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Volkswagen Transporter 2010 review

The seven-speed DSG transmission is the big-ticket boost for Volkswagen, whether the Transporter is set up for passengers.
EXPERT RATING
7.5

A mid-life update hasn't transformed Volkswagen's T5 Transporter - at least not externally. It's what's under the slab-sided skin that counts and it's here that VW has filled out the niches of what is already an extensive model range.

The two-wheel drive versions of the T5 arrived in February and now the big appeal is the just-launched combination of a seven-speed DSG gearbox matched with 4Motion all-wheel drive.

That's an instant winner with the NSW ambulance service and should haul the Transporter into the sights of tradies who work in rural areas and resort owners looking for a vehicle to carry six passengers and their luggage off the beaten track.

PRICING AND DRIVETRAIN

The T5 comes in two wheelbase lengths, with three engines and three van heights. That variety is one of the reasons it only trails the Toyota HiAce and Hyundai iLoad on total sales. The resale value is another compelling argument for the T5 and one VW Australia Commercial Vehicles director Phil Clark is keen to point out.

"The NSW ambos buy them because we can tailor the design to their requirements - we do a lot of building for what customers want - and they get their money back on them when they're resold," he says.

The DSG is a $3000 option - and one most delivery operators should tick - while the 4Motion option is another $3500. The cheapest 4Motion-equpped vehicle will cost $45,490, rising to $77,990 for the Multivan Highline.

TECHNOLOGY

The seven-speed DSG transmission is the big-ticket boost for Volkswagen, whether the Transporter is set up for passengers or payload.
"The automatic opens up the market for us - the van business is about 50 per cent automatic," Clark says, while admitting that figure is high by global standards.

The DSG is unobtrusive and, mated to the 132kW 2.0-litre twin-turbodiesel, delivers impressive fuel economy. A high-speed run through southern Germany last week pushed the test seven-seat Multivan and high-roofer Transporter into double-digit figures, but only just.

It's the no-brainer option for people who will be in and out of the vehicle all day, even if the six-speed manual lets you work the engine harder.  The 4Motion system is only available on the twin-turbo engine and our time in it failed to register a flicker on the dash.

That's probably becasue the roads were more autobahn than around the barn, but it's another weapon in the Transporter's considerable arsenal of tricks. And the top-end T5 is the volume seller. The base 75kW engine accounts for 6 per cent of sales, the 103kW engine grabs 46 per cent and the 132kW version makies up 48 per cent.

An aftermarket Siekel off-road pack will raise the suspension another 35mm - or higher if required - and add Bilstein shocks if serious off-roading is required.

SAFETY

The safety features are cut-and-pasted straight out of the passenger car catalogue. There's a driver and front passenger airbag, and the option of adding head and thorax airbags for both parties. ESP stability control is standard across the range and there's the basic chassis

DRIVING

This is as car-like as big white boxes get, even if Volkswagen is at pains to point out most of its T5s aren't sold in white.  The chassis uses MacPherson struts up front and a semi-trailing independent rear axle with coil springs and an anti-roll bar at the rear.

The dash layout is typically VW, with clear instruments and switchgear that's easy to work. The ride from the high-roof Transporter was faultless, though at high speeds (much higher than Australians can legally travel), there was some "boom" from the empty cargo compartment down back. Wind the sound system up and you can drown it out, but it's one of the few reminders you're in a commercial vehicle.

The Multivan didn't have that issue and the only concession to "mini-bus" travel comes in the plastics, which look similar as those on a Polo but are harder - and presumably more durable - to the touch. Put that down as a plus for the owner. If you're travelling in the back, grab one of the rear seats - the squabs on the centre-row pair are a touch short for long-distance driving.

And the dash-mounted bottle-holders don't hold. They're good for a cup of coffee, but the spring-loaded arm grips too low down and lets 600mm bottles topple out even during sedate cornering.

Not that you have to be sedate - the 400Nm from the 132TDI motor pushes the vehicle down the road at a respectable rate - and at an average quoted fuel consumption of 8.4litres/100km. Those looking for something more citified can opt for the 103kW/370Nm 103DTI or the 75kW/250Nm 77TDI. All engines comply with Euro 5 emission standards.

VERDICT

All-wheel drive and DSG will keep the T5 going places.

Pricing Guides

$17,600
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$8,580
Highest Price
$26,620

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(LWB) 2.5L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $16,610 – 21,230 2010 Volkswagen Transporter 2010 (LWB) Pricing and Specs
(SWB) 2.5L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $11,770 – 15,730 2010 Volkswagen Transporter 2010 (SWB) Pricing and Specs
103 TDI LWB 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $17,050 – 21,890 2010 Volkswagen Transporter 2010 103 TDI LWB Pricing and Specs
103 TDI LWB High 2.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $13,750 – 18,040 2010 Volkswagen Transporter 2010 103 TDI LWB High Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Pricing Guide

$11,990

Lowest price, based on 15 car listings in the last 6 months

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