Volkswagen has long been a strong player in the commercial van space and that this 6th-generation Transporter’s roots to the 1950s is testament to their sheer experience serving the needs of the hauler.
Upon arriving Down Under in T6 guise in 2016, the Volkswagen brought 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 powertrain line-up is second to none, and few will dispute the level of build quality and high grade of engineering that Volkswagen has been known for.
It’s hardly the only European contender, 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, where the advances of the very competent Ford Transit Custom and Renault Trafic cannot be ignored either.
Like those, the Transporter T6 range, to help break down the various configurations available, unfolds like many others - it’s available with either a short (3,000mm) or long wheelbase (3,400mm) for needs of varying capacity, is available with single row seating or the more passenger-oriented Crewvan, while offering a choice of 3 roof heights: 1990mm, 2177mm, and 2477mm.
Even in its smallest size offering, the Transporter offers a generous 5,800-litres of space that can be expanded to as much as 6,700-litres in the larger LWB permutation. Factor in the high 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.
In terms of styling, the T6’s visual similarities to the previous generation Transporter is a theme carried throughout the Volkswagen family, sporting only rather incremental or evolutionary differences despite being pegged as a completely new product.
One area that’s definitely seen an upgrade, though, is what lies under the bonnet, or so they say. Volkswagen touts these new Euro 6 compliant 2.0-litre four-cylinder EA288 turbodiesels as significantly more efficient and environmentally friendly. Power ranges from 103kW with 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 option is selected and if said variant also comes equipped with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive, another unmatched feather in the Transporter’s cap - otherwise, drive will be sent exclusively frontward.
Both TDIs in differing outputs receives a 6-speed manual transmission. Interestingly, they’ve opted for a 7-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission instead of the more conventional torque converter sort. It might seem strange to fit a quick-shifting DSG in a load lugger, but the short gearing and imperceptible cog swaps make for brisk acceleration even under load or pulling uphill, making full use of as much torque that’s available without a break in the delivery, markedly improving fuel economy.
Out on the road, though, the Volkswagen’s much more sorted damping and cabin insulation means that refinement levels are unusually high for this segment, even when having to negotiate slightly uneven surfaces unladen, leaving the iLoad and HiAce in particular far behind. Handling, even in FWD variants, remains sure-footed and the hydraulically-assisted steering both light and direct.
Inside, the Volkswagen does an admirable job at taking a chunk out of its competitors, with the typical solidity and material integrity we typically associate with products from the Wolfsburg automaker. Things are expectedly plain-looking, however, but dignified and logical in placement.
Each Transporter T6 also gets a 5-inch Composition infotainment system with Bluetooth steaming and SD card audio playback. It’s a passable effort and a decent resolution panel, but the optional 6.3-inch upgrade is worth considering if features such as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are a concern. Above that, Volkswagen also offers the more sophisticated Discover Media system which has built-in satellite navigation.
While all T6s come with front and side airbag protection for the driver and passenger(s), a rear view camera isn't standard. Commendably, though, all variants do receive a Driver Fatigue Detection system and Multi-Collision brake, though a more comprehensive Driver Assistance Package is also available as an extra. Volkswagen offers the Transporter with 3-year unlimited kilometre warranty, capped-price servicing with intervals of 15,000km or 12 months, and 3 years of roadside assistance.
All told, the Transporter T6 is a strong contender in the space, and most definitely one of the most accomplished. In areas where it does lose out to the competition in price, it climbs back into the rings on the merits of its quality and relative value. If your budget isn’t too tight, it’s very practical load-lugger that offers a bevy of configurations, excellent powertrains, uncommon levels of refinement, and even a touch of prestige.
Van Advisor - “Styling wise they’ve been very conservative, but who can blame them, in 13 years of T5 production they sold more than 2 million vehicles. Where they’ve made it count is in the technology they’ve put into the engines, fuel efficiency and safety. We expect the Transporter T6 to be in high demand…”
AutoExpress - 4.5/5 - “Great tech, practicality and road manners made the VW Transporter our 2016 Van of the Year.”
Vanarama - “Overall, we think the Volkswagen Transporter is an extremely well-built van and many go on to cover huge mileages and resale values are generally high, as befits a high quality German brand. It's easy to drive, cheap to run, and there's an option of four-wheel drive.”
CarAdvice - 8/10 - “…the T6 Transporter drives as well as ever, and is now more frugal for good measure. This, plus the austere but excellent cabin, the availability of more equipment and the vast choice of configurations mean user-choosers would be mad not to have a good hard look at this VW.
Drive.com.au - The T6 is definitely an impressive drive and it's a nice place to be as far as commercial vans go. There are 19 variants to choose from and plenty of options, ensuring small businesses are uniquely catered for with whatever purpose you need it for.
Practical Motoring - 4/5 - “The new Volkswagen T6 Transporter is a careful step forwards in terms of exterior design and a continuation of the old as far as load carrying is concerned. It continues to be one of the better commercial vehicles to drive and even the entry engine is strong.”