Volkswagen Transporter T6 Review
The family-friendly version of VW's Transporter van offers relief if you're loaded down with luggage
Strengths & weaknesses
- Offers almost unrivalled load space
- Smooth automatic gearboxes
- Holds value well
- Size: it requires a large driveway
- Looks like a van, and drives a bit like one too
- Even basic models are expensive
If you’ve got a large family and your current car isn’t as “van-like” as the manufacturer claimed, then you do have the option of making your next car an actual van.
Volkswagen’s Transporter Kombi is best-described as part-van and part-people carrier. It’s based on the company’s commercial vehicle, retaining sliding side doors and large rear opening, but has the interior fittings of a car.
Popular with taxi drivers, the concept is now being aimed at families who are finding that a bootful of buggies for their children leaves little space for anything else in other vehicles.
They are more attractive to business users, or as a company car, as owners can take advantage of tax breaks to reduce prices that are a little eye-watering. The Transporter Kombi Van, can be bought in a specification that's 40cm (16in) longer, called long-wheelbase, and with a low, medium or high roof, which offers up to 9.3 cubic metres of load space and room for up to six adults.
On the other hand, the Transporter Shuttle has been designed to ferry folk around in maximum comfort, so seats up to nine adults with enough room in the back for luggage.
The Transporter is built in the same way as the vans designed to cope with heavy-duty use, and so feels built to last, with hard-wearing interiors and the option of rubber floors which can simply be hosed down. The offer of one or two sliding passenger doors makes loading a Transporter painless, especially in tight supermarket parking spots.
If you’re not used to the size and length of a Volkswagen panel van, then it does take time to get used to the hefty size and limited rear visibility, but it’s not so much different from a large car or sport utility vehicle (SUV).
There is the choice of the smooth automatic gearbox, as well as modern dashboard software, complete with touch screens, Bluetooth, digital radio and sat-nav.
Shuttle and Caravelle variants of the Transporter offer luxury travel, with fold-down laptop trays, coffee tables that rise out of the floor and electronically sliding twin doors for extra convenience.
Light steering makes low speed manoeuvres a lot easier; optional reversing sensors and cameras make parking a Transporter a lot less daunting.
On the downside, road noise and tyre roar can blight those vans with larger, uncarpeted load space in the rear, as the hollow panelled areas encourage echo, while stylish Sportline models tend to boast an overly firm ride, with large alloy wheels not helping.
Not even the Sportline's quilted leather seats can disguise its van origins when you're behind the wheel, so you should expect leaning in corners if you take them at speed and some bouncing over particularly rough roads. In general, motorway journeys are smooth and comfortable.
For those larger families that need more space than a seven-seat people carrier can provide, very little can compete in terms of the space and cargo carrying opportunities offered.
|Warranty||3 years / 100,000 miles|
|Load area||5.8 cu.m - 9.3 cu.m|
|Length||4904 - 5304mm|
|Height||1990 - 2476mm|
|Tax||£500 to £1200 in first year, £140 thereafter|
Best Volkswagen Transporter for...
Best for Economy – Volkswagen Transporter Kombi Van 102PS 2.0 TDI Startline
Fuel economy is an official 47.1mpg (although expect at least 10mpg less in the real world. Couple this with cheaper entry level Startline trim and it represents great value.
Best for Families – Volkswagen Transporter Caravelle SE 150 PS 2.0 TDI
Twin sliding side doors are handy and a clever floor-mounted rail system that enables seats to be easily removed or repositioned allows a huge number of layout combinations.
Best for Performance – Volkswagen Transporter Kombi Sportline 204PS 2.0 TDI
The lowered suspension, aggressive body kit and 18-inch alloy wheels ensure it looks the part, while a 204PS TDI engine provides the power for performance
One to Avoid – Volkswagen Transporter Shuttle LWB 204PS 2.0 TDI
Unless your brood is larger than eight, this powerful and expensive nine-seat model is more than you'll need. Plus, boot space is compromised with every seat added.
Understanding Volkswagen Transporter names
Trim level Kombi Trendline
There are seven trim levels in total (ranging from Startline, followed by Trendline, Highline and Sportline for Kombi vans). Each higher level means more equipment. In addition, Transporter Shuttle and Caravelle seat up to nine people and are available in trim levels that range from entry-level S, up to SE and Executive.
Kombi vans come in two lengths: SWB stands for Short Wheelbase. Long Wheelbase (LWB) versions are unsurprisingly longer, with more space in the back.
Height Medium roof
The Kombi is available with a low, medium or high roof to suit your purpose.
Engine 2.0 TDI 150PS BlueMotion
Engines are identified by either the letters TDI - on diesel motors - or TSI for petrol models. The size is given in litres (here it's 2.0) and power is shown in PS, a measure that's virtually identical to horsepower. Diesel engines are also badged BlueMotion, highlighting a range of technologies to improve efficiency and cut emissions.
