There used to be a time when the humble van was nothing more than a tool to get loads from point A to point B, but there are one or two that have developed something of a cult following, none more so than this the Volkswagen Transporter.
Badged the T6, as it’s now in its sixth generation and it’s a direct rival for the Ford Transit Custom, Mercedes Vito and Vauxhall Vivaro. What makes it such a strong offering though is that VW badge which makes it just as popular with bakers and plumbers as it does with campers and the great outdoorsy types.
On the road
Now you could be forgiven for thinking that the Transporter handles like a typical van. After all, it brandishes the boxy dimensions, and when empty, very little weight in the back. But remember, this is a Volkswagen. The Amarok pick up is one of the most car-like commercial vehicles of its type. VW has applied the same treatment with the Transporter. Yes, you get the high driving position, and yes, visibility out of the back isn’t the best, and getting in and out isn’t ideal for anyone who isn’t as nimble as they used to be. But the steering is surprisingly well weighted, the throttle response is good, and the gearshift smooth, even more so if you go for the seven-speed DSG.
Whatsmore, the latest incarnation is surprisingly refined, especially in the higher powered versions. It’s available in numerous guises too, so you can have it as a long wheel or short wheelbase form, the latter in 102bhp five-speed manual will do the 0-60 dash in around fifteen seconds. The More powerful 150bhp though will do it in just over eleven seconds, and if you opt for the 200bhp bi-turbo model it’ll do the dash in 8.6 seconds.
Now, let’s be honest, no one’s going to be thrashing them to the limits, so 0-60 times don’t really count, but the performance figures show that just because it’s a commercial vehicle, it doesn’t mean it’s a slouch. It’s more than capable of maintaining motorway speeds.
A 4motion four-wheel drive system is available for anyone with a keen eye on speedy deliveries. This obviously improves road holding and it includes a mechanical diff.
In the cabin
The cabin is typical Volkswagen. The steering wheel is fully adjustable and the dash controls will be second nature to use by anyone familiar with the brand. While the Transporter does separate itself from the people-carrying Caravelle with practical add-ons like this tray in the dash and two storage bind underneath the airbag.
There are a couple of cup-holders in here too but they’re not very deep or wide, so they’re really only best suited to coffee stops, rather than coffee on the go.
There’s no question the solid build quality VW has become famous for hasn’t been compromised, just because it’s a van. The plastics are hard wearing and should stand the test of time, and there’s even a five-inch touchscreen infotainment system with all the usual extras like sat nav, dab, Bluetooth etc. All models get electric windows and heated mirrors, and the driver’s seat is fully adjustable.
Higher spec models add armrests and improved refinement, plus cruise control, with top spec versions adding climatic air con, auto lights and wipers, daytime LEDs and leather covering for the steering wheel.
The Transporter is extremely usable whichever form you go for. The short wheelbase model has a maximum load length of 2,570mm, which rises to 2,970mm in the long wheelbase. Space can be increased further with a low, medium or high roof.
Overall the Transporter is a practical all-rounder which is good to drive and well equipped. The build quality is right up there with the very best and the engines are both powerful and frugal. The only criticism is that well-equipped versions are expensive and in-cab storage could be better.