The Money or the Box

For VW’s Transporter T6, the focus is all about fuel economy – Words and images by Chris Mullett

Recent entrants into the highly contested medium van segment that have arrived on our shores from China may at first sight look like they provide a financial benefit over the established European brands. But, although the one box van shape may look similar, the equal rights comparison ends right there with little or no customer or brand support once the Chinese offering has left the dealership forecourt.

With resale values of Chinese products hitting the floor at a recently quoted $1500 for a four-year-old unit at trade-in, there’s little point in considering them unless the buyer feels inclined to throw it away at the end of a few years. There’s also the risk of having long waits for parts availability in the event of a breakdown, with a vehicle off the road and unusable in the process.

So, with that warning ringing out loud and clear, Delivery Magazine has been looking closely at the Transporter T6, Volkswagen’s latest model that follows the Transporter T5 that has collectively sold almost two million models over 13 years. The impressive heritage of course continues further back in time than the T5, with the generic VW design being in production for 65 years with 12 million examples having hit the various road networks of the world.

The new T6 van comes as a standard panel van, a crew van, a single-cab/chassis or a dual-cab/chassis. There are two different wheelbases and three variations in height.

Although the external appearance is more a case of a gentle design update, with very similar styling that seems to simply smooth our the sharper edges of the T5, the main development within the T6 comes down to engine choice.

Sitting under the bonnet (yes, it remains at the front), is a new range of four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel engines that are transversely mounted and drive the front wheels. Each has a cubic capacity of 1968 cc, but there’s a choice of output of 103 kW at 3500 rpm, or, 132 kW or 150 kW at 4000 rpm.

When you buy a European van from a manufacturer that also has a wide passenger car range, you tap into the latest range of safety features that becomes common through the various products.

Volkswagen has integrated a wide array of intelligent assistance systems in the new Transporter. With ABS, ESP and EDL standard across the range, there are also a multitude of electronic aids over and above these that make driving the T series simpler and safer, including Front Assist, City Emergency Braking (City EB) and Adaptive Cruise Control, as well as Driver Fatigue Alert and Multi-Collision Brakes. While some of these features such as Adaptive Cruise Control are only available in the Multivan with the TD1450 engine, the remaining safety features certainly protect the most valuable company asset in the van, namely the driver.

An integral component of Front Assist and ACC is the City Emergency Braking (City EB) function. It provides assistance at low speeds of under 30 km/h. If the driver fails to see an obstacle, the system automatically applies the brakes and ensures that the collision-speed is reduced. Ideally, it completely prevents the vehicle from running into the obstacle.

The Multi-collision braking system is provided as standard across the T series range. After a collision, it automatically initiates braking if the driver is no longer able to take action, thereby preventing a secondary collision. The Multi-collision braking system becomes active whenever two sensors working independently of each other register an accident. In this event, the system slows the vehicle down to 10 km/h in stages based on a pre-set rate of deceleration.

The version of the Transporter T6 under evaluation with Delivery Magazine was the TD1340 panel van, complete with rear tailgate and sliding side door on the nearside.

Access into the load space is very easy, and with an optional rubber mat covering the floor it provided a non-slip surface for any loads not secured through the standard ring mounts for tie-down straps. Interior noise levels were low, helped by a complete full-length roof panel and sidewall panels that extended to mid point on both sides of the van interior. Each of the upper interior surfaces was also fitted with noise suppression pads.

The driver’s seat is comfortable and height adjustable and fits in well with the steering-wheel rake and depth adjustment to produce a suitable driving position for any shape or size of driver. Access to all the controls is easy as might be expected from VW, and there is plenty of data available for the driver that includes fuel economy, range before empty, and even oil temperature.

One item worthy of mention is the standard Bluetooth phone connection that is easy to set-up and reconnects each time the driver accesses the van. The controls are on the steering column, making an important contribution to safety. Also of great value from a safety perspective was the Park Pilot system. In place of a rear-vision camera, the sensors display on the dashboard where an obstruction exists and highlights it with a visible beam on the display, accompanied by audible warning.

As a rather annoying example of cost cutting, there’s only one 12-volt socket on the lower section of the dashboard. There is a rubber blank plug mounted in the corner of the top tray on the centre of the dashboard, which would be ideal for a portable Sat/Nav unit, and a driver could always have a second socket fitted after purchase.

The TD1340 diesel has a single variable geometry turbocharger, whereas the high output 150 kW version features a two-stage turbocharger. This higher-power engine also uses Selective Catalytic Reduction requiring AdBlue to hit the required emissions levels. The TD1340 engine does not use AdBlue, although this is always likely to be included when Australia tightens its own emissions legislation and moves universally to Euro 6

As the entry-level van model in the T6 range, Delivery Magazine found the TD1340 at a recommended retail price of $36,990 very pleasant to drive, with good engine response, high standards of handling and low interior noise levels. The six-speed manual gearbox would be our pick for these vehicles in place of the optional seven-speed DSG automated manual transmission.

 

Selecting gears manually saves $3000 on the purchase price, and with a smooth short shift mounted close to hand it’s no hardship, even for those spending their time in city traffic. Because the peak torque output of 340 Nm comes into play from 1750 through to 2500 rpm, the driver will find that if revs drop to 1200-1400 rpm they are going to need to stir the gear lever a little more frequently than might be first thought.

The interior cargo space varies from 5.8 cu.m for the standard-height roof through to 6.7 cu.m for the medium roof on the short wheelbase for a cargo area load length of 2572 mm. The payload is 1236 kg.

VW claims a fuel consumption figure of 7.2 l/100 km for the combined figure, but during our drive evaluation we regularly produced a fuel return of 5.9 l/100 km. Auto stop/start is standard and cuts out the engine when the vehicle is stationary and the driver has the foot brake depressed.

Volkswagen has once again raised the standard of its products, and even at this base level the Transporter T6 provides a very pleasant workplace with the expected safety features of a modern vehicle.

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