heycar editorial team
- Refined and car-like driving experience
- Excellent cabin with high-quality materials and kit
- Lots of safety kit
Not so great
- Not the biggest payload in the class
- Poor legroom in the driving seat
- USB-C sockets limit the number of devices that can be plugged in, for now
On the inside
How much does it cost to run
Prices, versions and specification
"The Volkswagen Transporter’s combination of practicality and posh cabin make it much more car-like to drive and sit in than vans of the past, and the present."
The fundamentals of the Transporter haven’t changed to a great degree over the last couple of updates. The progression from T5 to T6 and now T6.1 – the most recent facelift – has been steady, but has resulted in a thoroughly modern and desirable van nonetheless.
There are many elements that are familiar to those who have spent any time with the Volkswagen car range of late, with the engines, technology and various materials all reminiscent of the passenger models.
The engine range is wide in its offering. The two newest 2.0-litre TDI engines are the two base models in the T6.1 – a 90PS and a 110PS version. The top two versions are a 150PS and a Biturbo 199PS, both of which featured in the T6 and in several Volkswagen passenger car models. For a brief period there were petrol engines on offer, but the two 2.0-litre TSI units were discontinued due to a lack of sales, so a rare used model is your only option if you want one of those. There is even an electric version on the way, with a claimed range of 82 miles.
In terms of gearboxes, the lower powered engines get a five-speed manual while the higher end versions get a sixth gear. There is also a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, which is optional on the 150PS diesel and the only transmission offered on the most powerful 199PS diesel.
The passenger-car comparisons don’t end with the engines, as the cabin is one of the most car-like of any van on the market, certainly on the higher end models. The dashboard was updated in 2019 and the changes brought about a smart infotainment screen and improved materials.
The interior isn’t perfect, though. It’s less intuitive than the equivalents in vans such as the Vauxhall Vivaro and storage is a weak point versus the Ford Transit Custom. It will also be a bit too modern for some users’ liking – the USB sockets are USB-C, which won’t recharge many current or older mobile phones. Space in the cabin is decent for passengers, but the lack of space for the driver to rest their left foot in the footwell is irritating.
The most important element of the Transporter’s practicality, the rear loading space, is one part that hasn’t been updated in the most recent facelift. There are plenty of different bodystyles on offer, including a short and long wheelbase and two roof heights. There’s also a kombi model with five seats, and people carrier and campervan models, although none of these come with the higher roof option. The basic panel van offers space for three Euro pallets, a maximum payload of just over 1300kg, a 9.3m3 maximum loading space and a maximum load length of 2.97m and a 2500kg trailer weight.
When it comes to trim levels, things are relatively simple, with a more basic Startline and a more luxurious Highline. The most crucial addition to the equipment list at the most recent update was a new electromechanical steering system.
This doesn’t make a drastic difference to how the van steers and handles, but it enables the fitment of a new range of safety kit, including active lane assist, park assist and a trailer assist system that helps steer a trailer while you are reversing. Other new safety kit, including a side protection system that warns if you are getting too close to items on either side of the van, has also been added.
The steering update maintains the Transporter’s position as arguably the most car-like van to drive in its category. It’s cut out a lot of the effort needed to move the wheels at lower speeds, making parking easier, while it still retains a degree of resistance at higher speeds so it remains stable. The suspension is adept at keeping the ride comfortable and deals well with sharp bumps. Rivals might have the edge in payload terms, but the Transporter has many beaten for its ride, comfort and usability.
Comfort and design
"The Volkswagen Transporter ’s seats are excellent, with a great amount of support both laterally and a wide range of adjustment. The basic model has height adjustment and four-way lumber support to aid with back grumbles on a longer trip."
One excellent and often under-appreciated extra element is the double arm rest. Some vans just have one in the middle of the cabin but leave you to lean your outside arm on the door, which can leave you sitting slightly lopsided – the double rest setup means that you can sit in an even position.
