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This is the Volkswagen Transporter T6.1. Don’t be fooled, though – that name doesn’t mean it has a 6.1-litre engine. Rather, think of that last bit as a version number, like you’d find in the tech industry.
It's not usually the done thing in the automotive world, but the ‘.1’ bit was added to the name of the facelifted Transporter to show that it’s an evolution of the sixth-generation model, which was already one of the best medium vans on the market.
The T6.1 has smaller headlights than the T6, and they flow into a revised grille and bumper up front. The facelift isn't purely cosmetic, though: under the skin, there’s a new electric power steering system similar to the one in the bigger VW Crafter. The result is that the Transporter can now be fitted with updated driver assist features, such as lane-keeping assistance and crosswind assistance.
Mind you, the VW Transporter isn’t quite as flexible as it used to be. There’s now only one roof height, rather than the three you used to be able to get, and it’s the lowest of the lot. If you want a van with a high roof, the Crafter might be a better bet.
Happily, you can still get short and long wheelbase versions of the Transporter. And, as has always been the case, there are lots of body types to choose from, including a standard panel van, a crew van (known as the Kombi), a full-on minibus and a plusher executive shuttle bus. There’s also the brilliant VW California camper, which we’ve covered in a separate review.
You can have your VW Transporter in one of three trim levels. The cheapest is Startline, which is a little utilitarian, and above that you'll find the more luxurious Highline and the sportier looking Sportline. The engine range consists almost entirely of VW's stalwart 2.0-litre diesel, in single and twin-turbo forms, and in a variety of power outputs.
The exception is the electric van version. The VW ABT e-Transporter 6.1 – which we've reviewed separately – is a conversion carried out by aftermarket tuner ABT but can be bought through Volkswagen dealerships with the same after-sales backup as any other Transporter.
Here, though, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about the VW Transporter T6.1 range, including its loadspace and payload, driving dynamics, cab layout and passenger comfort.
Remember, once you’ve chosen the best model for you, you can find the best van leasing deals on our What Car? Leasing pages.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Volkswagen Transporter 6.1's 2.0-litre diesel engine is available in a range of outputs. The entry-level TDI 90 has 89bhp and will get from 0-62mph in a tepid 17.5sec, so the minimum we’d suggest buying – if you fancy getting anywhere in good time – is the TDI 110. That’ll hit 62mph from rest in 14.3sec. Both engines come with a five-speed manual gearbox.
The 148bhp TDI 150 is paired with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, along with the option of 4Motion four-wheel drive. It’s our recommendation, because even though its 0-62mph time of 11.1sec still sounds a bit limp, it has so much low-down shove that it feels much faster than that. It’ll hit motorway speeds briskly and easily lug a fully loaded van without too many gear changes. It also moves the maximum towing weight up from 2200kg to 2500kg.
The 201bhp twin-turbocharged TDI 204 comes as standard with the automatic gearbox and the option of four-wheel drive. It’s quick (0-62mph takes 8.9sec) but too pricey to recommend, especially in the range-topping Sportline trim.
One of the key strengths of the Transporter T6.1 is its composed handling. The steering is relatively precise through corners and offers excellent straight-line stability when you’re on the motorway.
Like its bigger relative, the VW Crafter, the Transporter T6.1 manages to disguise its size admirably by keep body lean well contained for such a tall vehicle. It feels pretty agile and grippy too, but versions with front-wheel drive – especially those with the more powerful engines – are prone to spinning their front tyres if the surface is slippery, and especially so if they're not loaded down with weight.
All the diesels are vocal, but not coarse sounding, and the manual gear change is precise. The clutch bite is quite aggressive, though, so it’s an easy van to stall until you’re used to that. Road and wind noise are certainly apparent at 70mph, but less so than rivals such as the Ford Transit Custom. That helps to make the Transporter T6.1 an accomplished long-distance vehicle.
The ride is perfectly acceptable, even when it's lightly loaded. It’s still firmer than rivals such as the Vauxhall Vivaro, so you feel the effect of sharp ridges and potholes more, but it’s never jarring. The Transporter settles down nicely the faster you go, so the ride is at its best on a motorway. And while lowered Sportline models are firmer still, they're never uncomfortable.
If you're interested in going electric, see our separate VW ABT e-Transporter 6.1 review.
The interior layout, fit and finish
As you’d expect in a van, the Volkswagen Transporter T6.1’s interior plastics are hard, rugged and well screwed together. There are hints of luxury, though, such as its smooth-to-the-touch, leather-wrapped steering wheel and, overall, it feels classier than the Ford Transit Custom.
There’s plenty of driver’s seat adjustment – all models come with variable height adjustment and lumbar support – so you shouldn’t have any trouble with backache after a few hours at the wheel. The steering wheel is also fully adjustable for reach and height, which means there’s every opportunity to get things just so.
Behind the steering wheel sit the analogue instruments and a small screen, which together show all the information you need clearly. Sportline trim upgrades those to a 10.3in digital instrument screen, which is good to have but not essential, though it can put a lot of useful information, including the sat-nav map, right in front of you.
