Review: Volkswagen T6 Transporter (2015)

Rating:

Even more refined and car-like to drive, most economical 102PS 2.0 TDI is also the best, large range of body configurations, lots of standard equipment.

Not an all-new Transporter rather a revamp of the T5, lacking legroom up front which hampers the driving position.

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2 September 2019 Volkswagen Transporter 6.1 launched

The hydraulic power steering of the T6 has given way to an electromechanical system in the T6.1 which enables active intervention into steering control. This opens up access to new assistance systems,... Read more

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Volkswagen T6 Transporter (2015): At A Glance

If the familiarity of this T6 generation Transporter’s look is is bugging you, that’s because Volkswagen has adopted an ‘if it isn’t broke’ policy. So what you’re actually seeing here is the most comprehensive of facelifts. The chassis and fixed points are the same, so both the dimensions and capacities of the various T6 body configurations remain largely the same.

That's no bad thing. In fact it's very good. The T6 Transporter is a peach: an extremely fuel efficient, high quality and refined stuff-lugger, with a notable reduction in cabin noise compared to its predecessor, the T5.

You do, of course, get redesigned bumpers and lights, so if you were to place a T5 and a T6 side-by-side, you’d see the modernisation. That’s not least because of the T6’s distinctive LED daytime running lights - one bit of technology of many that’s lifted from Volkswagen’s passenger car range.

You do also get the largest range of body styles offered by any single van moniker, says Volkswagen, comprising a couple of wheelbases, three roof heights, four gross vehicle weights, and panel van, Kombi, Shuttle, Caravelle and California configurations. 

The engine range is derived from those found in your everyday Golf with the mainstay a Euro 6 compliant 102PS 2.0-litre TDI boasting a claimed 47.9mpg combined - a big improvement on the old model. In 2017, in response to the wave of anti-diesel sentiment, a 2.0-litre TSI petrol was added to the range. 

The cabin also gets a refresh, with new seating materials and trim. The driver will get car-like assistance and safety systems, with adaptive cruise control, automatic city braking and post-collision braking. A driver monitoring system is also fitted as standard, with audio and visual signals triggered when the driver's behaviour indicates fatigue.

However, the T6 doesn’t simply shine because Volkswagen has thrown the entire passenger car stock cupboard at it – it shines because it’s taken a strong base and made it even stronger. One or two obvious giveaways aside, this is as car-like a van experience as you could hope for.

Driven: Volkswagen Transporter 6.1 facelift

Long Term Test - Transporter 2.0 TSI Petrol

Is the Volkswagen 2.0 TSI petrol panel van a realistic alternative to diesel? Honest John Vans tested one for three months to see if it could cut it as a daily driver.

Read the long term test here >>

Transporter _012 (3)

What does a Volkswagen T6 Transporter (2015) cost?

List Price from £21,635 +VAT
Buy new from £17,895 +VAT
Contract hire from £210.00 +VAT pm
Lease from £240.00 +VAT pm

Volkswagen T6 Transporter (2015): What's It Like Inside?

If you’re looking for outright space above all else, the Transporter T6 hasn’t cured the T5’s fundamental space deficit compared to key competition like the Ford Transit Custom and Vauxhall Vivaro.

It’s all exactly as was  - there’s been no change in load length, compartment volume or maximum payload. That means space for three Euro pallets, a 2500kg trailer weight, up to 1331kg payload (1274kg in the long wheelbase), a 9.3m3 maximum load compartment volume and a max 2.97 metre load compartment length.

And as before, your choice for the panel van is two wheelbases, three roof heights and two seating combinations, while the Kombi does without the roof options.

The unchanged dimensions, both interior and exterior, mean that existing T5 owners’ fixtures and fittings will be easily transferable. That’s money saved, which especially for small business users will be good news.

The sliding side door remains, and buyers can specify rear barn doors that open to 250 degrees unlatched. They open to reveal a low, wide loading lip with a fully lined floor featuring six anchorage points (or eight in the long wheelbase version), while a pair of dome lights provide interior illumination, plus one for the step.

Both rear barn doors have an inner release handle, as does, of course, the sliding side door, which at just over 40 inches is wide opening – though not quite enough to accommodate a Euro pallet.

Including all the engine and gearbox choices there’s a typically labyrinthine selection of Transporter possibilities, though mercifully there are only two trim levels: Startline and Highline.

The result, including all the engine and gearbox choices, is a typically labyrinthine selection of Transporter possibilities, though mercifully there are only two trim levels: Startline and Highline.