However, the driver’s footwell is one element that doesn’t let you sit in an ideal position. On the right-hand drive version, there is very little space to the left of the clutch pedal, which means that there is nowhere to rest your foot while driving. Instead you have to keep your leg bent and tucked further back, which can get uncomfortable after a time. There is more room in the left-hand drive model, though.
In all models, the gear lever sits high up without feeling like it is oddly positioned on the dash, while the hand brake is tucked down between the seats, requiring a bit of a reach to pop it on in stop-start traffic.
The rest of the dashboard is smart and simply laid out with big physical buttons allowing you to adjust main features such as the temperature and the volume quickly while on the move.
Handling and ride quality
"The biggest change brought in at the most recent update to the Transporter was a new steering system. While this means that there is a host of new safety systems, it also has a small impact on how the Volkswagen drives."
The steering is light at lower speeds, which means that it is an easy vehicle to move around town. It takes a lot of the stress out of manoeuvres like parking thanks to its precision.
It also gives plenty of feedback at higher speeds, which gives you a sense of confidence when it comes to knowing where the wheels are when you go around faster corners. It also means that there is less of a chance of you making an involuntary movement out of your lane on the motorway. If you do, then the new crosswind assist system and optional active lane assist system will help keep you in within the lines.
The suspension is a fantastic setup, too, as it offers a smooth ride without ever getting too over soft and bouncy. This is the case for both the Startline, with its 16-inch steel wheels and the Highline with either 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels. It also manages to keep the ride in check when it is empty or when it is fully laden – there is little discernible difference with how it deals with rougher road surfaces.
There can be a little body lean around corners, but it is marginal and no worse than most in its class.
MPG and fuel costs
"The most economical engine in the Transporter range is the 90PS in the short wheelbase with the low roof, but even that fails to crack the 40mpg mark. Most of the other engines manage maximum fuel economy ratings in the 30s, too, so there is little potential penalty for going for a model with a bit more power. Going for the DSG drops the official average economy by about 2.5mpg."
The EV model can be recharged using a 7.2Kw AC wallbox in around five and a half hours and up to 80% in just 45 minutes on a 50Kw fast charger.
How much should you be paying for a used Volkswagen Transporter?
"The Transporter holds onto its value better than any other medium van, which is good news for sellers but less so for used buyers."
It still only holds onto just over a third of its value after three years and 60,000 miles, though. Higher spec models tend to hold onto proportionally more of their value, though, as do Kombi models, so expect to pay a little more percentage wise for a desirable model.
Ready to get your top quality Volkswagen Transporter?
- All cars come with a warranty
- Selected dealers only
- All quality checked
2.0 BiTDI 199 Highline Van DSG
- 4,425 miles
- Listers Volkswagen Van Centre Coventry
- Warwickshire, CV66BN
Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 36 Monthly Payments: £1,254.00, Customer Deposit: £7,199.00, Total Deposit: £7,199.85, Total Charge For Credit: £4,344.85, Total Amount Payable: £52,343.85, Representative APR: 6.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 6.67%
2.0 TDI 150 Highline Van DSG
- 8,848 miles
- Northampton Van Centre
- Northamptonshire, NN55BB
Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £529.77, Customer Deposit: £4,799.00, Total Deposit: £4,799.25, Optional Final Payment: £13,969.00, Total Charge For Credit: £5,315.20, Total Amount Payable: £37,310.20, Representative APR: 8.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 8.84%, Excess Mileage Charge: 3.24ppm, Mileage Per Annum: 10,000
Is the Volkswagen Transporter right for you?
The Transporter is likely to appeal to those who are after a van that is more than a pure tool. The comfortable cabin, high level of equipment, excellent technology and refined drive mean that it will appeal to small businesses that want a smart working vehicle with some creature comforts.
It doesn’t offer the biggest out-and-out payload or load-carrying capacity in its class though – the likes of the Transit Custom and Renault Trafic offer more if you simply want to cram as much in the loading bay as possible – but it has enough in the way of versions that it will still beat many when it comes to the practicality element.
