First Drive: VW Transporter

Date: Tuesday, December 01, 2015   |  

VW is having a pretty big year, replacing the two models that represent 75% of its light commercial vehicle sales in the space of a few weeks.

First we had the new Caddy light van, and now it’s the turn of the Transporter medium van to hit UK shores.

As is typical of Volkswagen, the styling is certainly predictable, and it takes a second glance to take in the changes that give away this as the new van. Headlamps, grille and bumper have all been redesigned, and there are new alloys across the range, as well as new taillights and a wider tailgate window where fitted. But to the untrained eye it’s a decent modernisation of the old one, rather than an all-new model the way that the Ford Transit Custom or Renault Trafic/Vauxhall Vivaro siblings offered a fresh design. But Volkswagen argues, with some justification, under the not-broke-don’t-fix banner.

The inside gives more of an indication that this is the new Transporter. There’s more colour and interest than the rather bland previous generation model, and every van comes with a USB socket, new steering wheel and extra storage including an A4-sized compartment on top of the dashboard. The glovebox has been moved down, but now appears to be too small to even fit the vehicle handbook in its modest stowage space. DAB radio is a very welcome new addition, complete with a five-inch touchscreen on all models.

There is storage under the dual passenger seat, but not the clever flip-down desk operation that can be specced with some rivals.

We sampled the 102hp Euro6 2.0-litre, which will be the second step of four engines once all have been added to the range early next year. It kicks off with the 84hp unit, and runs through 102hp and 150hp to the range-topping 204hp engine, all 2.0-litre powerplants.

There’s just about enough legroom for a passenger in the middle seat, as the gear lever doesn’t intrude as much as it does on models such as the new Mercedes Vito, and VW says it has moved the mirrors down by 20mm to aid forward visibility.

Volkswagen claims it has made improvements to refinement, though there’s still a fair degree of road rumble making its way into the cabin, but ride quality in our part-loaded test vehicle is good. That’s matched by chassis control and steering feel, making the Transporter a decent place to pass the time.

Volkswagen has stepped up to the plate on safety systems, adding a post-collision braking system as standard on all models, while front assist, adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist, lane change assist and driver alert systems are all optional.

The Transporter has a longer load area than key Ford Transit Custom, Renault Trafic, Vauxhall Vivaro and Mercedes Vito rivals, though all are within 35mm, though the Trasnit’s extra width is the deciding factor in it offering a 6.0m3 laod area, while the Transporter is only 5.0, with the others in between.

The Transporter is in many ways much like the Mercedes Vito; a decent improvement over the previous-generation model, but maybe lacking in some of the clever innovation such as load-through hatches, internal ladder racks or folding roof rails that the Transit, Vivaro or Trafic can offer. If the goal was to make the old Transporter better, then it’s a resounding success, but if the goal was to provide the best all-round user-friendly and innovative medium panel van, then maybe it needed a little more consideration of what the best rivals are up to.

Price (ex VAT) £23,875
Price range (ex VAT) £17,745–£32,700
Insurance group 9E
Warranty 3yrs/100,000mls
Service intervals variable miles
Load length 2572mm
Load width 1700mm/1244mm
Load bay height 1410mm
Gross payload 1245kg
Load volume 5.8m3
Engine size/power 1968cc/102hp
On sale September 2015
Combined fuel economy 47.9mpg
CO2 153g/km

 


Verdict


Impressive improvement over last Transporter, especially on the inside, but others hold an edge in user experience.

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