IN Germany you will hear the word transporter a lot. It’s the German word for van. But the transporter they all care about is the Volkswagen Transporter; you might say it’s the van that defines all vans.
If you have a keen eye for detail you’ll notice there are a few changes to the outside appearance of the new generation six Transporter, but they are fairly subtle and like us you’d struggle to communicate the changes.
If you think of it as a dull game of spot the difference you would notice there are new headlights, slightly adjusted front bumper and grille, and barely perceptible alterations to the van’s waistline.
The T6 first arrived down under in 2016, bringing with it a huge portfolio of variants to cater to the various needs anyone might ask of it, so much so that it might seem a little daunting even if one knows the exact specifics they require.
More than that, it brings with it some unique points that the rivals in the segment cannot match. It’s power train line up is second to none for example, and few will dispute the level of build quality and high grade of engineering that Volkswagen’s famous for.
It’s hardly the only European contender though, which makes its comparatively higher price an easier proposition to swallow. Naturally, it’s main prey are the Toyota HiAce and Hyundai iLoad, the two strongest entrants in the local market.
But it’s also up against the very competent Ford Transit Custom and Renault Trafic, and like its rivals, it’s available in either short or long wheelbase, depending on your needs, and with either a single row of seats or in the more passenger-oriented Crewvan.
There are three different roof heights as well, and even in its smallest size offering, the Transporter delivers a generous 5,800-litres of space that can be expanded to as much as 6,700 litres in the larger long wheel base option.
Factor in the highest roof option though and a vast 9,300-litres is made available. In each, this means the standard pallet fits without trouble, and each Transporter can be configured to have sliding doors on each side and a rear barn door.
The Transport range can also be fitted with an abundance of options including power sliding doors, composition media (which means four speakers, 6-inch touchscreen and USB), grab handles on A-pillars, and storage compartments on cab seats.
There’s also an optional reading light, glasses compartment, additional sound deadening measures in cabin, 12-volt socket in tray area of the dashboard and a waste bin in the door receptacle.
Rain sensing wipers and auto dimming rear view mirror, a rubber rear floor, seat armrests, voice control, fixed windows, and lumber support for driver and passenger seats, are all also available.
That is a huge list of options, and believe it or not, that’s only half the list. The only downside is every option is an additional cost. Our test vehicle came in typical white, but there’s also four other solid colours, eight metallic colours and one pearlescent colour.
One option that we think should be standard though is a cargo barrier. It’s $620 on the Volkswagen’s option list, and while the Transporter does have eight tie downs in the load area, we did feel that might be significantly inadequate for securing heavy loads.
Speaking of heavy loads, the T6 we tested has a kerb weight of 1,876kg (which includes 10-litres of fuel but no occupants) and a GVM of 3,000kg, leaving a pretty good payload of 1,014kg. Add a driver and a few options though, and it’s more like 800kg.
On the power front, Volkswagen touts these new Euro 6 compliant 2.0-litre four cylinder turbo diesels as significantly more efficient and environmentally friendly. Power ranges from 103kW and 340Nm to 132kW at the higher end, pushing out 400Nm of torque.
Fuel consumption, meanwhile, can range from a quoted 7.7-litres/100km to 8.8-litres/100km, though this will likely also come down to which transmission you’ve selected and if said variant comes with 4Motion all wheel drive, another unmatched feather in the Transporter’s cap.
Both TDI variants come with a 6-speed manual transmission as standard, while our test vehicle came with a 7-speed DSG dual clutch transmission. It might seem strange to fit a quick shift DSG in a load lugger, but the short gearing makes for brisk acceleration.
A bare van will be noisy no matter what and the T6 is no different. It’s an echo chamber with plenty of squeaks and rattles from the doors. Road noise is obvious too. The DSG gearbox was not without its moments either, especially reversing up a steep driveway.
There is a climb involved to get into the driver’s seat, but with a solid grab handle and a deep, wide step set into the floor this was relatively easy to do. The seat itself was supportive and comfortable for hours of sitting in city traffic and suburban shuffling.
Vision to the front and sides was excellent, and the big side mirrors and large rear window were ably assisted by the optional rear camera to make rear vision a cinch. There are numerous pockets for smaller items in the cabin too and bottle holders in the front doors.
For larger gear there are two shelves, a smaller upper level, and a deeper, lower section, while with the mid-roof model there’s also a deep shelf above the cabin, accessed from the rear.
The power sliding doors made accessing the cargo area much easier, and while the large and heavy lift up tailgate requires plenty of room to open it, it does proved a sheltered space behind the van should you need it.
The dimensions become a problem with car parks though as the 2.17m tall body will preclude you from 2.0-metre height restricted car parks. The 3.5-metre long wheelbase also makes tight corners appear even more so.
It has a stiff ride when unladen, but is much smoother loaded up and has responsive, well weighted steering, with good grip from the Bridgestone Turanza ER300 rubber. It’s also fair to say that the Transporter is on the sporty end of delivery van dynamics.
If your budget isn’t too tight, it’s a very practical load-lugger that offers a bevy of configurations, excellent power trains, uncommon levels of refinement, and even a touch of prestige.
Our 2018 Volkswagen Transporter T6 was provided by Volkswagen Australia. To find out more, contact your local Volkswagen dealer.