It’s not quite a car, but it is the medium van that goes the furthest towards providing a car-like experience. That technology will take the stress out of driving a van for those that are not used to driving a commercial vehicle, too.
What's the best Volkswagen Transporter model/engine to choose?
The Transporter’s strength is in its comfort and cabin, which only really shines on the higher trim level. The Highline trim comes with adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, climatic air conditioning and automatic headlights.
The best engines are the two middle ones – the 110PS and 150PS – with your choice coming down to what kind of driving you are going to do. Those who are going to spend more time around town, or carrying lighter loads, will be more than happy with the lower powered version. However, the extra power and performance of the 150PS will help with bigger payloads and the sixth gear will make sitting on the motorway much more relaxing.
What other cars are similar to the Volkswagen Transporter?
The big competitor in the medium-van sector is the Ford Transit Custom, which is one of the few other vans to offer a similarly wide range of body shapes and sizes. It is also one of the few that provides an interior that close to the Volkswagen’s, although it doesn’t match the quality of cabin on the top models and the level of tech. The other classy van is of course the Mercedes Vito.
For all-out payload, the Fiat Talento and Renault Trafic are worth looking at, too. If electric is what you’re after, then Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall and Toyota will all have a battery powered version in the Transporter’s class before long.
Quality and finish
Both in terms of design and appearance the Transporter’s cabin has a smart and quality feel to it. The materials, while not quite as luxurious as the passenger car range, are soft to the touch in quite a few key areas. The main dashboard, door panels and touch points like the steering wheel and gear lever all come with a reassuring amount of give. The steering wheel is finished in leather, even on the entry-level Startline model.
Both versions get cloth upholstery, but there is a difference between the two trims, with a little more detail on the seats on the Highline model. There are extra touches that you can add to up the quality, like heated seats, but they are optional on all models.
Despite the quality materials, the finish is reassuring solid, with the Transporter still feeling like it will take the rigours of working life. The floors are covered with rubber mats, for example, so will be easily washed out if needs be.
The infotainment system was one element that was comprehensively updated for the 2019 facelift. There are actually two systems, the Composition Colour and the Discover Media. The former comes with a 6.5-inch colour touch screen and gives DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and app connect that allows you to display several of your phone’s apps on the screen, including any satellite navigation ones you may have.
However, if you want in-built navigation then the optional Discover Media provides it via the eight-inch screen, with free over-the-air updates. It also comes with the proximity sensor that is a feature on cars like the Golf, which brings the ‘buttons’ on the screen into view when your hand gets close to it.
Both come with USB ports, and they are as modern as the rest of the system, which will be good for some and less so for others – they are USB C inputs, which many phones don’t use as yet.
The system is slick and easy to work out, with a handy section of physical buttons to get to the main elements of the menu so you can move around the different elements while on the move.
Space and practicality
You get three seats across the front of the Transporter as standard, with the two passengers sat together on a bench seat. The outer passenger gets the better deal of the two, as the middle seat gets slightly reduced legroom and a higher, harder seat to sit on. This is nothing hugely different to most vans of this size, though. Kombi models only get two seats across the front, with a big space between the two allowing enough room to squeeze through to the back row if needs be.
The biggest downside in terms of front space is down in the footwell, where there is a lack of room to the left of the clutch, meaning that your left foot will either have to hover over the pedal or be tucked further back with bended knee.
The space in the rest of the cabin is good for passengers, though, with three full-sized seats across the back in the second row of the Kombi model. The two outer seats come with Isofix, and the high seating position of the Transporter makes it really easy to get children in and out. However, you only get one sliding door as standard, so if you are planning on using both Isofix points then a second sliding door is a worthwhile option box to tick, as it’s really tricky to lean over the cabin to get a younger child in on the side away from the door.
