It’s not a Kombi. Get used to saying those words if you buy the Volkswagen Multivan Generation Six. You’ll be saying them to grinning strangers in carparks, petrol stations, even at traffic lights everywhere.
See, even though it looks like a Kombi, and everybody wants it to be a Kombi, it’s not a Kombi – but it’s the closest thing to one.
The Generation Six is a kind of tribute to the Volkswagen Kombi which was first built in 1950 before going on to becoming an iconic symbol of a simpler, smellier time, crammed full of hippies.
The model itself is called the T Series and this sixth generation version of the van (also known as T6) went on sale in December 2015.
There are three different types of T-Series van: the Transporter which is the cargo-carrying workhorse, the Multivan which is the people mover, and then there’s the Caravelle which is more like a mini bus.
There’s an overall feeling that this experience is far more special than just another van
There are five variants of Multivan and the Generation Six is one of them – albeit a limited edition version.
So what makes the Generation Six different from the other Multivans, and is it worth the extra money?
Why would you get it and not something more affordable and sensible like a Kia Carnival or something more posh like a Mercedes-Benz Valente? How comfortable is the bed in it? Does it rekindle the free-loving spirit of another era? How does it react to children? What’s it like to park? And why isn’t it a real Kombi?
Is there anything interesting about its design?
The Volkswagen van traded its curvy edges for a square and upright look at the dawn of the 1980s and that styling has been carried all the way through to this latest generation of the van.
The Generation Six’s retro two-tone paint is the easiest way tell it apart from its Multivans siblings. The paint is standard and comes in Candy White/Metallic Bamboo Garden Green, Candy White/Metallic Mojave Beige, Metallic Reflex Silver/Metallic Acapulco Blue or our van’s Candy White/Cherry Red.
That two-tone paint is also the strongest connection to the 1950s and 60s Kombi vans with their paint schemes and is definitely the conversation starter with friendly folks who appear out of the woodwork wherever you stop.
The 18-inch wheels are another Kombi connection with their disc design and like the two-tone paint you won’t find these on any other Multivan.
The Sixth Generation’s cabin has a dash trim which matches the body colour, too. The cockpit is very much Volkswagen van in dash design with its low flat dash, but this special edition brings a premium and high quality feel.
The Sixth Generation has the same dimensions as the Highline variant. It’s 4904mm long, and 2297mm wide (including the wing mirrors) and 1970mm tall.
How practical is the space inside?
I’ve lived in flats smaller than the cabin of the Generation Six and it’s much better furnished than them, too. Well anything is a step up from a milk crate beside your bed.
There are seven supportive and comfortable seats – three across the back row, two swivelling captains chairs in the second row and two fixed seats up front. The second and third row seats are on rails and can be removed altogether if you want to use the space to carry cargo. With the seats removed the cargo length is 2532mm and 1220mm wide at the wheel aches.
Legroom is outrageously good. I’m 191cm tall and in the back row I can sit facing somebody my height in the second row seats without our knees coming anywhere close to touching and causing an awkward (or romantic) moment. And being on rails that legroom can be adjusted. This will also alter the boot space in the cargo area.
The back row also folds into quite a comfy bed and the second row seats fold flat at the same level to give you more room to stretch out. The way the rear row folds down and then up to free storage space under the bed is clever.
Also smart are the drawers under each seat, a top- and bottom-opening glove box, and two enormous door shelves in the front. There are two cupholders in the cockpit and a giant bottle holder which pulls out of the centre console, while in the back there’s another large bottle holder on the right-hand side and three cupholders/small bottle holders on the left near the door.
Our Generation Six had the optional table which features four cupholders, bottle holders and a magazine rack. The table is on rails and folds down so it can be compacted and pushed out of the way when not in use.
Head room can only be described like this: I can put on a pair of board shots in the back while almost standing up.
The two rows of lights, air vents and the switches for the climate control in the back are an outstanding feature which makes eating, reading and travelling so comfortable.
What seem to be missing from all of this is USB ports – there’s one in the glove box, but a van like this should have them everywhere for tablets, phones or the billion other devices which need them.
The power sliding doors are quick to open and shut, and while the tailgate isn’t electronically assisted it is light, easy to lift and provides a big awning.
The low 571mm tailgate load height meant I never had to lift anything higher than my knees into the back of the Multivan.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The Generation Six lists for $74,990, which is pricey for a T Series, especially considering the Comfortline entry variant sells for just under $50K. But the Generation Six isn’t the dearest Mulitvan in the line-up and comes with some great standard features.
