What's the used Volkswagen Transporter van like?
With short and long wheelbases, standard, medium and high roof heights and four trim levels – Startline, Trendline, Highline and Sportline – as just the basic choices, the Volkswagen Transporter T6 is understandably known as a versatile model with hundreds of different configurations and options.
Throw in 4Motion four-wheel-drive variants, as well as single and double-cab chassis, crew vans, minibus and executive shuttle buses, and the possibilities soon become seemingly limitless.
The T6 was replaced by the T6.1 version in 2019. You’ll often hear people refer to Transporters as T1, T2, T3, T4, T5 or T6. These are the various generation of vans, T6 being the sixth, but can easily be confused when people label Transporters as T26, T27, T28, T30 or T32. In that case, they are referring to the gross vehicle weight and size of the van.
As a van, the Transporter has many rivals, including the Ford Transit Custom, Mercedes-Benz Vito and Vauxhall Vivaro. However, one version of the Transporter stands alone: the Volkswagen California campervan, which uses the Transporter's chassis and engines, and is for many the ultimate motorhome. For that reason, the Transporter van carries a certain cache that other brands struggle to emulate.
Powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, the output options for the Transporter are as numerous as the body types. Outputs of 83bhp, 102bhp and 148bhp are available with a single turbocharged engine, or there’s a 201bhp version with twin turbos. Volkswagen also offers a 2.0-litre petrol engine, producing 148bhp or 204bhp, that's favoured by retail customers wanting a van for occasional use or motorhome conversions.
Most Transporters come with a six-speed manual gearbox, except the 83bhp and 102bhp diesels, which get five ratios. However, for those seeking an automatic, the seven-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox is the best in the mid-sized van sector. The drawbacks are that it’s pricey to buy and you run the risk of serious costs should it fail out of warranty.
The 204bhp petrol is definitely the most entertaining of the engine choices, with all the power being delivered through the front wheels. However, our recommendation would be the 148bhp diesel, because its balance of power and 251lb ft of torque, combined with the six-speed gearbox, makes it the best option for both low-speed city driving and motorway miles.
Reducing the vibrations that get inside was a big priority for Volkswagen with the T6, and it has certainly done a good job. However, much of the sensitivity of the steering and its connection to the road have also been numbed by its lightness. The ride is smooth, though, and with a partial load on board, the Transporter feels much more secure on the road.
Volkswagen commercial vehicle interiors have often been a bit dreary, because they tend to prioritise functionality over appearance. The T6 adheres to that principle, although there are touches of refinement across the cab, such as two-tone top and bottom dashboard sections, splashes of chrome trim and many different grades of plastic.
Storage is ample, with an A4-sized tray housing a 12V socket on top of the centre console and three well-sized sections in the passenger-side dashboard above a modest lockable glovebox. Two cupholders can also be found at either side of the dash, but beware of their shallowness.
There’s a USB port next to the lower part of in-dash space that enables you to plug in a smartphone and use it via Apple Car Play or Android Auto on the van's 5.0in touchscreen. There’s also a simplistic but neat heating control panel between the gearshift and the touchscreen. With so many open compartments, concealed storage is an issue, but overhead storage is an option.
The seats are fully adjustable, but the bases are very firm and can be uncomfortable on long drives. Electric windows and heated electric mirrors are standard, but Trendline adds an armrest, side door storage and additional sound deadening. Opting for top-spec Highline adds a heated windscreen, automatic lights and wipers, climate control and a leather-covered steering wheel.
This T6 Transporter maintains the exact same loadspace dimensions as the T5 – this is in order to allow racking and other modular systems to be easily transferred. That means a 1410mm height for the standard vans, 1626mm for medium vans and 1940mm for the high roof versions. Length ranges from 2572mm for the short models to 2975mm for the long-wheelbase vans. The shorter Transporter is 50mm longer than the equivalent Ford Transit Custom, while the longer version is 50mm shorter than the long-wheelbase Transit Custom.
Load volumes range from 5.8m3 to 9.3m3, which for the short-wheelbase Transporter is in-line with its rivals, while the long-wheelbase high-roof option has the largest capacity of any vehicle in this segment. The maximum usable width across the loadspace is 1175mm, while the width between the rear wheel arches is 1244mm. Payload ranges from 685kg to a maximum of 1217kg. A single sliding side door and twin rear doors are fitted as standard.
The Transporter was one of the first vans to bring passenger car safety into vans, adding features such as city automatic emergency braking to prevent low-speed bumps and automatic post-collision braking to reduce follow-on and secondary accidents.
Both are fitted as standard on all Transporters, along with Brake Assist (to increase braking force in an emergency) and a driver tiredness alert system.
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