Volkswagen Transporter Kombi long-term test: report 1

This medium-sized Volkswagen van promises car-like equipment and refinement. Our senior photographer is living with one to see if it delivers...

Volkswagen Transporter front

The car Volkswagen Transporter T32 SWB Highline Kombi 2.0 TDI 150PS 7spd DSG Run by Will Williams, senior photographer

Why it’s here To show that just because you need a lot of space, you don't have to sacrifice luxury or driving enjoyment

Needs to Tackle family and work duties in tandem, make long drives a breeze and function as a mobile office when needed

List price £44,406 Price as tested £50,670 Miles 1500 Official Economy 36.7mpg Test Economy 37.0mpg Options fitted Discover Media navigation system £1386, LED headlights £1338, manual side sliding door £822, Bay Leaf Green metallic paint £792, airbag – driver’s and front passenger’s side and curtain £540, heated driver and passenger seats £390, second heating system in passenger compartment £330, rear-view camera £306, carpet floor covering in cab £126, 80-litre fuel tank £90, tailgate without window, power latching £78, washer fluid level indicator and heated washer nozzles £66

30 January 2022 – My lean, green photography machine

Unusually for me, I’ve come over all sensible lately, running a couple of MPV’s and, most recently, a plug-in hybrid SUV. Keen to buck this senseless maturity – and having fond memories of running a Volkswagen Amarok pick-up truck a few years ago – I knew it was time for a change.

I'm an only child, but also the eldest of many cousins. Two of them have their own businesses hiring out high-end Volkswagen T6 California and van conversion campers and are always telling me how great they are. Those wouldn’t really suit me as my only working vehicle, but the Volkswagen Transporter T6.1 Kombi van with rear seats (plus Isofix fittings to keep my young son Callum safe) and an enormous luggage area could very well meet my – pretty specific – requirements.

After shooting a recent What Car? camper van comparison test I was already sold on the colour I wanted. Sure enough, my Transporter looks simply stunning in Bay Leaf Green metallic paint.  

Volkswagen Transporter side

With that easy choice made, speccing the rest of the van was a more involved process, with a multitude of options available to buyers – long wheelbase, short wheelbase, standard or high roof, various payloads and so on.

I knew I didn’t want to sacrifice any comfort by running a van, and I selected heated front seats because I knew I’d be using it in winter. Having done Welsh mountainside shoots in January, I’d opt for these every time. 

My chosen Highline trim comes with a standard heated windscreen, but for £66 I added heated washers to winter-proof the Kombi. As the vast rear seat area isn’t quite as well insulated as in a regular passenger car, I decided to go for the second heating system in the passenger row of seats to keep Callum from developing frostbite.

At this time of year, I drive a lot at night on unlit roads getting to and from shoots, so the LED headlights are an option that I’m glad I went for. As well as helping with visibility, they also improve the already classy look of the van.

Volkswagen Transporter side

As I’ll be carrying my camera kit in the cargo area, I thought it would be best to go for an all-metal tailgate with no window to keep my kit from prying eyes (a load cover isn’t available). To make up for the loss of a window at the back of the van, the rear-view camera seemed a logical choice to help with parking.

The Transporter's excellent steering lock, combined with the camera and large mirrors, makes it amazingly easy to park for such a large commercial vehicle.

To aid practicality, I went for an additional sliding door on the driver’s side. It will make life easier when I'm loading our son in and out at home, and also give me more flexibility to choose where I shoot from when I'm using the car to take tracking shots.

The early signs are very good, and I’m pretty pleased with my spec choices. I’ve already received a raft of glowing comments from passers-by and other Transporter owners.

Volkswagen Transporter heating controls

Callum is a big fan too, and there's been no end of requests to ride in "Papa’s truck". Thanks to the relatively slim door pillars, he gets to see a lot from the high-riding van, and we get a fantastic panoramic view from the front seats.

I've managed a few long trips to Devon and Cornwall in the Kombi already. The low-speed ride is firm, but I do very little urban driving anyway, and at speed it becomes incredibly relaxing.

Sitting comfortably in the front captain’s chairs with adjustable armrests, I find the ride very serene, and with the adaptive cruise control set, it’s a great way to travel. It’s far more refined than I was expecting at a motorway cruise.

Time will tell whether I’ve made a grown-up decision. So far, it seems to be ticking that box while keeping my inner child happy too.

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