Volkswagen Transporter Kombi long-term test

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

Volkswagen Transporter long-term test

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 Target Price NA Price as tested £50,670 Mileage 10,500 Official Economy 36.7mpg Test Economy 39.8mpg Dealer Price now £42,063 Private Price now £37,389 Trade-in Price now £38,423 Costs £1644 fuel (diesel), £172.76 first service, £16 puncture repair

15 April 2022 - Gone but not forgotten

With my Volkswagen Transporter now gone, it’s fair to say that it will leave a particularly large van-sized hole in my life. Since it arrived, there’s been absolutely nothing that it couldn’t do, and do really well. It’s helped with friends moving house, family weekends away, tip runs and comfortable long distance trips to shoots in Northumbria, Wales, Devon and Cornwall. 

All in, it’s been a fantastic Photographer's assistant, helping in such varied ways as offering up its massive tailgate to shelter me from the British elements, or lending its low boot floor as a moving platform for car-to-car tracking shots, in order to get the pictures you see in What Car? every month.

Will and family with Volkswagen Transporter

Now, my young son Callum won’t thank me for saying this, nor will the next lucky owner of my Transporter, but it even excelled at helping with potty training. I’ll spare both Callum's and your blushes by illustrating this with a picture, but how many other cars have enough room to do that? I’m not convinced that this was top of the Transporter design team’s wishlist, but there was so much space in the second row of seats that my being able to walk through and ‘help’ the lad was both welcome and unique. 

As family transport goes, the Transporter has been the best travelling companion we’ve ever had. Apart from the shortage of storage space in the second row (some extra cubbies for storing toys and snacks would have been welcome), it really was fantastic. We could bundle endless scooters and balance bikes into the boot without breaking a sweat, and we never once wished for a bit more space. Callum also loved the brilliant view that he got from being so high up. 

I was glad that I’d gone for the optional rear heater to keep him warm in winter, and now that warmer weather has arrived, its cooling facility is handy to keep him cool, because, with all that glass, it gets pretty tropical inside my Kombi version.

Transporter boot

Living with the Transporter was a pleasant experience too. I was expecting that there would be more of a compromise with driving a big, heavy van compared with, say, a regular estate car or an SUV. Aside from its firm low speed ride, it was great to drive for a van, with accurate and perfectly weighted steering. If you’ve ever driven a Volkswagen Golf family car, you’ll feel quite at home at the wheel of a Transporter.

Of course, the Transporter is a heck of a lot bigger than the Golf, but it honestly doesn’t feel that way from behind the wheel. Great visibility, a tight turning circle and standard-fit front and rear parking sensors meant that parking was child's play.

One surprise was that, even though my Transporter was on the variable servicing plan (under which the van monitors the oil quality and informs you when the first service is needed), the service light came on sooner than I was expecting, simply because of the huge mileages I’ve been covering in recent months.

Volkswagen Transporter at fuel pumps

I got a few quotes from my local dealer, White Rose of Petersfield, but they aren’t able to complete Volkswagen’s online service record. I managed to get another local commercial vehicle dealer, Breeze in Havant, to price match their reasonable quote of £172.76, as well as to record the service details.

I dropped the van off, helped myself to their coffee and WiFi in the waiting room whilst my Transporter was being serviced, and two and a half hours later the friendly staff returned a clean van to me. 

The dealer also had a new Volkswagen Multivan on site. It looks far more high-tech than my van, both inside and out, but it made me glad for some of the things that featured in my van. The newcomer has swapped to fiddly touch-sensitive buttons to change the temperature, whereas my Transporter has chunky rotary controls that I can operate without taking my eyes off the road.

Volkswagen Transporter with Volkswagen Multivan

No partnership is perfect, though, and I did have a few niggles with the Transporter over its time with me. As I’ve mentioned before, there are lots of storage spaces up front, but apart from the glovebox, none are very secure. Somewhere you could hide your phone or wallet away from prying eyes would’ve been an improvement. As would a slightly better stereo; the four-speaker setup only serves the front passengers, so anyone in the rear seats needs to strain their ears, or rely on my singing to convey what’s going on.

In the end, though, the biggest compliment I can pay to my Volkswagen Transporter is that I’d happily see it on my driveway again, in exactly the same colour and specification as I had this time. And if the next one comes with a potty, so much the better.

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