Startline comes packed with standard kit, including Bluetooth phone preparation, a five-inch touchscreen media and infotainment display, a USB connection for playing all your favourite R&B hits, remote central locking and a suite of safety systems including lane change assist with side scanning, a driver alert system, and hill hold assist.

You’ll be able to distinguish a Startline van by its black plastic bumpers and steel wheels, while a Highline makes the former body coloured and the latter alloy. Inside, Highline vans get cold air (climate control, no less), automatic lights and wipers, a heated windscreen, heated mirrors, a leather steering wheel and gear knob, a better alarm, cruise control, parking sensors, and a pair of those handles on the A-pillars whose function appears solely to display one’s bicep to other motorists.

There’s more equipment besides, with the result that a Highline Transporter really feels like a high class, high quality product – and one that Volkswagen itself is keen to stress is highly influenced by its car range.

Interestingly, buyers will also be able to specify one of a few two-tone paint options, with contrasting top and bottom halves. Initially Volkswagen UK was against the idea, until it showed a couple to dealerships and they basically demanded it. It’s a painstaking and partly manual process to complete the job, we’re told, which is why it’s expected to cost in the region of £1500 as an option.

A whole raft of safety system are available, much of it groundbreaking in the van market. These include Emergency City Braking and Active Cruise Control. The latter will prove very useful for those driving big miles on the motorways, especially abroad.

Other than that, it’s as you were for the Transporter. It remains the classy choice. The choice for those who want understated refinement first, outright space second. That said, this is still a capacious and flexible van.

What's the Volkswagen T6 Transporter (2015) like to drive?

The T6 is one of the best van-based MPVs to drive. Its handling characteristic is of calm refinement, with a notable lack of engine, wind and road noise, especially at lower speeds. 

It does, of course, get gruff when any of the diesel engines are pushed, but that's rarely required thanks to plenty of low down torque. The ride quality serves up typical Volkswagen smoothness without ever suffering from that over-soft bounciness that plagues some vans, especially around town.

Taller drivers may find a lack of legroom in the front because the seats don’t go back far enough, which assists in making the driving position quite ‘short-legged’ and perhaps tiring over longer journeys. 

This is not a problem exclusive to the Transporter though and elsewhere the T6 feels as car-like as you could hope for. The steering is wonderfully light and the pedals are set up a charm, making this an extremely easy van to drove smoothly. 

The T6 was launched in 2015 with a range of Euro 5 engines that powered the outgoing T5, though they were phased out from late 2015 in favour of cleaner Euro 6 units. The Euro 5 2.0-litre TDI engines feature 84PS, 102PS, 140PS and a twin turbo 180PS, but they’re shown up for both refinement and economy by the Euro 6 units that are offered with 84PS, 102PS, 150PS and 204PS. 

Despite the relatively low horsepower rating, the entry-level turbo diesel engine has been tuned to deliver the bulk of its 220Nm from just 1500rpm. Much like the old Volkswagen PD diesel engines, it maximises its punch in a quite narrow but easily accessible power band. That makes it feel stronger than it actually is. It's a perfect companion for a heavy-laden van bustling about town. 

By contrast, the 204PS twin-turbo diesel falls slightly short under the weight of expectation. Replacing the 180PS BiTDI, it makes the Transporter one of the most powerful standard commercial vehicles on sale.

In 2017, Volkswagen added a 2.0-litre petrol engine to the Transporter mix. Available with 150PS or 204PS, the four-cylinder unit provides a welcome option for urban drivers. The 150PS unit will return 280Nm from 1500rpm - 3750rpm, which is 40Nm less than the 150PS TDI. The torque gap between the 204PS unit and its equivalent diesel - the 2.0BiTDI - is somewhat more notable, with the 250Nm being 100Nm less than bi-turbo diesel. 

Volkswagen has resisted becoming the first manufacturer to really up the plastics game of a van interior. So, even though it’s just about the best there is in terms of matching class, utility and durability - as in, it looks good, has lots of storage space and is screwed together properly - there’s not a soft-touch surface in sight. 

Clearly a van is supposed to be utilitarian, but why must they all take their plastics from the school of hard knocks? That said, for the Caravelle, Volkswagen has covered most of the open cubbyholes with soft-closing, high-gloss panels, and they do highlight how tastefully designed this cabin is. 

The multimedia system is also lifted from Volkswagen’s passenger cars department. It’s one of the most intuitive around, so here it seems positively futuristic and is another plus from the driver’s seat. 

Real MPG average for a Volkswagen T6 Transporter (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.

Average performance

80%

Real MPG

26–46 mpg

MPGs submitted

48

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.

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