Volkswagen gave it’s Transporter van a major facelift in early 2020, with the Transporter ‘6.1’ featuring a sharper exterior, a car-like cabin, improvements to connectivity & better passenger safety.
Model range & engines
To aid your buying decision, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has reduced the latest Transporter model range down to just three models; Startline, Highline, plus Sportline.
The Startline & Highline models are both available in T28, T30 & T32 versions, in both SWB or LWB. There’s also an entry level SWB only T26 Startline. All models are powered by a 2.0-litre TDI engine, badged 90, 100 or 150 PS. If you choose a Highline version, there’s also the option of a 2.0-litre 199 PS TDI, version with a standard seven-speed DSG gearbox. And, if you live or work in a remote region, 4MOTION 4WD is also offered on certain 150 & 199 PS models.
The Transporter also features an electro-mechanical power steering system, which has enabled VW to fit a number of new standard safety & assistance features, including driving steering recommendation & crosswind assist, as well as offering the options of park assist, lane assist, side protection, trailer assist, rear traffic alert & traffic sign recognition.
Transporter 6.1 also offers an all-new infotainment system, with SatNav Discover Pro plus. App Connect also now comes as standard to allow screen mirroring of mobile phones & access to certain apps while on the move. Wireless App-Connect, which isn’t offered on many cars currently, is now available as an option for the first time.
To keep track of your vehicle, it’s mileage & your drivers, all T6.1 models also feature an integrated SIM card (eSIM), which opens up a new range of online-based functions & services via We Connect – Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ connectivity solution – including eCall, breakdown call, vehicle health report & driving data plus parking position.
Cabin & load space practicality
There are some new practical touches, including a 230v power socket built into the driver’s seat, a lockable box inside the dual passenger bench & a new load-through system that uses space under the dual passenger bench to accommodate longer loads. This increases maximum cargo length from 2,450mm to 2,800mm in SWB Transporters & from 2,900mm to 3,300mm in LWB Transporters.
Driving & models tested
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles invited us along to a range driving day, where we got to try out several of the most likely best selling versions of the new model. As you walk up to the Transporter, there’s no mistaking it’s heritage. There’s a new front end & the grilles that were previously separated, have been closed slightly to create one very large air intake, which makes the van look wider. There’s also a double chrome bar, which runs across the front of the van & fits neatly into the new LED daytime running lights & narrower headlights.The rear end also features a new design of LED taillights. Regardless of these changes, it still looks reassuringly like a Transporter.
First up was the likely best seller, the T28 SWB Highline 2.0 TDI 110PS 5-speed manual, which costs from £29,350 ex vat, in Copper Bronze Metallic. This version comes with a top speed of 103mph, a 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds, CO2 emissions of 185-167g/km & a WLTP combined full consumption of 37.7 mpg
Open the driver’s door & climb into the cabin & what welcomes you is the nicest van interior in the class. As the owner of a Volkswagen T-Roc, much of what is now fitted to the Transporter van, was very familiar. It’s the most car-like van dashboard yet. This isn’t surprising when you realise that the T6.1 is only the second VW model to get the firm’s new MIB3 infotainment system, which is available with an 8.0″ or 9.2″ touchscreen display & redesigned menu system, plus the option of apps for your smartphone. The fit, finish & quality I should add, is exceptional.
Practicality has also been enhanced. There are two dash top storage spaces, one with a 12v socket, another in front of the passenger bench & a smaller one in the centre middle. Here you’ll also find two USB sockets & another 12v socket. Both door pockets are huge, with a useful smaller storage area higher up, one on each door, which are easy to reach. Only the glove box disappoints, being too small for much at all.
The heating controls are located in the middle of the dash above the manual gear stick. The steering wheel controls enable you to control the cruise control function, infotainment system & car settings. Everything is easy to reach from the driver’s seat & we took the opportunity to connect our iPhone to Apple CarPlay, for hands-free motoring, which was seamless.
