VW Transporter T28 Highline SWB 2.0TDI 15 | 10 | 2015Scotcars rating

    VW proves it still has the class to make moving home relatively pain-free with its Transporter

    VOLKSWAGEN’S UBIQUITOUS TRANSPORTER van, and myriad variants including Caravan, Caravelle and California, have been on the world’s roads for 60 years. In that time they've been virtually all things to all people, ideally for when the surf’s up or fulfilling more mundane duties like moving house or delivering groceries.

    To mark those six decades — and coinciding with it being named 2016 International Van of the Year — I borrowed a classy embodiment of the Transporter van clan, a T28 Highline standard wheelbase panel model, sitting on glitzy silver 18-inch alloy wheels, which cost a hefty extra £2100.

    With room for three up front and space for 854 kilogrammes of sundry stuff aft, unseen behind a steel partition, the sixth-generation Transporter is a chunky looking vehicle, its broad strip signature corporate grille shared with car counterparts.

    Function overcomes form when it comes to LCVs (light commercial vehicles to non van mortals), and the sliding kerbside door and twin rear apertures, with useful non-slip rubber-covered steps, are simple to operate revealing a ribbed metal interior, minus nasty sharp edges I remember from vans of yesteryear.

    Whatever its, contents the Transporter is protected by a category one alarm with tow away, perimeter and interior cab protection; comforting if you have invested £32,170 in the vehicle, albeit with VAT reclaimable.

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    Clamber into the cab and the interior is distinctly car-like, apart from the fascia-mounted six-speed gear lever. Onboard equipment includes electric windows, air conditioning, cruise control, sensibly jumbo-sized electrically adjustable door mirrors, parking sensors and, particularly useful, a heated front screen element.

    One curiosity involved an interior automatically dimming rear view mirror; academic, when the rear view is restricted to external side mirrors, or sticking your head out of the window.

    There is a decent radio-cum CD sound system, plus Bluetooth and app connectivity (another £144 consideration) but, strangely, no standard satnav built into the infotainment screen. A factory-fitted device costs £866 including VAT, so it was 'have TomTom will travel' for a circa 500-mile trip to west Wales and back. Empty there, and almost full on return.

    Powered by a 140bhp, 2.0-litre diesel, the Transporter drives through the front wheels and, apart from extra length and width, it presents no great challenge to car drivers, even if I never adjusted to not seeing anything bar a steel panel through that superfluous mirror.

    The six-speed manual transmission has a longer throw than car counterparts but the Transporter, with surprisingly little in the way of wind noise, settles down to a relaxed motorway limit cruising gait. For £1896 you can opt for a DSG automatic, arguably the choice for predominantly urban graft. A greater degree of anticipation is needed when approaching roundabouts and junctions, particularly when the van is loaded and in wet conditions.

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    Seasoned van drivers rightly extol the virtue of distributing loads evenly, with the heaviest items placed to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible and avoid undignified and unsettling weight transfer in corners.

    It is many years since I handled a vehicle with leaf spring rear suspension, albeit combined with load sensitive dampers, but they provided a composed ride empty, and full.

    Towards the end of my brief time with the Transporter, its onboard fuel range monitoring computer confused the issue. Overnight the nominal distance left in the 17.6-gallon (80 litres) tank halved to 60 miles with the yellow warning light flashing and a warning alert issued. It promptly climbed to 250 miles when £10 worth of diesel was pumped in.

    I confess to having to resort to leafing through the handbook on a dark Sunday night to discover where to apply the fuel nozzle. It's only accessible when the front passenger door is opened, all a bit fraught as the fuel station operator was itching to put up the shutters.

    Having solved that puzzle, the computer awarded us with a 40mpg average consumption reading, which must have been electronically charitable. That is 0.4 of a mile per gallon below the official combined figure, normally attainable only in laboratory-induced conditions.

    In 'vanland', VW light commercial vehicle owners and operators benefit from a three-year or 100,000-mile warranty, 40,000 more than its cars. Because of higher mileages and intense use, VW is piloting extended servicing hours at selected dealers. Dubbed Twilight, the scheme involves dropping vehicles off at the end of the day and picking them up the following morning.

    Third overall in the UK car sales league VW ranks second only to Ford in LCV volume terms with Transporter, on 18,593 out of VW’s 40,624 van sales last year, slipstreaming the ever-present Transit.

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    Hugh Hunston


    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £29,320 (incl VAT) / £32,170 (incl VAT)
    Engine / Power: 4cyls, 1968cc, turbocharged diesel, 6sp manual gearbox / 137bhp
    How fast?: 0-62mph 12.3sec; / Max 104mph
    How big/heavy?: L4892mm W1904mm H1990mm / 1430kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: 40.4mpg combined / 184g/km CO2
    InsGP/Road tax: n/a / n/a
    Alternatives: Ford Transit

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