Things such as a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, a 6.3-inch display and eight speaker sound system with radio, CD player, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for your sat nav and other phone functions and Bluetooth connectivity.
There’s also three-zone climate control, that excellent lighting, auto-sliding doors, nice feeling carpet floors and a leather steering wheel.
The Generation Six also adds Alcantara upholstery and heated front seats, adaptive cruise control and brilliantly bright LED headlights, while the DRLS and taillights are also LED. There’s also tinted rear windows, stainless steel tailgate scuff pad and the 18-inch disc design alloy wheels.
Proximity unlocking would make life easier, as would a push-button ignition, and built-in sat nav has to be optioned which was the case for our test car.
That price tag is pretty high, but people would drop that on a sports car without blinking. That said, you could get a Mercedes-Benz Valente for about 10 grand less, or a Kia Carnival Platinum for just under $60K, or wait for it... a top-of-the-line Toyota Tarago Ultima for $65K.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The Generation Six has the better of the two engines offered in the Multivan line-up – the 150kW/450Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel. It has two turbos, not for ‘speed’ but smoother power delivery. The result is you move almost the moment you push the accelerator, with almost all lag eliminated, which is exactly what you want when pulling out in traffic, overtaking or climbing a steep hill.
There’s plenty of get up and go, too with good power and excellent torque.
The transmission is an automatic seven-speed Direct Shift 'DSG' gearbox. It's super smooth and performs well.
How much fuel does it consume?
Volkswagen says the Multivan Generation Six needs 6.5L/100km on average during combined driving conditions. My style of driving made our van thirstier and the trip computer told me it was getting through an average of 11.4L/100km.
If you’re a less competitive driver than me you’ll probably use far less, and that 80 litre fuel tank should see you forget when you last filled up.
What's it like to drive?
I rave about how much fun the Generation Six is to drive in the video, and it’s true. The grunty engine, the smooth transmission, the light steering, the great forward visibility, the high seating position and the airy cockpit all gel to make for a fun and easy driving experience.
Volkswagen has been building them for almost 70 years and you’ll benefit from that experience
The pedal feel is great – I spent most seat time driving barefoot, going to the beach, and the grip and positioning of the brake and accelerator is spot on.
Parking can be a bit trickier than in a car, but you’re surrounded by glass, so visibility is good and the reversing display, while small, has a clear picture.
The ride is excellent - a little bouncy at times, but still comfortable and composed. There are sport, comfort and normal setting for the dampers (leave it in comfort). Handling for a van is impressive with minimal body roll in the sport suspension setting - a confidence-inspiring feel even at higher speeds.
At first I thought this wasn’t a van for kids – but there are ISOFIX and top tether anchor points in every back seat apart from the rear middle position, making this the easiest car I have ever put a seat and my toddler into.
He’s two and loved being able to climb into the van easily because of its low height and was even able to climb into his seat. Changing him in there was also lightyears easier than on the back seat of a sedan.
The Alcantara was a worry when faced with hot chips and juice (or poo) but it all wiped clean and vacuumed out easily.
A speaker helps throw the driver’s voice to the rear passengers, but behind the wheel I found it hard at times to hear what they were saying back to me. But that's more to do with the distance involved, not the cabin insulation, which is excellent and cuts out almost all road noise.
That cabin silence is part of the high quality feel of this van – there’s an overall feeling that this experience is far more special than just another van. The carpet under your feet, the Alcantera upholstery, the clever practical features and stylish cabin all point to this being one of the best touring vans we’ve experienced.
And it should be. Volkswagen has been building them for almost 70 years and you’ll benefit from that experience.
The exterior has the same high quality premium look – stylish and practical.
But it’s not a Kombi – no, Volkswagen call it a tribute to that much loved van, but stop short there. A real Kombi will come sometime soon I have no doubt, but for now this is the next best thing.
Oh and that bed. A few of us got into it (not together) and all of us grinned at how comfy it is. You can also get an extender and mattress to make it even more comfortable.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
The latest Multivan is unrated by ANCAP or the European crash program NCAP. That said it has an impressive array of safety equipment – including advanced technology such as AEB (under 18km/h) blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control.
Apart from the front airbags there are curtain airbags which extend to cover all outer rear passengers.
As mentioned, you’ll also find ISOFIX and top tether anchor points for child seats on all but the front and middle seat in the centre row. That’s fantastic.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
The Volkswagen Multivan Generation Six is covered by a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty with servicing recommended every 12 months or 15,000km. The first service is capped at $467, the next is $513, then $565, and $1116 for the 60,000km or 48-month service, then back to $467 for the fifth visit.