The minibus that started it all

28 February 2012 - 22:21 By PHUTI MPYANE

Absurdly, South Africans these days do not use minibuses as family transportation even though they pledge allegiance to vehicles such as Chrysler's Voyager, Kia's Carnival, and recently, the Chevrolet Orlando, and the Peugeot 5008.

The latest in a long line of Volkswagen minibuses, right, and an old favourite among surfers and hippies
The latest in a long line of Volkswagen minibuses, right, and an old favourite among surfers and hippies
Bla bla 1 line
Bla bla 1 line
The latest in a long line of Volkswagen minibuses, right, and an old favourite among surfers and hippies
The latest in a long line of Volkswagen minibuses, right, and an old favourite among surfers and hippies
Bla bla 1 line
Bla bla 1 line

These cars offer much more in terms of amenities, safety and comfort than truer buses such as the Hyundai H1.

The Volkswagen T5 is put together honourably and as a range it can be had in a number of configurations to suit various applications.

Its more famous application, which first appeared a few decades ago was as a mobile camp and a recreational hub for hippies. This still applies today, as over the years, versions ranging from the T1 to the latest T5 have carried people in comfort.

The T5 received a makeover about two years ago and those wanting to save money should be aware of this because they would save more money by looking for pre-makeover versions.

The people-carrying range is split into two cars; a seven-passenger, high-spec Caravelle and an eight-person Kombi variant.

Be clear on the purposes of the car before you decide. The Caravelle will be a lot cooler, and comes with revolving chairs and a clever table that slides on rails in the middle of the car.

The Kombi's front and rear still have that cut-off look but, what you lose in aesthetics, you could always offset with an extra R10 if you use it as a taxi.

But there is some sort of silent code that dictates that taxis "shall be Toyotas and hotel transport shall be VWs".

That seems set in stone, but a trip I once took behind the wheel of a TDI T5 shows they are an absolute joy on a long journey.

Engines are the common 1.9-litre and 2.0-litre TDI - the Kombis naturally get the smaller engine, while the Caravelle gets the larger engine.

If fortune favours you, you may come across a pre-owned unit of the rare 3.2-litre V6 version or the pre-1998 2.5-litre TDI. That's a beauty and owners are also holding on steadfastly to the limited-run V6 model.

Gearboxes come in five and six-speed manual, while the rarer V6 version, and high-spec 2.0-litre TDI, will have had the option of a six-speed DSG.

Buying a pre-owned Volkswagen is a safe bet these days as the mechanical components are tried and tested.

I'd recommend getting either of the manual boxes rather than the DSG.

This ensures peace of mind that when things go haywire - just as they do on everything man-made - you don't have to borrow from your children's school savings.

Prices range between R250000 and R500000 for this year's models.

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