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Green light for VW Microbus

Distinctive: The styling heritage of the Microbus clearly harks back to the original Kombi.

Australia puts its hand up for reborn Kombi

Volkswagen logo13 Jun 2002

VOLKSWAGEN'S Kombi, the distinctive slab-sided servant of thousands of surfies and tourists, is to be reborn.

VW this week gave the thumbs up for a new generation people-mover based on the Microbus concept first revealed at the Detroit auto show in 2001, to go on sale from late 2004.

It is VW's second crack at retro design following on from the New Beetle, which has proved a huge sales hit in the US, but struggled in many other markets.

Volkswagen Group Australia, which displayed the concept van at the Sydney motor show last year, has already put its hand up for the Microbus but does not know if or when it will arrive.

One thing is for sure though, it will not be priced in surfie or low-budget traveller territory. It is more likely to line up at the expensive end of the people-mover market against the likes of the Chrysler Voyager and Toyota Tarago, suggesting a price beyond $60,000.

"I think you'll see more of them in the queue outside private schools at 3.30 in the afternoon than you will on the beach at Byron Bay," said VGA spokesman Brad Leach.

"It's a fantastic car and we would like to get it - but at this stage they haven't announced specifications, pricing or even if they will build it in right-hand drive."The concept car powers the front wheels via a new 3.2-litre V6 engine, also seen in the Golf R32 hot hatch and the Phaeton luxury saloon. In this guise it produces 170kW and peak torque of 320Nm.

But the production car is expected to have more variety, including diesel engines for European application. In Australia we would get a single V6 petrol engine choice.

Styled in California and based on the platform of the forthcoming T5 transporter, the Microbus has a body length of 4722mm, a width of 1909mm, is 1904mm tall and has a long 3000mm wheelbase.

Exterior features include thin-line Xenon headlights, electronic sliding side doors and large VW badges front and rear.

Inside there's a semi-transparent floor, an asymmetric dash panel design incorporating a joystick-style gear lever and a highly adjustable three-row seat design which includes a 180-degree rotatable second row.

Technology abounds with four large screens in the backrests of the first and second rows, a reversing camera for the driver and two extendable displays which can be converted into a conference table or a projection screen when moved into the vertical position.

The Microbus will replace the Caravelle in the VW line-up but Mr Leach said reports that a full-sized "Grand" version would be built for the US and a smaller version for Europe were not right.

New VW boss Dr Bernd Pischetsrieder said: "The VW bus was never just a means of transport, it has always been an emotive cult object. The public's reaction at motor shows combined with the findings of market studies already show us that the Microbus design has a spontaneous appeal, and that the vehicle will follow in the footsteps of its successful predecessor".

The Microbus will be built at VW's factory in Hanover, Germany, beating bids from plants in both Portugal and Mexico.

* The news is not so good for VW's W12 supercar which has been canned according to European reports.

First seen in 1997 at the Tokyo show, the car was also shown as a roadster at Geneva in 1998, and then a restyled coupe appeared at Tokyo in 2001 after it broke a series of world endurance records.

VW has apparently decided to shy away from such exotica, preferring to leave the market to its subsidiaries Lamborghini, Bugatti and Audi.

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