Volkswagen TranSporter SWB Van Review
Facts At A Glance
PRICES: (panel vans) £12,940-£15,140basic
ENGINES: 1.9-litreTDI PD (85 or 104PS)
LOAD VOLUME:5.8m3 – 6.7m3
VolkswagenTranSporter 1.9TDI SWB Range - ASHORTER TRANSPORTER
It’s The Models At The Budget End Of Volkswagen’s Transporter Range That Sell In The Biggest Numbers.
In the same way that high-performance derivatives create a ‘halo’ effectover a passenger car Range, the existence of a 2.5-litre 174bhp TDIengine option for Volkswagen’s Transporter van has done much to raiseits profile with commercial vehicle buyers. Just as with the quickesthot hatchbacks or super saloons, however, the most power-packedTransporter is not the one that sells most prolifically.
Manyvan buyers will roll up to the showroom, their hearts set on drivingaway the UK’s most powerful panel van but when cold, hard financialreality dawns, the majority will shrink back and settle for something alittle more prosaic. Something like a 1.9-litre TDI short wheelbasemodel perhaps.
TheTransporter’s 2.5-litre engines are superb. With their huge torqueswell arriving low down in the rev-Range, the amount of gearchangingrequired is dramatically cut and you can waft around serenely even witha big payload on board. The 1.9-litre units are none too shabby either,however, and they command price tags of a considerably more manageablenature. A decision to plump for the entry-level 85bhp 1.9-litre engineinstead of the ultimate 174bhp 2.5-litre will result saving of over£3,000 and even the 104bhp 1.9-litre engine is over £2,300 less costlythan the Range topper. Unless you really are going to load yourTransporter to the gunwales, utilising its payload capacity to themaximum on a regular basis, the abundant power of the 2.5-litre engineoptions isn’t really necessary. It’s good fun but not necessary. Manydrivers doing light cargo, short trip work, who don’t harbour a secretdesire to be the commercial vehicle Michael Schumacher will settle fora 1.9-litre unit and pocket the difference.
Here,we’re looking at the Volkswagen Transporter 1.9-litre TDI shortwheelbase Range. These are the least expensive Transporters and thatones that will sell in the most significant numbers. The 1.9-litre TDIengine has an 8-valve 4-cylinder configuration and is available in 85or 104PS guises. Volkswagen’s Pump Duse technology is used instead ofthe common-rail injection set-up favoured by most competitors. It’s adirect injection system using a separate injection pump for eachcylinder, less advanced technologically than the latest common-raildiesels but offering some distinct advantages. Where othermanufacturers abandoned direct injection to jump on the common-railbandwagon, Volkswagen persevered and have been able to achieve anextremely compact and lightweight engine design with higher injectionpressure than the best common-rail units can currently muster. Thismeans, the fuel is burned cleaner and more efficiently producing themaximum power and fuel economy, the only area where common-rail enginestend to trump Volkswagen’s TDI is that of refinement.
"…onactually analysing what your van will be used for, you may wellconclude that a 1.9TDI short wheelbase will do the job."
The85bhp 1.9-litre engine produces 148lb/ft maximum torque at only2,000rpm. It takes a lengthy 23.6s to reach 60mph from standstill butthe lurch up to 30mph fells much sprightlier. Combined fuel consumptionis measured at 36.7mpg and CO2 emissions at 208g/km. The 104bhpalternative offers identical fuel economy and emissions but markedlybetter performance. 0-60mph in 18.4s is much more like it (only 6seconds slower than the 174bhp model) while torque of 184lb/ft at2,000rpm makes the Transporter even more spirited and flexible at lowspeeds. Both engines are fitted with the 5-speed gearbox found in theold T4 Transporter but the dash-mounted lever is nicely weighted andallows quick, fluent changes.
Theshort wheelbase models might be the shortest in the current T5Transporter line-up but they’re still plenty longer than the old T4,and taller, and wider for that matter. Overall, this short wheelbaseTransporter is 18cm longer than the equivalent T4, Plus it’s also 6cmwider and 3cm higher. All of which would be completely useless if thevehicle was no bigger on the inside but, fortunately, the T5 boasts a0.4m3 increase in cubic capacity and a noticeably more spacious cabarea. Gross vehicle weights vary from 2,600kg in the T26 through2,800kg and 3,000kg up to 3,200kg, although the largest T32 is onlyoffered with the 104bhp 1.9-litre engine. There are also two roofheights available with the short wheelbase: standard, which creates a5.8m3 load volume, and the medium roof which increases capacity to6.7m3.
Onevery Transporter model, there’s standard equipment including remotecentral locking, a height and reach adjustable steering wheel, aheight, and lumbar adjustable driver’s seat, driver’s airbag and ABSbrakes. Naturally, there’s a host of other extras you can specify atadditional cost, including a full bulkhead with or without a window,but that basic spec is very generous with all the key features forcomfort, safety and security present and correct.
TheTransporter’s outward appearance isn’t particularly inspiring but it’sneat and tidy in the best Volkswagen traditions and inside there’s areal touch of class about the place. Drivers will be pleased to find araft of storage options for odds or ends, including a lockableglovebox, and the whole ambience has that distinct air of Volkswagenquality. The gearstick sprouts from the centre console, as is thefashion at the moment, and it falls nicely to hand. As do the controlson the gently sloping facia which are simple to pick out and manipulatewithout diverting attention from the road ahead. You could easily be ina people carrier from the top of the Volkswagen passenger car Range,such is the refinement and measured simplicity of the cabin.
Goodthough the Volkswagen Transporter’s interior is, the crowning glory inthis van’s make-up has to be its performance on the road. Even withouta load onboard to appease the heavy-duty suspension, the ride isexemplary and the steering is perfectly weighted. The squeaks, creaks,rattles or hums that seem to creep into commercial vehicles have beensuccessfully banished and the engine noise is noticeably wellsuppressed. There’s a solidity about the T5 Transporter suggestingthat, like its predecessor, this model will run and run. The 1.9-litreshort wheelbase models might cost less but they share many keyqualities with more expensive variants from higher up the Range.Appealing though the prospect of a 174bhp panel van will undoubtedly beto many people, on actually analysing what your van will be used for,you may well conclude that a 1.9TDI short wheelbase will do the job.