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Expert Review

Volkswagen Transporter (2020) review

One of the longest lasting and most popular vans in the UK has had a significant update for 2020, with the changes visual, technical and mechanical.

The Auto Trader expert verdict:

4.5

A smart set of updates all round solidify the Transporter’s position as a van that appeals to those looking for more than just a working tool.

Reasons to buy:

  • tickExcellent safety kit
  • tickSmart looks
  • tickHigh-spec cockpit

At a glance:

Cargo & practicality

There is a decent range of shapes and sizes from the Transporter. The panel van is available with two wheelbases and three roof heights, while the same dimensions are offered for the five-seater Kombi model. The Caravelle takes care of those looking for a people carrier/minibus, while the Transporter also forms the basis of the California camper van. The dimensions of the Transporter are unchanged with the latest facelift, and the largest of the vans comes with an interior capacity of 9.3 cubic metres, a load length of 2975mm and a width of 1700mm. This gives it a larger loading capacity than its main rival, the Ford Transit Custom, but the Ford offers a higher payload than the VW. The Transporter can take up to 1244kg, but there is a Transit Custom that takes as much as 1447kg. Out back you get the choice of twin opening doors or a top-hinged single opening, while every version comes with a side sliding door as standard and a second one can be added as an option. There aren’t any clever gimmicks in the cargo bay, but each one gets half-height load lining, a painted roof trim on the low roof model and either six of eight load lashing rings, depending on the length you opt for as standard. It’s a shame that the basic model doesn’t come with a bulkhead included, though.
Expert rating: 4/5
Volkswagen Transporter
Volkswagen Transporter

Interior

The Transporter has long been favoured for its carlike appearance packaging, particularly in the cabin. This only goes up a notch with the latest version, with the dashboard and interior getting the most comprehensive update for 2020. Every version gets at least a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen on the centre of the dash, while higher level models get an 8.0-inch model. The only shame is that the panel van version of the T6.1, as the latest Transporter is dubbed, doesn’t get the full digital cockpit that comes on the passenger versions. This extends the satellite navigation right across the front display – hopefully this will be something offered in the future. In a not to the continued development of mobile technology, the Transporter now only comes with USB-C ports, meaning that many modern smartphones will need an adaptor to plug in to the Transporter. The three seats up front afford a decent amount of space, but those sat in the middle will find themselves perched ever so slightly higher and on a harder cushion than those on either side. It is a shame that right-hand drive models don’t enjoy much space to the left of the footwell, though. Even the automatic models feel cramped so your left foot doesn’t have much space to sit comfortably on the move.
Expert rating: 4/5

Running costs

The Transporter engine range has been simplified of late, with diesel the only option on the menu – the petrol model was discontinued shortly before the 2020 update. All engines are 2.0-litre diesels and there is a choice of 90, 110, 150 or 100 horsepower outputs, all of which are compliant with the latest Euro 6 requirements. Meeting these requirements has boosted power marginally versus the previous versions, but none have a large enough gain to make any noticeable difference on the road. Unless you go for the high roof models, then you’re looking at an official fuel economy in the mid 40s. The lower powered models are the best versions to go for if economy is a particular priority, as they inch up to around 47mpg, but there are only a few mpg between the various outputs.
Expert rating: 4/5

Reliability

The warranty, at three years and 100,000 miles, isn’t the longest lasting in the industry, but it is standard for the class. This is the sixth generation of Transporter, and the van’s forebears have always had a decent reputation for reliability so there is no reason to believe this shouldn’t continue to be the case on this latest model.
Expert rating: 4/5
Volkswagen Transporter
Volkswagen Transporter

Performance

All engines are 2.0-litre diesels and there is a choice of 90, 110, 150 or 199 horsepower outputs, all of which are compliant with the latest Euro 6 requirements. Meeting these requirements has boosted power marginally on some models versus the previous versions, but none have a large enough gain to make any noticeable difference on the road. Of the range, the best all rounder is the 150hp version, which is worth the investment if you can step that far up the range. If you can’t then the 110 model is still going to cope with work life admirably. The lowest powered model might lack in oomph a bit too much for some users’ liking, and is more suited to low-weight trips around town rather than long motorway jaunts with a full loading bay.
Expert rating: 5/5

Ride and handling

The Transporter is one the best mid-sized vans when it comes to its on-road performance, offering a real balance of light handling, a controlled ride and steering that blends a reassuring firmness at speed and an effortless manoeuvrability around town. The most recent update has made significant changes to the steering system, but all the changes are far enough below the surface that you won’t notice the difference while sat behind the wheel. The steering recommendation and lane keep assist systems that makes small adjustments to the steering to counteract oversteer and keep the van in between lines on the road are not overly intrusive in the way that some systems are. The standard model is the one to go for to get a perfect blend of control and ride firmness – sportier versions often come with a slightly stiffer setup and larger alloys. This version is fine on the majority of non-urban roads, but those wanting to spend more time around town will be better off with the standard version. The pedals are a wonderfully light setup and the manual gearchange is smooth. Even smoother is the DSG automatic option. While some vans get a pared-down version of a car’s automatic box, the VW gets the same smooth double-clutch offering as many VW passenger car models
Expert rating: 5/5

Safety

The major bonus of the new electro-mechanical steering system enables the fitment of a load more safety kit, including lane assist, steering recommendation system, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, crosswind assist and park assist and a trailer assist that helps with reversing while towing. Alongside these systems are some more conventional ones, such as autonomous emergency braking and a post-collision braking system to mitigate the result of an impact. However, there are a few other items that are included that you wouldn’t expect. The Driver Alert system monitors things like the steering and throttle input and warns you take a break from driving if it senses you are tired, and this too is standard. Hill hold assist and the usual front airbags are all included, too.
Expert rating: 5/5

Equipment

The two core models in the Transporter range are Startline and Highline, and even the basic model comes with a decent amount of kit. DAB digital radio with a 6.5-inch touch screen, crosswind assist, a leather steering wheel and LED lighting in the cab are some of the notable highlights. The step up to Trendline brings adaptive cruise control with a speed limiter, automatic lights and wipers, hill start assist, air conditioning, a heated windscreen and heated door mirrors and front and rear parking sensors. A full bulkhead is standard fit across the range, which is welcome as that hasn’t always been the case with Transporters in the past.
Expert rating: 4/5
Volkswagen Transporter
Volkswagen Transporter

Why buy?

The Transporter boasts a wide-ranging appeal and with good reason. It manages to offer a strong level of practicality while still maintaining a cabin that is appealing rather than austere and workmanlike. The latest and comprehensive facelift only upgrades this feeling. There are a couple of niggles – it is a shame that only the passenger carrying models get the full widescreen infotainment treatment, and some will find the modern USB-C ports an irritation, but these are minor gripes on what is an excellent van.
Expert rating: 5/5

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