VW Multivan: Trekking into SUV spot?

The T6 Multivan is driven by history, being the modern day successor to the venerable Kombi. Can it make similar impact in a much-changed world?


For: Comfort, safety, dynamics.

Against: No sat nav, rear power ports required, price.

Score: 3.7/5

Hippie van, camper van, surfie van, Kiwis-on-OE budget van … the original Kombi was all that and so much more. To so many, the ultimate adventure mobile. And so very good for its maker, more than 12 million sold.

Just a memory now, of course, and quite a legend to live up. Assuming the T-series van does that. Possibly not. Flexibility and functionality are still the common strengths, but otherwise it’s a very different beast. In the instance of the Multivan edition here, flower power peace and love has emphatically taken a back seat to business.

Yet, as much as the interior of the Multivan is all about space and practicality, but it’s disappointingly not 100 percent ready for a corporate conference, or even to use – as I’d hoped – as a personal workspace.

It starts off well, mind, with a couple of captain’s chairs in the second row that with a minimal effort swivel backward to meet a mid-placed wee round table that creates off a central leaner and is also simplicity in itself once you twig it has to swivel to open out. There are three individual chairs in the rear also nicely sited for a face-to-face and everything that can moved is mount on rails, allowing a huge number of configurations. So they’ve thought of everything, ja?

Nein, sadly. Problems arise. One is a power thing – actually, the lack of it. While the table surface is actually smaller than it looks, just enough for my 13-inch Macbook and a set of board papers, where the van falls down is wholly lacking any USB inputs or, handier still, a three-point power plug (don’t laugh, some cars DO have them) to keep your devices pepped. Actually, from what I can see, the T6 has just one USB slot, and it’s up front, awkwardly sited even for the driver. Perhaps Germans have short meetings, but it’s a shame this thing potentially won’t work out quite well enough as a mobile office which is a shame.

One other thing about having the centre seats facing rearward is that you lose luggage space, and entry and exit is awkward. So more thought needed, though not a lot, as otherwise the attention to people-first detail is great: The seats are comfy, there are well-designed retractable coffee cup holders and it has places for presumably well-charged iPads and mobile phones.

Beyond that, there are with enough luxury fittings – all seats are leathered, those up front are heated and it has rear air-conditioning – to lessen impression that the whole thing is based on a commercial van. But only lessen; the shape is a big giveaway and also some of the interior plastics are very utilitarian.

Still, it’s a van with driving style. While offering an aloof view of traffic, the T6 has a particularly car-like driving position and the whole cabin could have virtually been lifted from a Passat or Golf, too; albeit an older gen one: The layout is typically Volkswagen in simplicity and efficiency, with clearly marked instrumentation in a wide dashboard and the dials and buttons most used closest to hand and there’s a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel and a 6.3-inch colour touchscreen, but the latter – though featuring an easy to use App Connect system – doesn’t come with sat nav, which is another big error for something leaving just $10 change from a $90k outlay.

Driving-wise, save for having a slightly vague steering feel, it’s more MPV than van; the passenger models are four-wheel-drive, and while obviously that’s not going to make them Quattro chasers, the test example felt stable and safe and remarkably agile. We never drove with more than four on board, and doubtless the dynamics might have been retarded by a full load of full-sized passengers, but I suspect the engine would have been up to hauling without fuss. It’s a diesel of course, a biturbo 2.0-litre producing 132kW and 450Nm torque, driving through a twin-clutch gearbox. It’s noisy at times but that’s vans for you.

Safety is well catered for, with front and side airbags, and curtain airbags all the way to the rear row – rare in commercially based vans. Electronic Stability Control, ABS and a lane-keeping assist system are also standard.

The original Kombi was famous for having a try-it-all flexibility, but times have changed. Now we’re in the world where the sports utility holds that ace card. Though the T6 is the only seven-seater four-wheel-drive in VW-dom until the next Touareg lands some time in 2018, it’s not easy to imagine it being identified as a fully valid alternate to those family-minded SUVs and crossovers of similar size and money. But it’s still set to stand out as the coolest thing at a surf spot.