Volkswagen Transporter van review

Our Rating: 
4.5
4.5/5.0
2015 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Improved engines, cab interior and technology ensure Volkswagen’s sixth generation Transporter will remain a popular choice.

For: 
Build quality, powerful yet frugal engines, safety technology
Against: 
In-cab storage

Volkswagen’s T6 Transporter may look very similar to its predecessor, but with 2 million of the last generation T5 vans sold, and more than 12 million Transporters registered in total over the last 65 years, VW can be forgiven for taking a conservative approach to restyling. However, behind the sharper lines, sparkly headlights and chiselled bodywork, there have been some major updates.

The biggest news is the introduction of Euro 6 diesel engines, which will become standard in September 2016 to comply with european emissions legislation. The van also benefits from much of the latest technology seen in VW’s cars, with Active Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Change Assist, Automatic Post-Collision Braking and High Beam Assist all making an appearance for the first time in the firm’s most popular light commercial.

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Of course the Volkswagen Transporter isn’t just a panel van. As well as the regular commercial, there are Kombi double cab models and the more car-like Caravelle and Shuttle minibus, plus the ever-popular California camper van all built on the same chassis.

MPG and Running Costs

4.5

Volkswagen will continue to offer the current Euro 5 diesel engines until next September, the 2.0-litre motors delivering 84hp, 102hp and 140hp with a single turbo and 180hp in bi-turbo form. All of these engines now feature the firm’s BlueMotion Technology (BMT) kit as standard, including Start/Stop, regenerative braking and low rolling resistance tyres. This contributes to a claimed 15% fuel saving across the range.

In addition to the familiar Euro 5 motors, VW will offer the 102hp engine, in Euro 6 trim. The firm will start with the 102hp as this accounts for up to 75% of UK sales.

It comes with the Selective Catalytic reduction (SCR) that uses AdBlue exhaust additive fluid. This raises the combined fuel figure from 42.2mpg to 47.9mpg, while dropping the CO2 emissions from 176g/km to just 153g/km. It will however set you back an additional £1,020, so initial appeal is likely to be limited to those companies keen to demonstrate their green credentials.

The Euro 6 line-up will also include a 150hp single turbo engine to replace the current 140hp, and a 204hp bi-turbo to replace the 180hp as the most powerful option. VW says that if there is enough demand, it could offer the 150hp Euro 6 engine early in 2016, ahead of the legislation.

The 102hp engine drives through a five-speed manual gearbox, while all engines above 140hp have six-speed manuals. The more powerful vans are also available with VW’s excellent seven-speed DSG automated transmission as a £1,580 option. VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system can also be ordered on the heavier T32 vans, for a £2,240 premium.

Load Space and Practicality

4.5

If the van looks familiar at the front, things are pretty much unchanged at the working end. VW continues to offer Transporter in two wheelbases, with three roof heights and two seating combinations, delivering load volumes of 5.8 to 9.3m3 and payloads of up to 1,331kg.

You can also have the Transporter in double cab Kombi configuration, with two wheelbase options and two seating layouts. Load volumes are 3.5-4.4m3, with a maximum payload of 1,224kg.

The van retains the same internal dimensions as the previous model, which will make it easy for returning customers to move racking systems and regular loads into the newer vans. The short wheelbase model has a maximum load length of 2,570mm, which rises to 2,970mm in the long wheelbase.

Maximum internal height is 1,410mm in the low roof van, rising to 1,626mm in the medium roof and 1,940mm in the high roof model. All models have a width between the rear wheel arches of 1,244mm.

If you do opt for the Euro 6 engine, it comes with a 13-litre AdBlue tank, with the filler in the same flap as the diesel tank. The additional weight of the AdBlue tank and dosing system has been offset by dropping the fuel tank size from 80 litres to 70 litres, though an 80-litre tank can still be had as an option. Given the promised 15% improvement in fuel consumption, the smaller tank shouldn’t cause a major drop in range.

Reliability and Safety

4.5

There is an incredible range of standard safety equipment in the latest Transporter. This includes the usual ESP and ABS braking, plus Automatic Post-Collision Braking, that aims to prevent a secondary collision after an accident.

The vans also come with Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Change Assist, Hill Hold Assist and a Driver Alert system. Both driver and passenger have airbags and the options list includes High Beam Assist and front fog lights with integrated cornering lights.

Those looking for the ultimate in road holding, or who regularly have to deal with poor weather conditions, can order Transporter with VW’s 4Motion four-wheel drive system, including a mechanical differential lock.

Driving and Performance

5

While the Euro 5 engines will all be familiar to existing Transporter drivers, they do seem to be both quieter and smoother in the latest vans. Now-standard Start/Stop is quick to cut in, dropping fuel consumption and noise when in town driving.

Those who are prepared to move to Euro 6 engines early will find an even more refined driving experience, particularly in the more powerful models which tackle motorway work with ease. Likewise any buyer who opts for VW’s excellent seven-speed DSG transmission will find urban driving far more relaxed thanks to the smooth-shifting gearbox.

In short wheelbase form, the popular 102hp engine with five-speed manual can push the Transporter from 0-62mph in 15.3 secs and on to a top speed of 91mph. Move up to the 140hp engine and the sprint drops to 12.2 secs with top speed rising to 107mph.

The current range-topping 180hp bi-turbo engine gets the van to 62mph in 9.9 secs with a manual box or 10 secs with DSG and top speed rises to 119 where permitted.

Transporter’s front-wheel-drive set-up delivers safe, sure handling and the steering is both light and direct on country roads or when working in congested urban streets. Certainly the Volkswagen Transporter is more than a match for Ford’s Transit Custom and the latest Vito from Mercedes-Benz.

Cab and Interior

4.3

The interior is one place where VW has tried to put some clear space between the load-carrying transporter and the people-carrying Caravelle. While Caravelle has fully enclosed storage, the van has an open A4-sized tray on top of the dash and two open storage bins below the passenger airbag.

Unfortunately, the dash-top A4 tray could do with being at least covered if not closeable, as paperwork reflects in the windscreen. Likewise the storage cubbies could lose some of their load when cornering. Moving the cup holders to the top of the dash also seems like a good idea, but they are not very deep or large, so will probably only be of use when parked.

Other than that, the Transporter has the usual granite-like built quality that we have come to expect from VW. All models get a DAB radio with Bluetooth as standard. There is also a 5” touch screen display and compatibility with USB, SD card and Aux inputs.

Electric windows and heated electric mirrors are standard on all trim levels and the driver’s seat has height, lumbar, reach and rake adjustment.

Move up from Startline trim to Trendline and you add armrests, side storage compartments and additional noise suppression, plus cruise control and a different cloth for the seats.

Go for the range-topping Highline trim and you also benefit from auto dimming rear-view mirror, auto lights and wipers, Climatic air conditioning, coming home and leaving home lighting, daytime running lights, a heated windscreen and leather covering for the multi-function steering wheel.

Van dimensions

Body style Height Width Length
SWB low

1,990

2,283

4,892

SWB medium

2,176

2,283

4,892

LWB low

1,990

2,283

5,292

LWB medium

2,176

2,283

5,292

LWB high

2,476

2,283

5,292

Load area dimensions

Body style Height Width Length
SWB low 1,410 1,692 2,570
SWB medium 1,626 1,692 2,570
LWB low 1,410 1,692 2,970
LWB medium 1,626 1,692 2,970
LWB high 1,940 1,692 2,970

(width between rear wheel arches: 1,244mm)

Last updated: 2 Jul, 2015