Review: Volkswagen T5 Transporter (2003 – 2015)
Very refined and car-like to drive with an upmarket cabin, durable and well built, smooth common-rail TDI engine, available as a Shuttle which seats up to nine, ESP stability control as standard.
Steering column is known to knock, window leaks are common. Catastrophic engine problems with 2.0BITD after 60k miles.
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Volkswagen T5 Transporter (2003 – 2015): At A Glance
- On average it achieves 96% of the official MPG figure
It could easily be argued that Volkswagen invented the whole modern light van market with its 1950s original, complete with Beetle-derived air-cooled engined. The Transporter is the latest in this long line of Volkswagen vans and, like its illustrious ancestors, it comes in a broad range of body styles to appeal to everyone from tradesmen to surfers.
Volkswagen's simple panel van version of the Transporter is the most common model, but it also gives rise to the crew cab, chassis cab, double chassis cab, a Shuttle minibus and even the California campervan. The Caravelle is the plush people carrying version but the Transporter Kombi has plenty of appeal has a half-way house between a works vehicle and a family car.
On top of this, Volkswagen has also grasped the desire of many van buyers to personalise their van so it’s a little more than just a work vehicle. There are plenty of extras available - both aftermarket and directly from Volkswagen.
The Sportline models take care of this custom side of the Transporter’s offering and they come complete with a 180PS twin-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that delivers strong acceleration and relaxed cruising. This model also gives the buyer the choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic for seamlessly smooth gear changes.
The 180PS engine can also be ordered for the standard Transporter models, but most buyers tend towards the 2.0-litre turbodiesel in 84PS, 102PS and 140PS forms.
As you would expect of a Volkswagen, build quality is excellent and the Transporter enjoys some of the best residual values in its class. It’s also well equipped and every model comes with ESP traction control, hill hold control and driver and passenger airbags.
Used Buying Guide - T5 Transporter
Just like the Golf in the car world, so too the Volkswagen Transporter has an unrivalled reputation for quality and desirability. And it makes a good used buy, although with any van there are things to look out for. Check out our T5 buying guide.
What does a Volkswagen T5 Transporter (2003 – 2015) cost?
Buy a used Volkswagen Transporter from £16,991
Volkswagen T5 Transporter (2003 – 2015): What's It Like Inside?
The Volkswagen Transporter launched in 2010 offers users a choice of two wheelbases, three roof heights and the option of panel van, crew cab, chassis cab and minibus body styles, as well as the Caravelle six-seat people carrier and California campervan as more passenger car-oriented options. On top of this, Volkswagen also makes the Transporter with four gross vehicle weights, ranging from 600kg to 3200kg.
It means the Volkswagen cannot compete with the true heavy hitters in the van market, such as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Vauxhall Movano, but it’s still a useful load hauler and on a par with the likes of the Mercedes Vivaro and Nissan NV200. With maximum payloads of between 729kg and 1333kg, again the Transporter is good without ruffling the feathers of the best in class. The same is true for maximum payload volumes ranging from 5.8m3 to 9.3m3.
While it may not have the competition too worried when it comes to outright carrying capacity, the Volkswagen Transporter comes as standard with a sliding side rear door. There’s the option of adding a second sliding side door, while at the back there are twin side-hinged doors that open to 90-degrees. Rear doors that open out to 250-degrees to leave the load entrance completely unhindered are an option. The load sill is also low, which helped when lugging weighty items in and out of the back.
Volkswagen offers three different bulkhead options for the Transporter, covering high bulkhead with no window, or the same bulkhead with fixed window or a sliding window.
With a load bay length of between 2.57m and 2.97m, depending on which wheelbase you prefer, the Transporter also has a wide load bed. There’s the factory option of lining the inside of the panel with hardboard and Volkswagen also offers a variety of load lashing rails and rubber mats to make the Transporter’s cargo area more practical. As standard, there are four load securing rings in the short wheelbase model.
