Volkswagen Transporter 2.0 T28 TDI 102PS Van Review
Stick almost any car driver in a brand new modern van and it will only be a matter of time before they raise their eyebrows and exclaim that well worn phrase “It’s just like driving a car!” Until now, I would have dismissed this as exaggeration - after all, a van is not a car, it is a commercial vehicle. Normally, a van compromises ride comfort with load carrying ability, as sometimes it is running light and often running very heavy, right at the upper limits of its capacity. But the latest Transporters have been restyled both inside and out and designed very much with the comfort and convenience of the driver in mind, although you’d be hard put to spot the difference between the old model and the new one. That’s because the external changes are low-key; the big changes are under the metal.
At A Glance
Now in its fifth generation, the external changes to the Transporter are subtle, with a modest reworking of the front of the vehicle and the rear lights. Best described as elegantly functional, a large plastic bumper moulding covers the front end and corners topped by the current VW corporate design grill. A one piece headlamp / indicator cluster adds to the unfussy appearance while the bonnet sweeps up to meet the large, steeply raked windscreen. Round the back, there are new rear lamp clusters, a cavernous loading bay and a choice of single or double doors. It comes in 2 body lengths and 3 roof heights and all Transporters come with a handy side door that opens wide enough to fit a euro pallet through. Two styles of alloy wheel are available for owners who feel the need to give their Transporter a final, finishing touch.
Engines & Spec
Here, we are looking at the Volkswagen Transporter T28 TDI short wheelbase range. These are the least expensive Transporters and the models that sell in the most significant numbers. The 1.9-litre TDI engine in our test vehicle has an 8-valve 4-cylinder configuration and is available in 84 and 102PS guises. Volkswagen’s highly effective Pumpe Duse technology is used instead of the common-rail injection set-up favoured by most competitors. It’s a direct injection system using a separate injector pump for each cylinder and offering some distinct advantages such as an extremely compact and lightweight engine design with higher injection pressure than the best common-rail units can currently muster. This means the fuel is burned cleaner and more efficiently, producing optimum power and fuel economy.
Optional extras include rails to secure loads to, a rubberised floor mat which provides grip and you can either stick with the standard van doors or you can have an optional lift up tailgate.
At The Wheel
Sorry to labour the point, but getting into the latest VW Transporter is almost like being in a car. Internally, there's a new three-spoke steering wheel, revised seats, a new instrument cluster, redesigned air conditioning controls and updated radios and sat navs. The thick rimmed steering wheel feels good on first grasp and the power steering has taken the weight out of the effort without destroying the feel for the tyres. It’s good to see that the dials have been upgraded, with white-on-black graphics remarkable for their clarity even in bright sunlight. The new radio/CD players and satellite navigation systems are to be welcomed too.
Drivers will be pleased to find a raft of storage options for odds and ends, including a lockable glove box, and the whole ambience has that distinct air of Volkswagen quality about it. The gear stick sprouts from the centre console, as is the fashion at the moment, and it falls nicely to hand and is a delight to use. As are the controls on the gently sloping facia, which are simple to pick out and manipulate without diverting attention from the road ahead. You could easily imagine you are in a people carrier from the top of the VW passenger car range, such is the refinement and measured simplicity of the cabin. The dash mounted gearshift is tactile, slotting positively around the box when changes are needed. The pedals, too, offer a reassuring touch underfoot, unlike previous generations of LCV where snatchy power brakes and strong throttle springs provided a constant reminder that drivers were at the wheel of a commercial vehicle.
On The Road
The Volkswagen Transporter’s interior is impressive. The crowning glory in this van’s make-up has to be its performance on the road. Even without a load on board to appease the heavy-duty suspension, the ride is exemplary and the steering is perfectly weighted. The squeaks, creaks, rattles or hums that seem to creep into commercial vehicles have been successfully banished in the case of the Transporter and the engine noise is noticeably well suppressed. There’s a reassuringly solid feeling about the Transporter suggesting that, like its predecessor, this model will run and run.
The 102bhp version we drove cruises easily on dual carriageways, although with a load on board the punchy acceleration is slightly blunted and top cruising speed struggles to get beyond 80mph. The Transporter's ride is impressive, smoothing out major potholes and speed bumps so that any cargo gets a smooth ride. Heavy, bulky items do affect the handling though no more than you would expect of any panel van this size.
VW is marketing the Transporter with a host of optional safety features, such as Side Assist. Using LEDs in the exterior mirror housing, it alerts the driver if he risks hitting, say, a car hidden in his blind spot when changing lanes on a motorway or dual carriageway. It will also warn the driver if he is about to pull into the path of a vehicle approaching rapidly from the rear. If the driver does have to brake suddenly, a standard safety feature ensures that the brake lights flash rapidly to alert following vehicles. Once the Transporter has stopped, the hazard warning lights come on automatically.
As you would expect of a Volkswagen, build quality is excellent and the Transporter also enjoys some of the best residual values in its class. 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. It's easy to drive, cheap to run and there's an option of four-wheel drive.
Our Man With A Van
Motoring journalist Adrian Foster has been commissioned to write impartial van and pick up reviews for our website, specifically to help with your decision making process. We have provided him with a van and the spec and nothing more, so you can rely on his views being real and honest.
Adrian began his career in the motor retail industry with Perry’s Group before turning his hand to motoring journalism. He launched the Drivelines motoring press agency as a means of providing high quality journalism on new cars, commercial vehicles, motorsport and the motor industry at large.