Road Test and Review – Volkswagen Transporter T6.1
Background and introduction
With the development of new models from the combined resources of Ford and Volkswagen well underway, we are now in the twilight phase of facelifts being released from both manufacturers as solo efforts. Whilst details of how the joint venture will work in practice are still sketchy, at the medium sector level the companies are currently offering market leading vehicles, with heritage and strength of brand that competitors can only dream of.
The Volkswagen Transporter was last facelifted in 2015, designated the T6. Time waits for no manufacturer in this competitive sector and in 2019 VW announced a refresh to the van. Recognising that the changes perhaps don’t warrant the blessing of a T7 nomenclature and being very evolutionary rather than revolutionary, Volkswagen has labelled this van as the T6.1.
The latest Euro6d emission regulations (also known as Euro 6.2) dictated that increased airflow was required to cool the engine. This led to the most noticeable change to the exterior of the van, the redesigned front grille (combined with narrower headlights) which is substantially larger than its predecessor. This front end redesign also extends to the front wings and bumper. The T6.1 has a subtle new logo, close to the side indicator repeaters.
The van interior has a completely refreshed dashboard designed to be very ‘car like’, and there is now the option to specify a 9.2 inch touchscreen. Mechanically, the T6.1 has new electromechanical power steering in addition to a revised range of engines – these now span outputs of 110PS to 199PS, although notably Volkswagen have chosen to discontinue petrol power units due to lack of demand in the UK market. The DSG automatic gearbox continues to be available as an option.
T6 was available in three mainstream trim levels, Startline, Trendline and Highline. With the introduction of T6.1, Trendline has been dropped, simplifying the model choice for customers. Startline vans come as standard with a 6.5” colour multimedia screen offering DAB+ radio, Bluetooth connectivity and VW’s new ‘App-Connect’ smartphone integration. Also included are multiple driver assistance and safety features such as Crosswind Assist and the now regularly seen enhanced ESC based systems. Highline spec adds adaptive cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, climatic air conditioning, heated windscreen and front and rear parking sensors.
Our test van was a T28 SWB van at Highline trim level, fitted with the mid range 150PS engine and the 7 speed DSG gearbox. It included some optional features such as rear tailgate, Discover Media 8” Navigation system (at a rather hefty £1320 additional cost), active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and metallic paint. Total price including options is currently £40863 including VAT and OTR costs.
It would be difficult to argue that the Transporter has ever been anything other than a great looking van, and with the latest visual cues it maintains its stance as one of the best looking commercial vehicles out there. Most manufacturers these days maintain a clearly recognisable link in frontal styling between passenger cars and vans and Volkswagen are no exception, the Transporter strongly representing the manufacturers current brand image.
The cab environment is hard to fault. The new dash, whilst with a definite car ‘air’ to it is well designed and functional. Instruments are clear and ‘no nonsense’, controls clearly defined, and the media unit is easy to reach (angled slightly toward the driver). The menus on this touch screen are easy to navigate and much less confusing than others we have tested. Cab storage is good, with decent sized door bins and dash top trays. Seats are firm but comfortable, and a five hour drive with just one short break didn’t leave the driver with any aches.
Volkswagen are possibly the first manufacturer to include LED lighting in the loadspace as standard, even at Startline specification, and should be applauded for this which will be appreciated by any driver loading or unloading in poor light. Otherwise, the load area is pretty much as you would expect, with a steel bulkhead and load lashing rings fitted.
On the road
The 150PS engine is no slouch, and Volkswagen claim that an 11.2 second 0-62mph sprint is achievable. Coupled with the legendary (but still one of the best automatic gearboxes around) DSG transmission, the van is an absolute delight to drive, either around town or across country. Handling is sure footed and nimble, and visibility is excellent, aided by the ample sized mirrors. The adaptive cruise control worked well, allowing for acceleration as soon as a lane change is commenced; unlike others we have tested which wait for the road to appear completely clear.
The Transporters Achilles heel has to be the level of noise intrusion, particularly on motorways. The combination of engine and road noise (the slightest change in surface is very noticeable) mars what is otherwise a great driving experience. Other manufacturers Euro 6 engines are quieter, and they have also reduced the intrusion of other sound sources into the cab which would otherwise be more noticeable due to the quieter power unit.
This is quite probably the ‘true’ Transporters swansong prior to the product of the alliance with Ford. Its main competitors are the Mercedes-Benz Vito and Ford Transit Custom and, whilst it trounces the German van in many respects, it probably will have a fight on its hands to trouble the Ford and its position at the top of the sales charts. It is however a really good looking van, it drives really well, it’s got great residual values and a good standard specification. It’ll no doubt continue to sell very well indeed.