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Volkswagen Transporter T5 2010 review

The T5 has been on the local market since 2003 and has always been a cut above the average commercial carrier.

The T5 has been on the local market since 2003 and has always been a cut above the average commercial carrier, but after a thorough makeover it's even better. VW has given its hero hauler new looks, new engines, a new seven-speed auto transmission and new safety with better brakes, more airbags, and ESP electronic stability programming standard across all models.

Despite the plethora of changes VW has made to the Transporter the fundamentals that made it an efficient workhorse, whether transporting people or payload, were already on the money and remain unchanged. The van range still boasts the same choice of short and long wheelbases, the same standard, medium and high roof height options, still delivers up to 9.3 cubic metres of load space, and will now carry more payload. Depending on the model the new T5 will haul up to 1.3 tonnes of payload, an increase of up to 19 per cent.

The great advantage of leaving the working end untouched is that current owners of Transporters can transfer their racks, shelving and other gear from their existing van into the new one without the need for expensive modifications. The pricing for the Transporter starts from $36,490, the nine-seater Caravelle peoplemover is tagged at $49,990, and the Multivan tops the range ranging from $49,990 to $77,990.


If the working end of the T5 is unchanged the operator end has come in for an extensive makeover, starting with the front sheetmetal. The updated T5 is all new from the A pillar forward, with a new bonnet, new headlamps, new grilles and bumpers, and it looks new. Gone is the hard-core commercial look of the old model, in its place is a much prettier face that should make it look more at home in less industrial settings.


But the changes are much more than skin deep and none go deeper than those under the new bonnet where new common-rail 2.0-litre four- cylinder turbo-diesel engines replace the old 1.9 and 2.5-litre five- cylinder turbo-diesels. All match or better the engines they replace for power and torque, and all deliver significant fuel consumption gains.

Three power ratings - 75kW, 103kW and 132kW - are offered in the Transporter commercial models. The two lower rating engines have a single turbocharger and for the first time boast common-rail injection and deliver the same power as the engines they replace, but boast increased torque over a broader speed range for better driveability. Van drivers are sure to find the 103kW engine a delight with its smooth driveability and powerful punch. At the top end of the engine range is the cracking 132kW twin-turbo diesel engine, which uses a combination of high and low pressure turbochargers to deliver impressive zip across a broad speed spectrum.

Buyers of the long wheelbase Caravelle nine-seater commercial peoplemover get the 103kW engine, while those opting for the Multivan high-end peoplemover have the choice of the 103kW and 132kW engines. While all engines outpace the engines they replace, they also stretch the gap between fuel stops. All offer fuel consumption savings of between seven and 16 per cent.

New to the T5 is an optional seven-speed auto DSG gearbox - it's so new that the T5 is the first VW model to receive it. Like the familiar six-speed DSG 'box it replaces the new seven- speeder is a super smooth operator with the same seamless shifting. Now with an extra ratio the driveability is even smoother. VW's 4Motion system has been updated as an option for those who need the added traction of all-wheel drive.


Larger front disc brakes add to the T5's braking power, but when the 132kW engine is optioned there are even bigger front discs as well as twin-piston front callipers. All models in the T5 range get standard electronic stability programming with rollover protection, an essential item for a commercial vehicle carrying a load. The T5's safety is also boosted with the added option of new head and thorax airbags.

Inside, the T5 driver gets new controls, new steering wheels, new fabric trim, improved seating in a quieter cabin. Drivers will also appreciate the cornering headlamps that light the way when turning at low speed; they will like the safety of the new radar system that detects vehicles in the driver's blind spot when changing lanes, the rear view camera, the rain-sensing wipers, and the ‘coming home’ lights that stay on for a time after the engine is turned off.

There’s no doubt about it the Transporter offers all the comforts, convenience, safety, driveability and performance of a passenger car.  The new common-rail diesel engines are smooth and deliver plenty of performance as observed driving on the streets of Newcastle.

The 103 kW engine, predicted by VW to be the volume seller in the range is a beauty. It pulls progressively from idle to quite high in the rev range, but its great strength is in the working range from 1750 to 2500 revs where it has good get up and go and will comfortably handle city traffic.

If the 103 kW engine is a great unit the 132 kW is even better. It’s working at its best between 1500 and 2000 revs, where it has all the zip you could need in the cut and thrust of town traffic.  Hit the right pedal and it fairly goes, and doesn’t let up as the revs rise until it’s doing a fair clip of speed.

For a driver in the need to cross town in a hurry this is the engine to go for.  The crossover between turbos can’t be detected the performance just keeps coming.

If the new engines are great, the gearboxes help put the performance to work. The manual ’box is a smooth shifting unit with good ratios that keep the T5 on the move, while the new seven-speed DSG is also impressive.  The shifts are silky smooth and nicely progressive so there’s no let-up in performance through the engine’s operating range. 

Drivers will also appreciate the smooth ride of the T5; little upsets its equilibrium, while the chassis is agile, responsive and predictable. But for the climb into the cabin there’s no sense of it being a van at all once you hit the road.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

(LWB) 2.5L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $16,390 – 21,010 2010 Volkswagen Transporter 2010 (LWB) Pricing and Specs
(SWB) 2.5L, Diesel, 6 SP $9,800 – 14,740 2010 Volkswagen Transporter 2010 (SWB) Pricing and Specs
103 TDI LWB 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $16,940 – 21,670 2010 Volkswagen Transporter 2010 103 TDI LWB Pricing and Specs
103 TDI LWB High 2.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $11,600 – 17,050 2010 Volkswagen Transporter 2010 103 TDI LWB High Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist


Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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