Favouring evolution rather than revolution, Volkswagen has accorded the Transporter a mild makeover under the T6.1 banner.

Die-hard fans of the model may coo over the restyled radiator grille, front bumper and dashboard. They will be aware, however, that the key changes lie beneath the metal, with even greater stress placed on safety.

Crosswind assist is now standard on the T6.1 – it should help ensure you aren’t blown into an adjacent lane in a gale on the motorway – as are cruise control with a speed limiter, and eCall. The last-named device triggers an alert to an emergency call centre if the van is involved in a smash, and is now mandatory on all new types of light commercial.

A variety of other new safety devices are listed as options. Further changes include the arrival of speed-sensitive electromechanical steering.

Under the bonnet you will find the familiar 2.0-litre TDI diesel at either 90hp (previously 84hp), 110hp (102hp), 150hp (no change) or 199hp (204hp). The attempt to promote the Transporter with a series of petrol engines has been quietly abandoned.

Either a five or a six-speed manual transmission is fitted depending on the power output, and the superb seven-speed DSG auto gearbox is on the options list. Almost all the models sold are front-wheel drive, but you can opt for 4Motion four-wheel drive instead if you need to stay mobile in winter weather.

Gross weights extend from 2.6t to 3.2t, gross payload capacities from 713kg to 1,309kg, and load cubes from 5.8m3 to 9.3m3.

Two levels of trim are on offer: entry-level Startline and the more upmarket Highline. Startline models can be upgraded with an optional Business Pack, which includes air-conditioning, as a halfway house between the two specifications.

Like its predecessor, the T6.1 is produced as a van, a chassis cab, and as a passenger-carrying Kombi, and with two different wheelbases and heights.

A battery-powered e-Transporter developed in conjunction with automotive engineering group ABT is set to appear on this side of the Channel this year.

We opted to get to grips with a short-wheelbase T28 van in Highline trim with the 110hp engine married to a five-speed manual gearbox. Such was its astonishingly high level of build quality that even Herefordshire’s hideously potholed highways – a demanding test for any vehicle – failed to shake it apart.

Detail Side Dr

Load bay

Access to the 2.8-tonner’s 5.8m3 cargo area is afforded by either twin doors or a hatch-type rear door (ours had the latter) and a sliding nearside door.

Eight load tie-down points are fitted, and a full-height steel bulkhead is present to ensure that anything not properly secured does not slide forwards into the cabin.

LED lighting is fitted, as it is in the cab. Our demonstrator’s load bay was fully ply-lined at extra cost.


Interior and equipment

The Transporter’s dashboard changes are evolutionary rather than groundbreaking, which is what one would expect from VW. Some of the technology it delivers is a little more exciting.

Our van was equipped with an optional Discover Media DAB+ satellite navigation system with an 8in colour touchscreen, 32GB of media storage, voice control, and free map updates via the internet.

Also included are mobile online services courtesy of VW’s We Connect Plus, wireless App-Connect and an integrated eSIM. Free of charge for the first year, the package keeps you connected with your van via your smartphone, warning you, for example, if it is the subject of an attempted theft.

A DAB radio with remote controls on the steering wheel is standard on all T6.1s, as is Bluetooth connectivity.

Air-conditioning is fitted to Highlines along with electric windows and electrically adjustable and foldable heated exterior mirrors – shame they come without a separate wide-angle section. Like the door handles and bumpers, the mirror casings are colour-coded so that they match the rest of the body.

Storage facilities in the three-seater cab include two bins in each of the doors and a smallish, lockable, glovebox with two shelves above it – one big, one small. Two more shelves are set into the top of the dashboard, one of which plays host to a 12V power point.

A small shelf protruding from the dashboard accommodates a pair of USB sockets and steals a bit of the centre passenger’s legroom. It accommodates a cupholder too. Cupholders are also to be found at either end of the fascia, making three in all.

Suitable for installation in one of the door pockets is a waste bin – just the place to put discarded sweet wrappers.

Driver and passenger airbags are provided, and grab handles on the A-pillars make cab entry just that little bit easier.

The leather-trimmed steering wheel can be adjusted for reach and height. The height of the driver’s seat, which features lumbar adjustment plus an armrest, can be altered too.

As indicated earlier, safety features abound. The T6.1 boasts automatic post-collision braking system. It applies the brakes after a smash with the aim of preventing a second impact.

