multi-collision braking system that's designed to clamp the anchors in the case of a crash, the Multivan misses out on the low-speed AEB and lane-departure warning that’s offered on higher grades of Multivan like the Executive.
Warranty and running costs
Volkswagen offers a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty on the Multivan, and suggests service intervals of 15,000km or 12 months.
A three-year pre-purchased fix-price service plan costs $1639 for three years – about $400 than a Golf, by way of comparison – or $3090 for five years.
Against a claim of 7.7 litres/100km on the combined fuel economy cycle, we posted a figure of 9.8L/100km over 344km. The 80-litre tank will get you a theoretical range of 1000km, and should cost around $120 to fill.
If space is what you crave, then the Multivan ticks all of the boxes. It’ll take seven people in comfort, but you’ll have to be clever with seating if you want everyone to bring a suitcase, such is the layout of the seats.
Modern commercial vans are becoming more car-like with each passing generation and the T6 is no different. The dash isn’t digital and the multimedia is last-gen stuff, but other than that, you could easily be in a Volksy passenger car in terms of ease of use.
There are a couple of clues that you’re in a van; it’s a big step up to get to the front two seats, while the odd cubby holes around the place speak to the lack of a centre console bin.
As well, the single USB port is hidden away in the glove box, and there are no ports in the rear anywhere.
There is dedicated roof venting for back seaters, though, along with plenty of bottle holders.
The seats themselves are supportive and comfortable on longer stints, and the fold-down armrests are surprisingly useful. Some found the control pedals to be a little high for comfortable use, and the long-levered park brake can be awkward to use. Overall, though, the Multivan is a great companion for a longer trip.
On the road
The Multivan Black Edition’s claim to fame is that the suspension has been made over. It rides 20mm lower on stiffened springs and revised dampers, while the anti-roll bars have also been beefed up.
There’s an electronically limited slip diff as well as variable-rate steering, while those 18-inch rims wear tyres that are more passenger saloon than parcel carrier.
The result of all this trickery is that you have a van that… well, still feels like a van, but a much nicer one. Its huge wheelbase gives it a distinct character, but the steering changes give the Multivan an impressively light feel at the wheel. The stiffer springs don’t ruin the ride, which is key, though I reckon the shocks could be 10 or 15 percent firmer without mucking things up.
The 2.0-litre single-turbo diesel is a willing enough performer off the line thanks to the seven-speed dual-clutch box, but it can run out of oomph when faced with a big hill. It’s still a 2.1-tonne van with the aerodynamics of a fridge, so you can’t expect miracles.
Around town, there's the issue of the Multivan's size when it comes to picking a parking spot, and the fact that it's 0ver 1.8m high might give you pause in some city-centre parking stations. Driving it in city traffic is no bother at all, though, with great visibility, easy steering and well modulated braking.
On longer stints, the Multivan is stable, impressively quiet in the cabin and comfortable to drive, though it’s easy to miss things like adaptive cruise and AEB.
VW is reluctant to let the Kombi association out of the cage – but the fact that we drove the Multivan for the first time at a Kombi rally shows me that the company knows the market that the Black Edition points to.
The fact, too, that hundreds of people pored over, poked and prodded the van during that day – and I had several people stop me to ask what I was driving – says that the spirit of the Kombi is still alive and well.
At nearly $64,000, it’s not cheap, but it’s practical from a people and gear point of view, it’s a comfortable tourer and it’s more than okay around town. And what price can you put on the cool factor?