Volkswagen Transporter T6 review
IF you need us to tell you anything about the Volkswagen Transporter, you probably shouldn’t be reading this article in the first place!
The Transporter is simply the most iconic van in the world. Some 12 million of them have been sold since launch in 1950 – and judging by Britain’s holiday roads, half of them still seem to be running!
But van technology is moving at a rate of knots at present and in a world where standing still means going backwards, it’s time for us to meet the sixth generation of this van in shape of the T6. Due on sale in September, we’ve already been to Sweden to drive it and find out how it shapes up against a stunning array of recent new rivals in the shape of the Ford Transit Custom, Mercedes-Benz Vito, Vauxhall Vivaro and Renault Trafic.
The Transporter’s smaller brother the Caddy is due for renewal soon too and in our recent test report we rather derided this new contender for looking pretty much the same as its predecessor. Well we’re going to have to follow suit with the Transporter too as if you squint a bit and look sideways, there ain’t a great deal to tell the T5 and the T6 apart.
But, we ask, do looks really matter? The Germans obviously don’t think so and to be honest we don’t either. The buyers seem to agree with us too, as this is VW’s best-selling van and one that has rocketed the firm to the number two slot in the UK sales league behind Ford, so let’s leave the aesthetics behind once and for all and see what’s new for 2015.
- Well just about everything actually, so let’s start with the engines. A single 2.0-litre unit is on offer in Euro 5 format, with power outputs of 84bhp, 102bhp, 140bhp and 180bhp, while a Euro 6 compliant variant will be offered with a power output of 102bhp. All the engines have been tweaked for better fuel economy, while promising no sacrifices in driving dynamics. These engines offer up to 15% better fuel economy. Additional Euro 6 engines will be rolled out over the coming months, towards the September 2016 date when all engines have to be Euro 6 compliant.
- There will also be two petrol engines available, making the Transporter unique in the sector as all the other contenders are diesel only. These will have outputs of 150bhp and 204bhp and the resurgence of petrol power means that LPG conversions will be possible.
- On the fuel economy front, VW has tweaked all the engines, for more frugality, so every model comes with a BlueMotion badge on the back, which means stop-start comes as standard across the range, along with regenerative braking and low rolling resistance tyres, which brings the combined fuel consumption figure up to 47.9mpg on the Euro 6 engine, although against the savings, the cost of filling an AdBlue tank has to be taken off.
- The cab is completely new – and a very nice job the VW designers have done too. The seats are softer, which is welcome as the old ones were a tad hard, while there’s a new dash with lots of extra cubby holes and two coffee cup holder on the top of the dash within easy reach of driver and passengers.
- An extra 12-volt take-off has been placed on top of the dash so that when you plug in your own sat-nav device, it doesn’t leave wires dangling about getting in the way.
- A DAB digital radio comes as standard along with a single slot CD player, plus there’s a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity, so just about all technophobes and technophiles should be adequately catered for (apart from those who still use music cassettes or wax cylinders of course!).
- While the cargo area hasn’t changed, there are two wheelbases and three roof heights on offer, plus a myriad of other variants such as kombis and of course the very upmarket Caravelle, which is technically a car. Thus any number of conversions will be possible for those who need something a little out of the ordinary.
- Earlier on we were talking about the march of technology and boy, is there a lot of it here, although some of it has to be paid for. There’s adaptive cruise control which automatically adjusts the speed of the van if it senses a vehicle ahead being too close (Euro 6 engines only), a side scanner to help prevent side swipes and high beam assist. These will be paid-for options but every T6 gets automatic post-collision braking, which helps prevent secondary collisions, a driver alert system which gives a visual and audio signal if it thinks the driver needs a break, brake assist which adds extra brake pressure if needed in an emergency and hill-hold assist.
- After a good 200 miles or so in the 102bhp Euro 6 model and the 140bhp Euro 5, we reckon general ride and handling are best in class, challenged possibly only by the Ford Transit Custom. Everything about this van screams quality, whether it’s the way the side doors snick shut in that upmarket way or the manner in which the Transporter takes the corners at speed with never a twitch. We’ve come to expect all this from Volkswagen, I know, but we always marvel at how the engineers manage to make things even better each time a new model appears.