The Kombi Life
When we think of 4x4s and overland vehicles, we tend to conjure up images of hardcore off-roaders such as the Defender and Land Cruiser. But a 4×4 SUV is not the only overland option. There is another (and rather tempting) proposition.
We recently had an opportunity to try out the VW California while our long-term Amarok was in for a service, and the clever little Kombi really impressed us.
The California is the camper version of Volkswagen’s Kombi range and sports a number of features that make it perfect for overlanding.
For example, it has a roof-top tent that can be erected in seconds, as well as an awning. It also has a sturdy and useful table in the rear that’s ideal for preparing meals on the road.
Admittedly, this is not the sort of overland vehicle that you would want to tackle difficult 4×4 roads in, but for a lot of people, the California would still make an excellent overland vehicle. If you’ll be sticking largely to tar roads and decent dirt tracks, it will definitely be up to the task (it has a 4Motion system that will allow you to deal with reasonably bad gravel roads).
The California, you see, has tons and tons of space. Moreover, its interior is quick and easy to configure, so you can add, subtract, flatten, swivel and rearrange its seats to your heart’s desire.
My colleague Danie Botha (who has two young children) absolutely loved it. He felt that it was the ideal travelling vehicle for families with young kids.
We also found that the California was easy enough to live with on a daily basis. It had a DSG gearbox that worked well and made driving in traffic a breeze. Despite its size, the Kombi was also surprisingly easy to handle. Parking it was certainly no harder than parking a large SUV.
For a lot of us, overlanding just wouldn’t feel like overlanding unless it was done in a hardcore 4×4. And of course, you wouldn’t be able to tackle those really tricky trails in a vehicle such as the California.
But the Kombi remains a wonderful long-distance traveller. It has so much space compared to a regular SUV, and it is so practical, that it is really worth considering if you don’t need something that’s capable of dealing with grade-five obstacles.