Detailed ReviewWHEN offered a choice of new T5 campers to test at the UK’s premier VW camper converter, this Komba caught our eye.
Perhaps it was the unusual non-metallic Pure Grey colour, perhaps it was the five seatbelts and five head restraints, or perhaps it was the starting price of just £32,490 on-the-road, but we thought it was about time we showed you what a budget VW camper looks like in 2010.
Pretty smart is how it looks. The new Golf-esque grille brings the T5 shape right up-to-date and the unpainted grey plastic bumpers are barely noticeable with this colour scheme.
Even the full wheel covers do a passable imitation of alloys. In the cab the half-vinyl seat trim seems practical rather than austere and twin armrests are fitted to both seats.
The driving position is still more MPV than van, with a reach and rake adjustable steering column to make Fiat and Ford motorhome drivers envious.
So behind the wheel it’s a proper VW, and that’s before you experience the precision of the gearshift, the refinement, or the ride quality. This feels a more sophisticated vehicle than a Fiat Scudo, for example, and it has a solidity about it that you won’t find in rival marques.
And you certainly won’t find such clear, smart instrumentation elsewhere, either, with none of the gaps in the display that we witnessed in the old-model Bilbo’s SE.
You do still have to wind your windows manually, though, which seems a bit incongruous with a £35k price tag. That price also includes options of cab air-conditioning, driver and passenger seat swivels, offside and nearside sliding windows, colour-coded roof, diesel heating (pricey but worthwhile at £915) and an awning rail.
If you want electric windows and electric heated and folding mirrors, go for the base vehicle Appearance Pack which also comes fully colour-coded and adds £795 to the tally.
In the interests of affordability, our Komba was also based on the entry-level T5 with a measly 84bhp. We say ‘measly’ but in the latter days of the T4 Volkswagen most campers had the 88bhp TDI unit and, in fact, this new engine will be adequate for those who aren’t in a rush to get to their holiday destination.
It offers a big cost saving over the 102bhp power unit and you could always get it re-mapped for more power if you really find it under-powered.
In the living area, the Komba also saves you £1000 over the Celex with its wider, better-equipped galley. But don’t just think about the cash – Komba also gains a third seatbelt and third head restraint on its wider rear seat, and a wider seat means a wider bed come night-time.
This latest model also has a new deeper but slimmer compressor fridge which has resulted in a modified kitchen that allows more travel on the driver’s seat – great if you’re tall.
Above the fridge, a glass lid lifts to reveal a stainless steel sink and drainer and a neat plastic cutlery holder over the sink.
But where’s the hob? We were mystified for a second, but lift out the drainer and there’s a single gas burner (with push-button ignition) underneath.
That’s not going to satisfy keen cooks (unless you always take a barbecue and cook outside) but this is still a more complete kitchen than you get in a Reimo CityVan.
And this galley also provides a decent amount of storage. We especially like the wardrobe (alongside the rear seat), which is fitted with both a hanging rail and removable shelves.
And uniquely there’s a low-level cupboard beyond the wardrobe that’s ideal for your glass of water and alarm clock at night.
Bilbo’s rear seat is still one of the more comfortable benches in the back of a VW, though it doesn’t slide and it can’t match the Reimo’s TÜV crash-tested status.
It converts oh-so-quickly into a bed, though, and has masses of storage underneath – including plenty of room for a chemical toilet. We like the wide seat too, for the fact that it gives you room to put your feet up.
And with the windows and vents in the roof, this little camper doesn’t seem so little inside. Massive headroom is a given and shelves at either end are really useful on site.
And even shorter campers who haven’t been to the gym in living memory should manage to raise and lower this lid without too much of a struggle.
There’s plenty more to like here, too. The fit and finish is superb and nothing at all rattled or squeaked on our potholed test route.
The plastic trims around the roof aperture and windows cut down on the use of old-fashioned carpet trim. And the table can be positioned in front of the settee for dining or over the fridge for extra galley worktop.
A longer version of this review was published in the May 2010 issue of Which Motorhome magazine.