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VW Transporter: Test Drive Review

Date: 05 January 2010   |   Author: Steve Banner

Category: Medium van
Price (ex VAT): £18,300
Key rival: Ford Transit

VW has revamped its hugely successful T5 Transporter.

It's been re-styled inside and out, and gets new common-rail TDI diesel engines - power comes courtesy of a four-cylinder 2.0-litre generating 84, 102, 140 or 180PS - plus an optional seven-speed version of the superb Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) that can be mated with the two most powerful units.

The DSG replaces the automatic gearbox previously offered and has an overdrive top gear with high-speed motorway cruising in mind. A new-generation ESP (Electronic Stability Programme), complete with Hill Hold to stop you rolling backwards on gradients, is now standard on all models, too.

VW is quoting that the new engines will cut diesel usage and CO2 output by 10% on average across the board compared with the old four- and five-cylinder engines.

The external changes are subtle, with a modest reworking of the front of the vehicle and the rear lights, while internally there's a new three-spoke steering wheel, revised seats, a new instrument cluster, redesigned air conditioning controls and updated radios and satnavs.

VW is marketing the Transporter with a host of optional safety features, such as Side Assist. Using LEDs in the exterior mirror housing, it alerts the driver if he risks hitting, say, a car hidden in his blind spot when changing lanes on a motorway or dual carriageway. It will also warn the driver if he is about to pull into the path of a vehicle approaching rapidly from the rear. If the driver does have to break suddenly, a standard safety feature ensures that the brake lights flash rapidly to alert following vehicles. Once the Transporter has stopped, the hazard warning lights come on automatically.

Aside from the aforementioned LED lights, the more aerodynamic outside mirrors house the radio, phone and GPS antennae, but that means that any driver bashing the mirrors risks wrecking the communications system. And then there's the replacement cost to worry about.

We test drove a 140PS high-roof version on highways just north of Rome, and found that the redesigned steering provided precise handling and ample feedback. The ride was firm but by no means unpleasant, while the six-speed gearbox offered a slick gearchange. There was no lack of performance, either, and noise was not an issue. In fact, VW claims the engine is around 5dB (A) quieter than its predecessor and that the human ear perceives this drop as being about the same as a halving of noise emissions.

Build quality is up to VW's usual high standards - nothing squeaks or rattles. We particularly like the clear, easy to understand dials with their white back-lighting; they're easily the clearest we have ever encountered. There's also a display that informs you which gear you should be in to save fuel.

The new Transporter will go on sale in the UK next January, with Sportline versions hopefully on offer from next March. Apart from a panel van it will also be available as a five-/six-seater Kombi and various models of Window Van up to a nine-seater. A hybrid, however is unlikely. "We don't think there is a business case for a hybrid," one senior executive observed. Nor was he enthusiastic about the idea of an electric Transporter.

VW expects to sell around 11,000 Transporters in 2010.

VW?Transporter T28 TDI 140PS SWB?MR
Price (ex VAT)£18,300
Model price range£15,700-£24,340
Service interval25,000 miles
Insurancegroup 6E (est.)
Load length2970mm
Load width (min/max)1244/1692mm
Load bay height1626mm
Loading height558mm
Gross payload908kg
Engine size/power1968cc/140PS
On saleJanuary 2010
VerdictThe current T5 is good and
its T5.1 successor is even better


The current T5 is good and its T5.1 successor is even better