Up in the front cabin of the Transporter, it’s business as usual for Volkswagen. While not the most exciting or innovative of cab designs, the Transporter’s is neat and no-nonsense. It features a steering wheel that can be altered for angle and reach, as well as a driver’s seat with height adjustment to help fine tune the driving position to suit every driver.
Forward and side vision is good in the Transporter and the door mirrors offer clear views down the sides. Rear parking sensors are an option, as is Lane-change Assist to help prevent the van wandering over white lines unintentionally.
There’s a single passenger seat as standard or you can order a double passenger seat that also comes with a fold-down tray in the backrest. Passengers are treated to a front airbag as standard and so is the driver, while side curtain airbags are an option for the Transporter. It also comes with ESP and ABS anti-lock brakes on every model.
Comfort from the seats is good and the Transporter is also blessed with clear, easy to read instruments. All of the other controls are also simple to identify at night or at a glance and Volkswagen supplies a stereo with single CD player as standard. Satellite navigation, electric windows and air conditioning can all be added to the Transporter at extra cost.
What's the Volkswagen T5 Transporter (2003 – 2015) like to drive?
Every Volkswagen Transporter model uses a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, which is offered in 84PS, 102PS, 140PS and 180PS forms. The two less powerful engines come with a five-speed manual gearbox as their only choice, while the 140PS version has a six-speed manual as its only transmission.
The 180PS turbodiesel can be had with the same six-speed manual gearbox or there’s the option of fitting the seven-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox. All of these engines come with front-wheel drive transmissions as standard, but the 140PS and 180PS engines can also be had with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive for added traction in slippery conditions.
Having a five-speed gearbox does not hinder the two less powerful versions of the 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine thanks to well chosen gear ratios and the engines’ broad spread of pulling power.
The 84PS unit is at its best in town and can make motorway journeys more of a chore than they should be as it’s just too sluggish. However, the 102PS engine is much more rounded in its abilities and you’ll rarely have to change out of top gear when up to speed on the motorway. However, don’t expect vivid acceleration from either of these engines.
For those wanting to get more of a hurry on, the 140PS 2.0-litre turbodiesel is the best balance between performance and running costs. It provides fuel economy that is only marginally behind its 102PS sister engine’s yet it feels far brawnier and lively when you press the throttle pedal further along its travel. With 340Nm of torque on hand, the 140PS turbodiesel has considerably more oomph than the 102PS’s 250Nm and it’s not so far behind the 180PS motor’s 400Nm.
As well as these engines, Volkswagen also offers a 115PS Bluemotion version of the 2.0-litre turbodiesel that gives reasonable acceleration coupled to economy of 44.8mpg and 166g/km carbon dioxide emissions to make it a very clean, green choice. With the non-Bluemotion versions of the Transporter, emissions range from 184g/km to 240g/km, depending on which model you choose, and economy from as low as 31.0mpg to a good 40.4mpg.
All of the engines are quiet in use and the manual gearboxes have easy, light shift actions. For the ultimate in smooth gearchanges, however, you need to try the seven-speed DSG gearbox. It swaps from one gear to the next with almost imperceptible changes and makes the Transporter one of the best vans in its class to drive.
Helping the Transporter further its case as a fine van for driving is its supple suspension that makes light work of most battle-scarred roads. Even when fully loaded, the Volkswagen is more than able to deal with speed bumps and ruts with calm efficiency.
There is some lean from the body on the suspension, which allows the Transporter to sway a little more than the Ford Transit, but it’s no worse than most in this class. The Volkswagen makes up for this to a large extent with light, accurate steering and more nimble feel than much of the competition.
Real MPG average for a Volkswagen T5 Transporter (2003 – 2015)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their vehicles could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
What do owners think?
Our view gives your our opinion, based on driving hundreds of cars every year, but you can't beat the views of someone who lives with a car day-in, day out.
- 5 star 17%
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- 3 star 33%
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- 1 star 50%