Any Editor’s Choice award is something of an indulgence, so it’s appropriate that this prize goes to what’s probably the biggest indulgence in the light commercial vehicle world.
Volkswagen’s Transporter Sportline is now in its second generation having returned with the facelifted Transporter in autumn 2011, and enjoying its status as the king of the sporting panel vans. Ford has offered the Transit Sportvan in a number of limited edition series, and Mercedes is about to introduce a Vito Sport X edition, but Volkswagen has managed to establish its Sportline branding thanks to the first and now post-facelift Transporters, and the old pre-facelift Caddy Sportline VW is still weighing up a replacement for.
As referenced above, the £28,220 plus VAT Sportline is certainly not cheap. But it’s a striking vehicle, available in a choice of metallic silver, pearlescent black or optional white with contrasting black roof. Unique 18-inch alloys, polished stainless steel side bars, front fog lights, roof spoiler, smoked rear lights and a gloss-black grille all mark out the Sportline as something a bit special, and that principle continues under the bonnet where a pleasingly rapid 180hp 2.0 bi-turbo TDI diesel engine resides.
The vehicle’s inside is as overt as the exterior, with two-tone leather upholstery spelling out that the Sportline isn’t a normal Transporter. Standard kit also includes toys unrecognisable to most LCV drivers including satellite navigation, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors and semi-automatic air-conditioning.
The Transporter Sportline comes in short- and long-wheelbase form, with both lengths available as a panel van or Kombi five-seater version while the acclaimed seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox is a £1400 option.
That means the Sportline range tops out at £31,990 plus VAT for the LWB Kombi DSG. It’s a hefty wedge of cash, but for a peerless commercial vehicle in terms of brand prestige, equipment, appeal and presence.
Fuel economy for the 180hp beast is 36.2mpg for the six-speed manual model and 34.9mpg for the DSG auto, and the manual panel van will complete the 0-62mph dash in under 10 seconds, heading onto 119mph flat out.
The light commercial vehicle market is rightly ruled by sensible choices made according to cost and fitness for purpose. But it should be celebrated that appealing vans such as this exist, which is why the Volkswagen Transporter Sportline takes the 2012 Editor’s Choice Award.
Highly Commended in this Editor’s Choice category is an interesting development going on down near Swindon. Chinese Loadhopper microvans built by manufacturer DFSK are being imported by a company called Vestatec, which is in the process of setting up a dealer network to sell the four-vehicle range of single- and double-cab pick-ups, van and tipper models, with prices starting at £6999. Vestatec claims that it has spotted a gap in the light commercial vehicle market left by the likes of the Suzuki Carry and Bedford Rascal, which were up to around 7000 sales per year in the mid-‘00s.
The cheap and cheerful vehicles aren’t going to win any awards for refinement and comfort, however, as workhorses they could find a niche not served by car-derived vans or the likes of Citroen’s Nemo.
The company is targeting 5000 sales per year by 2016 and is led by former Mitsubishi UK boss Jim Tyrrell, so its progress will make interesting viewing.