The loading space is good rather than class leading, with several rivals able to beat the Transporter for both room and payload. In its favour, it has one of the wider ranges of bodystyles, with two lengths and two heights, but the Transit Custom has it beaten on overall carrying ability by around 100kg.
The load-through hatch helps with longer loads – it can take up to 3300mm – and it will take up to three Euro pallets in the panel van and two in the Kombi.
Engines and gearboxes
The mainstays of the Transporter engine range are all 2.0-litre diesels, with a choice of four power outputs. These range from 90PS for the entry-level model through 110PS, 150PS and up to 199PS for the top-of-the-range Biturbo model.
The pick of the bunch for the majority of users is the 110PS model. It offers 250Nm of torque, which means it can accelerate through the gears with a good amount of strength for overtaking and nipping past slower traffic. The downside is that it only has five of those gears, so it is less suited for longer motorway drives, so if you plan on doing lots of those then the 150PS model with its slight extra oomph and six-speed manual gearbox as standard will be a better bet.
Most drivers won’t see a need for the range-topping model and its 199PS output. This version only comes with a seven-speed DSG gearbox, which is a smooth system when it comes to changing between gears, even if it feels marginally slower to do so than the equivalent setup in Volkswagen’s passenger cars.
Volkswagen has briefly offered a pair of petrol Transporters, which were quiet and wonderfully smooth but only offered for a short period of time due to a lack of demand.
Refinement and noise levels
The Transporter has always been a relaxed van to drive, and this is no different with the latest versions. There is a notable lack of noise from the engines, the road or from the wind thanks to relatively small door mirrors among other elements.
The large amounts of low-down torque are one of the reasons for the relaxed and refined nature of the Transporter – you simply don’t need to floor the accelerator and build up the revs and therefore the noise. If you do push on then there is some gruffness from the engines, with there being marginally more on the 150PS than on the 110PS version oddly.
The short-lived petrol engines were supremely quiet and relaxed, though, and the electric model takes that even further.
From 2019 onwards, there are a whole range of new safety systems available on the Transporter. Even the standard offering is excellent, with the basic model coming with the crosswind assist, post-collision braking system, cruise control with a speed limiter and an eCall emergency alert system. Unusually for a van it also has two front airbags, with the passenger getting one as standard.
The only notable addition to the standard kit on the Highline trim is adaptive cruise control with city emergency braking, but there are several extra, desirable, systems on the options list.
The trailer assist will help you reverse while you are towing and is a real bonus for occasional towers or those lacking in confidence, while the rear traffic alert that sounds a warning if there are cars approaching when you are reversing out of a parking space. Both are well worth considering.
Maximum EV range
The EV version of the Transporter is not the bespoke electric vehicle that some rivals will be – it was created by a partner company using the existing vehicle. It’s perhaps not the biggest surprise that the range isn’t that long at just 82 miles. This range is calculated on the newer, more stringent, WLTP testing so it is likely that this is achievable. Expect it to struggle to provide that if it has a full payload though.
Insurance groups and costs
Insurance groups for the Transporter are all relatively similar, and range from 6 to 10. The cheaper the model you go for, with fewer bells and whistles, the cheaper it will be to insure, so a basic Startline is your best bet to keep costs down. That said, the higher models shouldn’t cost huge amounts more so insurance isn’t a reason to discount them.
VED car tax
The Transporter panel van qualifies for the commercial vehicle VED rate, which means you pay the same low rate whichever version you go for and there is no showroom tax to pay. This also means that benefit in kind is calculated on a flat rate, with CO2 emissions not a factor.
Trim levels and standard equipment
While the basic model gets a great level of equipment, to really get the best out of the Transporter’s plush cabin and stylish looks the Highline model is the one to go for. The colour coded bumpers alone make the most of the front-end looks, while the excellent and large infotainment system is a great upgrade.
The 110PS diesel is a brilliant all-rounder and will suit all but those who want to spend hours on the motorway, which is the only place where the lack of sixth gear will be an issue.
On the inside
How much does it cost to run
Prices, versions and specification
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