Other safety devices include ABS, electronic stabilisation programme, brake assist, and hill start assist.

A traction control system is installed, and can be switched off if necessary, and the Transporter comes with an electronic diff lock. If a wheel starts to spin on a slippery or loose surface then it will be braked, and power directed to a wheel with more grip.

Especially worthy of note is the provision of adaptive cruise control with front assist and city emergency braking system – standard on Highline models. The package ensures you automatically stay back from vehicles in front of you on dual-carriageways and motorways in line with a preset distance of up to 120m. In urban areas it warns of hazardous situations and triggers emergency braking at speeds of up to 18mph.

It has been upgraded so that it detects the presence of cyclists and pedestrians as well as vehicles.

Highline derivatives also boast front and rear parking sensors. Front fog lights with a cornering function further enhance safety, and a rain sensor for the heated windscreen’s wipers ensure they come on automatically in a downpour.

High beam assist – an option – dips the headlights automatically whenever necessary; when a car is coming towards you at night, for example.

Turning to the suspension, McPherson-type struts help support the front while an independent set-up with coil springs and load-sensitive shock absorbers does the job at the rear. Our test Volkswagen Transporter sat on 16in alloy wheels shod with 205/65 R16C Bridgestone Duravis R660 Eco tyres.

Power-assisted steering delivers a 13.2m turning circle between walls shrinking to 11.9m between kerbs.

Detail Engine

Engine and gearbox

Our test van’s 2.0-litre common-rail direct fuel-injection turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder diesel delivers its maximum power output across a 3,200-4,250rpm plateau. Top torque of 250Nm kicks in over a wider plateau of 1,250-3,100rpm.

A diesel particulate filter plus selective catalytic reduction, which uses AdBlue, are there to ensure the Transporter complies with the Euro6 exhaust emission regulations. You will find the filler point for the 13-litre AdBlue reservoir under a flap on the nearside of the vehicle, along with the diesel filler point.


Our disappointment at the lack of a sixth gear was assuaged somewhat by the quality of the five-speed box’s change. It’s slick, it’s quick, and allows you to go up and down the gears far more quickly than is permitted by one or two other transmissions we can think of. That makes it easier to extract the best of what is available from the engine. When you are lightly laden 110hp is fine, but if you are running at maximum weight through hilly territory then a bit more power might come in handy, especially if you are towing a trailer.

Stepping up to 150hp might be a bit much in a short-wheelbase 2.8-tonner though, so it’s a pity VW doesn’t offer a 120hp or 130hp variant as a halfway house.

The Transporter handles well. The new electromechanical steering tightens up nicely as you take a bend, but offers ample assistance when attempting to wriggle into a tight parking space.

If that’s still too much like hard work, then you can always resort to park assist. New for the T6.1, and fitted to our vehicle as part of an option pack, it takes control of the steering and eases you into the slot. All you need to do is operate the pedals.

The pack includes an exemplary rear-view camera, which delivers a remarkably clear picture, and trailer assist. It automatically manoeuvres the van and any trailer it may be towing during parallel and reverse parking.

Included, too, in yet another safety measure is side protection. It consists of sensors that monitor the van’s flanks and trigger audible and visual warnings when getting too close to pedestrians or to obstacles such as pillars or walls.

The van’s ride is as good as can be expected over the UK’s rapidly disintegrating road surfaces. In-cab noise cannot be counted as an issue, although the engine can sound harsh under acceleration.

Stop/start helps reduce fuel consumption and is complemented by regenerative braking. We achieved about the same as the official combined figure quoted by VW – 37.7mpg – and would have expected our demonstrator to be a bit more frugal (the penalty you pay if you do not have that extra gear).

Traffic sign recognition, another new feature, was installed as an option. The display gives you the speed limit in force on the road you’re on along with the speed you are actually doing, and needs to be bigger.

Present too was another optional novelty for Transporter: active lane assist with side assist. Drift out of lane, and a twitch on the steering wheel edges you back into the lane you should be in, while alerting you to the danger.

Rear 3.4


The Transporter comes with a three-year/100,000-mile warranty plus a separate three-year paint warranty and an anti-perforation corrosion warranty that lasts for 12 years. A three-year roadside assistance package is included in the overall deal.

Customers can opt for flexible service intervals, which rely on long-life oil. Sensors tell them when it needs changing – more regularly if the van works in dirty, dusty conditions, for example; less regularly if it does not.

