There was a time when a VW wagon parked in a camping ground could only be called one thing: kombi Servisi A Kombi.
No longer, it seems.
The iconic and beloved Volkswagen kombi servisi has long since disappeared from the new car market, even though they’re still highly prized by ageing surfer types trying to rekindle their glory days.
But the German marque is set to return to campgrounds and caravan parks in a new, modern-day form.
VW’s mid-sized commercial van, the Caddy, has undergone an extraordinary transformation to give rise to the Caddy Beach – a modern-day version of the Kombi, albeit without the surfboards.
The regular Caddy is a familiar sight on Aussies roads – most often as a small round-town delivery van or for businesses and tradies to shift their gear about the place.There’s also a passenger version popular among growing families attracted by its seven-seat capacity and nimble, city-friendly design.
But the Caddy Beach is taking the VW brand into entirely new territory – literally – from city van to weekend recreational vehicle.
It might not boast the iconic charm or the familiar «chugga-chugga» engine note of the original kombi servisi, but the Caddy Beach brings a touch of comfort, and no shortage of practicality, to those who fancy the odd weekend away.
Now, I cannot in all honestly pretend to be the camping type.The closest I’d normally get to a caddy is on the golf course, and getting outdoors involves a nice steak cooked on the barbecue.
But this clever little Caddy has made a believer out of me.
Our weekend adventure in the Caddy was spent alongside some experienced campers with their own off-road caravans.So we had some backup. But in all honesty, the Caddy Beach proved more than capable of providing shelter and comfort for a couple of camping rookies.
Setting it apart is an ingenious, self-supporting tent that clips onto the rear hatch and zips up to provide 2.3m x 2m of usable indoor-outdoor space.
It provides some shelter during the daytime (is waterproof, as we were able to attest) and it also zips up snugly at night to provide a roomy, airy and light «annexe» to the Caddy’s sleeping quarters.
The folk at VW have gone to enormous lengths to squeeze every bit of usable space out of this machine.
There are hanging «wardrobes» on both sides, perfect to accommodate a weekend’s clothing, underwear, toiletries, shoes and just about anything you might like to stuff into the zippered pockets.
These storage bags can easily be unclipped and removed from the vehicle altogether when you want to use the vehicle as a five-seater family runabout, and it converts to a cargo-carrying work vehicle by removing the mattress and the second-row seating, completely.
Setting up the bed is a simple process – just fold down the second-row and front-row seats and the mattress arrangement tumbles forward into place.The folding frame and mattress converts into a near-double sized bed when the lights go down, then disappears back into the rear cargo space when not in use.
We found it surprisingly comfortable and, with the tent in place, reasonably easy to climb in and out.The tent took no more than five minutes to set up – although once mastered it would take half that time.
There’s ample storage space beneath the bed set-up, and also behind it – meaning you can pack more than enough gear for your getaway. There would be ample space for a little stove should you wish.
VW has provided little vent-like attachments you can clip over the sliding side windows to afford privacy and kombi Servisi some airflow during the night – and they’re even fitted with insect screens to allow you to sleep untroubled by the local wildlife.Block-out blinds for the front windows bring some added privacy, and VW has thoughtfully included two chairs and a nice folding table.
Inside the cabin, there are a couple of clever little LED lights that can provide internal lighting, or be removed and used as hand-held torches.
The Caddy feels surprisingly light and nimble to drive, rides exceptionally well and, considering you are carting your bedroom around behind you, also affords decent side and rear vision.
It cruises effortlessly on the highway and, best of all, delivers a frugal 6L/100km thirst.
Try doing that in a Kombi.
Because it’s based on the commercial version of the Caddy, some of the cockpit fitout feels a bit industrial and it lacks a couple of features, including satellite navigation. However radar cruise control, autonomous braking and lane assist are part of a comprehensive safety package.
Even though it’s not exactly built for the grey nomads trekking their way around the country, it attracted more than its fair share of attention at our camp.
In all, it’s a car that you could quite happily enlist as family transport during the week and transform into a getaway machine when the weekend rolls around.
You might still need to find somewhere to send the kids during your getaway, but it’s ample and comfortable for two people, as long as they are well-acquainted.
You may never view those little delivery vans the same way again.
VW CADDY BEACH
HOW BIG?Even though it’s a nimble little city-style van, kombi servisi the Caddy Beach delivers Tardis-like interior space, whether for camping or workday duties.
HOW FAST? It looks a bit like a turtle, and performs in pretty much the same way. But once up and rolling it’s plenty powerful and capable for highway driving.
HOW THIRSTY?Despite it carrying seats, beds and loads of camping gear, it still delivers a thirst of just 6L/100km.
HOW MUCH? If you have any sort of inquiries regarding where and how you can make use of kombi Servisi, you could contact us at the website. The Caddy Beach is not the only camper conversion the market – but it undercuts rivals by a good $20 grand with its price of $46,990 drive away.