Standard equipment on the Startline & Highline includes, Composition Colour DAB+ radio system with 6.5″ touch-screen, four speakers, SD card slot, Bluetooth hands-free& 2 USB interfaces, Volkswagen App-Connect, Crosswind Assist, electric windows, electrically heated adjustable door mirrors, steering, height & longitudinally adjustable steering column & a leather multi-function steering wheel. ESC with brake assist, ABS, ASR, EDS & Hill Start Assist are also standard & there are two LED reading lights in the roof of the cabin.
Highline adds, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with speed limiter, an anti-theft alarm system with interior monitoring in cab, backup horn & towing protection, automatic headlights, automatic windscreen wipers with rain sensor, body-coloured door mirror housings, door handles & bumpers, climatic air con, a heated front windscreen & front & rear parking sensors.
On the road
As with their car range, the seats are nicely supportive & it’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel. We began our drive on some narrow country lanes & the Transporter really does drive like an SUV. It’s supremely comfortable, soaking up the bumps in the road & handling the twisting road with aplomb. The rear load space contained 360kg of gravel on a pallet to give us an idea of how the Transporter works with a decent load in the back.
All around vision in the cab is enhanced by the large wing mirrors & the driving position gives you a good view of the road ahead. On some larger roads & a dual carriageway with a 50 mph speed limit, the T6.1 doesn’t hang around, making light work of slow moving traffic & never feels underpowered. The five-speed manual gear change is smooth, aided by the light clutch & the van felt stable & balanced on the road. Payload for this version is 886kg. On our circular test route we averaged 36.7 mpg.
Next up, was the T32 SWB Highline 2.0 TDI 150PS 7-speed DSG model which costs from £34,540 ex vat. Whilst the additional power was welcome – this van will hit 62 mph in just 7 seconds – it too came with a 360kg load of cement in the back, it didn’t feel as poised on the road as the manual version. In addition, riding on it’s alloy wheels, it didn’t handle the road surface as well either, allowing more vibration into the cabin. The larger payload of 1217kg, does make this version a more practical proposition.
Fuel consumption on the WLTP cycle is a claimed 34.4 mpg, with our return of 34mpg almost exactly the same. As with the manual Highline, the addition of the Discover Media 8″ SatNav with We Connect Plus for 1 year, improve the cabin experience, but will set you back an additional £1320.
Finally, we took out the T28 SWB Startline 2.0 TDI 90PS 5spd manual out for a spin, over an identical route & distance as to our first two drives. Costing from £25,170 ex vat, this version is more basic, but still offers customers a lot of bang for their buck. The model we tested also had the addition of the Discover Media 8″ SatNav with We Connect Plus for 1 year, as well as Adaptive Cruise Control for £414, both of which we would select.
Again, the rear load space contained a 360kg load, this time sand, the actual payload is 913kg & this model was noticeably slower, taking 12.2 seconds to reach 62mph, with a top speed of 94mph. On it’s steel wheels, it rode well & we managed to achieve a fuel economy of 38.9 mpg on our test route, almost identical to the VW claimed WLTP figure of 39.2 mpg. I personally preferred the no cost extra colour of Ascot Grey that this van came in, a putty-like off white, which with it’s steel wheel’s, made this version, looks-wise anyway, like the classic Transporter of yesteryear.
I think that Volkswagen are right, the 110PS version will be the biggest seller, in all probability in Highline spec & as a T28. For those of you spending long hours on the motorway, we would pay extra for the Discover Media infotainment system & add Adaptive Cruise Control as well. If you’re just driving locally, then the standard spec, even on Startline model’s, is really very impressive. Prices, can start to get high, if you do choose to add lot’s of extras.
Depending on your payload requirements & whether you make shorter local or longer national journey’s there’s a wide choice of Transporter for you. We believe that it’s a real step-up from the previous version & in any spec, will offer you, or you drivers, the most comfortable & best quality cabin to spend time in, of any medium panel van.
A real winner 4.25/5