Multiversatile Multivan

Transporter variants seem to be coming thick and fast. Delivery looks at a value for money upmarket option for shifting the family

So far, in the trilogy of Transporter people movers under our evaluation, we’ve reported on the very special Multivan that comes with leather trim and a hire car level of opulence, and we’ve reported on the Caravelle as the practical transport alternative. Now we hit middle ground with the Multivan without the leather trim but with almost all the advantages of the higher priced model.

Like us, you might be starting to think that as far as Volkswagen is concerned, you can have any colour as long as its metallic silver. Well, I suppose it’s better than the ever present examples of white vans and white utes, but it does make everything look annoyingly similar, at least externally.

The Multivan Comfortline starts the ball rolling with twin bucket seats in the front, twin captain’s chairs, in the second row seating, that swivel and spin to face forwards or rearwards, and a three-seater bench seat in row three.

You can move VW-Multivan_P2the second row and third row seats forwards and backwards on their location rails to increase or decrease passenger space, while gaining or losing parcel and luggage space behind row three, in the area accessed by the tailgate. It’s also possible to flip the row three seatback backwards or forwards. When in the upright position, there’s a roll out security cover that hides items in the luggage area by clipping onto locking catches at each rear “D” pillar.

Not optioning up to leather trim throughout the seating makes the pricing several thousands of dollars keener, and, in reality, the quality of the cloth trim and its presentation shouldn’t give any passengers cause to complain. There is, however, the expectation of those travelling in a Multivan used for high-end airport transfers, and the like, that leather is what the customer demands. So, here the choice comes down to application rather than personal preference.

The Comfortline and the more opulently specified Highline share the general engine, transmission, suspension and safety options with each other. The differences come as a result of whoever ticks the options boxes and selects the higher powered engine, the optional 4Motion all-wheel-drive transmission, with or without the optional differential lock, the optional larger diameter rim and lower aspect ratio tyre fitment, the optional sports suspension package, the optional powered open/close sliding doors, the optional 32-litre warming or cooling box that comes with a second battery installation, the optional additional window blinds, waste bin and drawers in the rear bench, that’s called the Good Night Package, or the optional integral Sat/Nav unit in the dashboard.

As you can now see, nothing in the specification list is seemingly without an element of variation. Pearl orVW-Multivan_7 metallic paint finish is also optional, but it’s at this point that we start to find some common details, such as the dark tinted windows in the passenger compartment and leather trimmed, multi-function steering wheel, which are standard in the Highline and again optional in the Comfortline. Other standard features in the Highline, that are optional in the Comfortline, include fog lights with a cornering function, dusk sensing headlamps with a coming home function, rain sensing wipers and an auto dimming rear vision mirror.

There are even more features that are optional no matter what level of Multivan you buy, and these include a powered sunroof and electric folding door mirrors. The advantage of all the options, especially with the Comfortline, is that the purchase price will sit more easily with your finance advisor if you don’t tick all the boxes. You can determine at what level of fiscal fortitude you indulge yourself, precluding things that you’d never use and taking advantage of those you would. One example is actually the powered sliding side doors. You’d think it’s no great effort to open and close the door, but being able to power them from the driver’s seat is probably the most impressive asset you can select.

We have to stop and take stock of all the option box ticking here and discuss roadholding, handling and general driving pleasure. It’s in these three categories that the latest model of the Transporter, the T5, really excels.

The standard suspension is by independent MacPherson struts on the front, with sub-frame mounted coil springs and gas dampers, while, at the rear, the set-up uses coil springs and a semi-trailing independent axle. Remember here that the drive from the engine goes to the front wheels, only heading rearwards as an additional inclusion with those buying the 4Motion all-wheel-drive package.

The 4Motion system is superbly capable, and if you think you might be in the habit of picking up clients in the middle of a muddy paddock or a country horse race meeting, then we’d not hesitate to recommend it. If you have no interest in the rural or the agricultural aspects of this world, and don’t like the snow, stay with front-wheel drive.VW-Multivan_2

Much the same advice applies to the tyre and rim selection. The current trend towards larger rims and lower aspect ratio tyres is largely for visual gain. Yes, you will get better roadholding and cornering from these tyre and rim packages, but the difference will only really become apparent when you complete hot laps at a racetrack. For all other general driving, our advice would be to stay with the standard pick of 16-inch rim with a 65 aspect ratio tyre. The ride will be more comfortable without harsh thumps into every pothole, and tyre noise will be at a minimum. The tyres will last longer and they’ll be cheaper to replace. All of which sounds like a good reason for selection to us.

The choice of engine is something you’ll have to decide upon, and here it’s a decision between two, four-cylinder, 2.0-litre, double overhead camshaft, 16-valve, turbocharged diesel engines that drive the front wheels. Fuel economy is almost identical, actually favouring the higher output 132 kW engine over the standard 103kW unit by 0.1 l/100 km, with a combined figure of 8.1 l/100 km. Taking the 132 kW route also brings with it 60 more Newton-metres of torque, with 400 Nm rated at 1,500 rpm through to 2,000 rpm. The smaller output engine provides 103 kW at 3,500 rpm, 500 rpm earlier than maximum power of the 132 kW version, and offers peak torque of 340 Nm between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm.

VW-Multivan_P1Volkswagen is very proud of its DSG transmission and takes every opportunity to promote its advantages over other transmission systems. It’s the only transmission available in the Multivan, be it in Comfortline or Highline, and adds a premium of $2,500-$3,000 to every vehicle. Whether you want to change gears or not, the seven-speed DSG is your only choice. Time may change that decision as other models in the range provide the alternative between full manual gearboxes and DSG automated manual transmissions.

If you are in any doubt about which type of people mover you will ultimately choose, the decision will make itself very obvious once you’ve taken a test drive.

The Transporter provides a firm, well controlled ride with excellent vision, good steering (thanks to the well weighted, power steering unit), excellent suspension and high comfort levels. It’s very easy to access, either in the front or the two rows of seating in the rear, and the seats not only look good, they fulfil their expectation by being extremely comfortable.

You get a huge swag of safety inclusions in the Transporter, including driver and passenger airbags and head and thorax airbags. The passengers get curtain airbags and the vehicle itself comes with electronic stability, hill start assist, anti-lock braking, emergency brake pressure assistance, anti-slip regulation and front and rear parking sensors.

We’ve come a long way in the introduction of safety inclusions in vehicles that are operating in a dual role, having primarily been designed to carry loads as a commercial vehicle. As we stated in our annual awards for the Delivery Magazine Best Van of 2010, the Transporter is currently king.

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