The alternative is to stick with fixed intervals, with a minor service at 12 months/10,000 miles and a major service at 24 months/20,000 miles.

No side rubbing strips are fitted, which left our demonstrator’s expensive (and attractive) Copper Bronze metallic paint finish vulnerable to minor scrapes and dings.

VW Transporter T6.1 T28 SWB Highline 2.0 TDI 110hp 5sp manual

Price (ex VAT) £26,125

Price range (ex VAT) £21,635-£38,600

Gross payload 886kg

Load length 2,572mm

Load width (min/max) 1,244mm/1,700mm

Load bay height1,410mm

Load volume 5.8m3

Loading height 568mm

Rear door aperture 1,473mm x 1,299mm

Side door aperture1,017mm x 1,282mm

Gross vehicle weight 2,800kg

Braked trailer towing weight 2,200kg

Residual value 30.1%

Cost per mile 46.6p

Engine size/power 1,968cc, 110hp @ 3,200-4,250pm

Torque 250Nm @ 1,250-3,100rpm

Gearbox 5-spd

Fuel economy 37.7mpg

Fuel tank 70 litres

CO2 185g/km

Warranty 3yrs/100,000mls

Service intervals 2yrs/20,000mls

Insurance grouptbc

Price as tested £30,305

Options fitted

High beam assist £130

Tyre pressure monitoring system £130

Load area ply lining £215

Traffic sign recognition £230

Metallic paint £625

Active lane assist with side assist £1,000

Discover Media DAB+ with We Connect Plus £1,100

Trailer assist with park assist £750


Ford Transit Custom

Price (ex VAT) £23,040-£43,600

Load volume 6.0-8.33

Gross payload 685-1,459kg

Engines 105hp, 130hp, 170hp, 185hp 2.0 diesel, 92.9kW PHEV

Verdict: The Transit Custom’s phenomenal success in the UK is a just reward for its many positive attributes. Its ride, handling and overall performance are all to an extraordinarily high standard. The Custom is impressive enough as a straightforward diesel van, but the PHEV plug-in hybrid and the mHEV mild hybrid are both worth checking out. They helped Ford win the What Van? 2020 Green Manufacturer of the Year award.

Peugeot Expert

Price (ex VAT) £22,375-£36,280

Load volume 4.6-6.13

Gross payload 960-1,469kg

Engines 100hp 1.5 diesel, 120hp, 148hp, 174hp 2.0 diesel

Verdict: The Expert is without doubt a safe choice thanks to its acceptable fuel economy respectable warranty, sensible service intervals and well-judged equipment levels. Do not forget that it is also marketed through Citroen dealers as the Dispatch, through Vauxhall dealers under the Vivaro banner, and by Toyota dealers as the Proace. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t play one brand off against another in order to get the best deal.

Renault Trafic

Price (ex VAT) £22,950-£33,900

Load volume 5.2-8.63

Gross payload 1,036-1,255kg

Engines 120hp, 145hp, 170hp diesel

Verdict: The Trafic has recently been rejuvenated, with new engines and the praiseworthy Efficient Dual Clutch gearbox made available for the first time. While not short of sensible ideas, the Trafic lacks some of the more sophisticated safety devices seen on some of its rivals. The same model is sold by Fiat Professional as the Talento and by Nissan as the NV300. Never forget that it can pay to shop around.

The Final Verdict

Design 9/10 – Continued stress on safety is to be applauded.

Cabin 8/10 – Comfortable, quality environment with lots of useful features.

Ride 8/10 – Copes well with Britain’s bashed and battered road surfaces.

Refinement 9/10 – Staggeringly good standard of build. In-cab noise is well-suppressed.

Load area 7/10 – Easy to access with a sturdy bulkhead and lots of cargo tie-down points.

Handling/performance 7/10 – Former is top-notch, but a bit more power wouldn’t go amiss when fully laden.

Engine/transmission 7/10 – Well-matched and the gear change is slick, but a sixth would be welcome.

Standard equipment 9/10 – Highline spec gives you most of what you are likely to require and a bit more.

Operating costs 6/10 – Sensible warranty and healthy RVs are good, but we’d like better mpg.

What Van? subjective rating 8/10 – Well put-together package gets top marks for driver/road user protection.

Overall Rating = 78/100