The letters DSG indicate that the Transporter has an automatic gearbox.
Volkswagen Transporter Engines
Diesel: 2.0-litre TDI BlueMotion with 84hp, 102hp, 150hp or 204hp
Petrol: 2.0-litre TSI with 150hp or 204hp
There's only one size of diesel engine, but this 2-litre motor can be chosen in a range of power outputs. The more you have, the more you'll be able to carry without having to endure sluggish performance.
The basic 84hp engine is a little weedy and underpowered, even in completely un-laden vans. But a small jump up to the 102hp and 150hp motors improves matters considerably.
All engines are fairly quiet, particularly when driven through the excellent seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, but the additional power offered by the more powerful diesel units is particularly handy for overtaking manoeuvres.
The petrol engines offered in the Caravelle appear to be the black sheep of the family, lacking the pulling power of their diesel counterparts and offering considerably less miles per gallon. It's a big price to pay for a slightly quieter engine.
|2.0 TDI BlueMotion 84PS||Fuel||Fuel economy||Power||Acceleration (0-62mph)||Top speed|
|2.0 TDI BlueMotion 102PS||Diesel||47.1mpg||84hp||21.1sec||90mph|
|2.0 TDI BlueMotion 150PS||Diesel||48.7mpg||102hp||16.4sec||97mph|
|2.0 TDI BlueMotion 204PS||Diesel||46.3mpg||150hp||11.9sec||113mph|
|2.0 TDI BlueMotion 204PS||Diesel||46.3mpg||204hp||9sec||126mph|
|2.0 TSI 150PS||Petrol||30.7mpg||150hp||12.5sec||113mph|
|2.0 TSI 204PS||Petrol||31.4mpg||204hp||9.9sec||123mph|
Diesel figures based on a VW Transporter Shuttle SWB. petrol based on Caravelle
Volkswagen Transporter Trims
Startline, Trendline, Highline, Edition, Sportline, S, SE and Executive
Volkswagen's approach to the Transporter trim levels isn't exactly simple. The cheapest Kombi versions are named Startline and include Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity, a 5in dashboard display, USB ports and cruise control. Exterior styling is understandably basic, with 16-inch steel wheels and black door mirrors and handles
Trendline adds armrests for the driver and front passenger's seats plus body-coloured bumpers, door mirrors and handles, for (a little) extra style.
Highline models look less basic, with alloy wheels. Air conditioning, a heated windscreen and a leather multi-function steering wheel improve every day convenience.
All of the above models are available with every type of Kombi (short- and long-wheelbase versions, plus the three roof heights). The highest-specification Kombis are only available with a low roof and Edition versions are further restricted to the short-wheelbase model. These include sat-nav, glossy black side mirrors and a contrasting black roof, which adds dome individuality.
At the top of the range, Spotline Transporters (in short- or long-wheelbase) are positively luxurious, with quilted leather seats. Lowered suspension, 18in alloy wheels and a front spoiler underneath the bumper, give this van a positively sporty look.
Three different trims exist for the Shuttle and Caravelle models. Basic 'S' Shuttles feature cloth seats, manual sliding doors and Isofix mounting point for child seats.
Step up to 'SE' models and you'll be treated to floor carpets, upgraded upholstery, deluxe headlining with ventilation strips and adjustable reading lights, a trip computer with multi-function display and air conditioning.
The Caravelle comes as standard in 'SE' trim but customers can upgrade to an 'Executive' level. This adds leather and Alcantara upholstery, heated front seats, climate control and a deluxe instrument panel. Add to this a power latching tailgate, privacy glass, chrome exterior detailing and stylish 17” Cascavel two-tone diamond-turned alloy wheels and it's fairly stylish - for a minibus.
Volkswagen Transporter Reliability and warranty
Volkswagens have a solid reputation for being robust and its range of commercial vehicles is no different.
There's a comprehensive three-year/100,000-mile warranty on all Transporters, with plenty of scope to extend that for a small fee.
The previous generation automatic gearbox has been known to cause some customers problems in the past, but there is a healthy amount of Volkswagen Van servicing centres in the UK should the worst happen. Replacement parts are usually easy to source at competitive prices.
Used Volkswagen Transporter
Partly because the Transporter has been designed to cover extreme distances without issue and partly because there is something inherently easy about owning a Transporter, used vans boast some strong values.
A Transporter T28 SWB 2.0TDI 102PS, for example, retains 41.11 per cent of its original value after three years and 60,000-miles. For comparison, a Ford Transit custom manages just 32.91 per cent and a Peugeot Expert just 24.04 per cent.
However, discounted new Transporters are regularly on offer.