Everything is well laid out, making the Transporter a breeze to use whether it’s your regular van or one you’ve just jumped into for the day. The lights, wipers and heating controls, for example, are exactly where you’d expect to find them and the large, physical buttons are easy to operate while you’re on the move.
The standard infotainment screen is 6.5in and has some physical shortcut buttons around the outside to help you navigate through the menus. The software is slick and easy to fathom and comes with USB-C sockets, Bluetooth and a DAB radio, plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirror.
You can upgrade to an 8.0in screen, but the shortcut buttons become touch-sensitive buttons that are harder to find without diverting your gaze from the road. Otherwise, it’s one of the best infotainment systems in the van market, with clear graphics and built-in sat-nav. Seeing out is easy, because the high-set seating position and slim(ish) windscreen pillars give you a good view ahead and to the sides. You can’t see much out the back when reversing, even with a rear window fitted, but the large door mirrors help you out.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Front passenger head and leg room is generous in the outside two seats of the Volkswagen Transporter T6.1. If you have the front middle bench seat fitted, the middle passenger will have less space to stretch into.
There are loads of useful storage spaces dotted around. These include recesses in the top of the dashboard, large door bins and a roomy glovebox. Above that, you’ll find a narrow, rubberised shelf that’s ideal for keys or mobile phones. You also have several cup holders, including two at the base of the windscreen pillars. The Kombi model adds a rear bench that folds up out of the way to minimise the impact on load space.
If you’re upgrading from a T5 or T6, the internal load bay dimensions are broadly the same as the T6.1, so all your racking and other modular systems should transfer over easily. There’s room for up to three Euro pallets in the load bay, and the standard load-bay height is 1410mm. That increases to 1626mm for the medium-height roof version and 1940mm for the high roof model.
Maximum interior length ranges from 2572mm for the short models (that’s 50mm longer than the equivalent Ford Transit Custom) to 2975mm for the long-wheelbase vans (50mm shorter than you'll find in the long-wheelbase Transit Custom). The T6.1 also includes a load-through bulkhead hatch, so you can slot in an additional 400mm extra-long load straight under the van’s passenger seat.
In terms of load bay volumes, the range goes from 5.8m3 to 9.3m3 and the payload ranges from 685kg to a maximum of 1217kg.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Most of the Volkswagen Transporter T6.1 range is priced slightly above the equivalent Ford Transit Custom but the differences aren’t vast and the Transporter tends to hold its value comparatively well over three years. Top-spec Transporters, such as those in Sportline trim, are very pricey, though, and are among the most expensive medium-sized vans on the market.
Our pick of the engines, the 2.0 TDI 150, officially averages up to 40mpg. From our experience, you should see around 35-40mpg, depending on where and how you drive.
The entry-level Startline trim is a bit sparse, with steel wheels and black bumpers. You do get some creature comforts, including electrically operated door mirrors, a front-seat armrest and a leather steering wheel.
Highline trim is our pick and adds air-conditioning, 16in or 17in alloy wheels, body-colour bumpers, power-folding door mirrors, auto lights and wipers, a heated front windscreen and adaptive cruise control. The Kombi model also has privacy glass.
Sportline models benefit from more muscular looks, and come with creature comforts including heated front seats, a carpet flooring on Kombi versions and the digital instruments we mentioned earlier on in this review. Trouble is, it's also an expensive choice, so we think most buyers would be better off with a Highline model.
The Transporter's safety features include City Emergency Braking (the Volkswagen name for AEB), lane assistance, crosswind assistance, a driver fatigue alert and eCall emergency response. Blind-spot monitoring is an option you might want to think about adding.
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The Transporter is more expensive than many rival medium vans but also holds its value better, so you’ll see more of that initial outlay back when the time comes to sell on your van. Does that make it worth the price? Well, yes and no – read our review for a full verdict.
It should be. According to industry reliability surveys it's one of the most dependable vans around. However, we’d suggest sticking with the single-turbo engine. The twin-turbo model, while rare, has been associated with a few notable technical gremlins.
It depends on the model. A panel van is a commercial vehicle, but the crew van version, with its second row of seats, can be both. The guiding principle is that versions with more than a 1,000kg payload are considered by HMRC to be vans, whereas those below that figure are classified as cars for tax purposes. Minibus, shuttle bus and camper models will almost always be classified as passenger vehicles.
We go into the relative merits and disadvantages of each engine in our review, but suffice it to say that the less powerful models are harder to recommend because they feel distractingly slow. You’re better off setting your sights on at least the mid-range, 148bhp powerplant.
Obviously, prices can vary at a moment’s notice, but you can expect to pay upwards of £26,000, exclusive of VAT, for even the smallest, most basic Transporter. Like-for-like, it's more expensive than rivals, but resale values are stronger too.
The standard panel van version is 2m tall. The short-wheelbase Transporter is 4.9m long, while the long-wheelbase version is 5.3m long.