Volkswagen Transporter

Great Performance, High Spec and a Fine Price. But Too Much Pedigree?

This is Volkswagen’s Transporter 2.0BiTDI 146kW SWB 4Motion. It comes with an impeccable pedigree. Powered by VW’s top-end two-litre turbodiesel, its quick. Never mind spacious and practical. Stylish too. And well-priced.


Little wonder it’s a big seller in the Transporter range. And for good reason, too. Offering a fine blend of space, practicality and performance, this sixth and a bit generation Transporter was recently upgraded to T6.1 spec. Set apart by black-trimmed body-colour bumpers under a striking, larger chrome trimmed radiator grille, which strip connects into the LED daytime running lights, this version makes do with conventional headlamps. They struggle a bit at dusk versus the Caravelle’s LEDs. But are pretty good at night.

That’s all finished off by a smart new set of alloy wheels. But the real action here is on the inside, where our bold gold sample had grey faux leather clad pews in a handsome, geometric facia with satin chrome-look and black trim. The seats are arranged in three rows. In a fixed-direction two-three-three arrangement. Rather than the Caravelle’s two-two-three with reversable command seats in the middle.

The seat backs gain new pockets for even more for gadget space with myriad clever existing nooks and crannies to stash your stuff. But we still scratch our heads about all that wasted space between the driver and front passenger? And while this one’s the shortie, boot space is more than ample.


Our Transporter had practical new 10.25-inch digital dials and fully smart phone-mirrorable infotainment with Wireless App-Connect and USB Composition Colour radio. This one isn’t the big screen from the Caravelle – its smaller, but has real knobs. For real control. And can further be controlled by the touch screen or multifunction steering too. But not gestures. We found that annoying in the Caravelle anyway, so maybe it’s better off without. Better for Italians, at least…

Powered by the same 146 kW 450 Nm 2-litre biturbo diesel as both the Caravelle and the top four-pot Amarok, this one also drives all four wheels though that 7-speed double-clutch Automatic. So it holds its head up high on the microbus drag strip with pace enough to teach many a lazy hatchback and most bakkies a lesson. Were you ever so inclined!

Volkswagen’s new electro-mechanical power steering not only brings newfound agility while also saving fuel, but it also brings a significant tech step forward. Allowing the integration of new assistance systems, the Transporter now packs Stability, Post-Collision Braking, Hill Start and Descent as well as Lane, Cruise, Parking, Manoeuvre and Crosswind Assistants. Side Protection makes manoeuvring easier and Rear Traffic Alert helps reversing out of blind spaces.


The big plus here is all that Transporter space and roominess though. Which we exploited to the full in our time with it, taking a couple of tours around the glorious Peninsula and the splendid Winelands.

That huge step in tech comes through in both in its engagement and its chassis. This bus is powerful and smooth, but there are one or two compromises. Jerky at low speeds, it can be hard and uncomfortable over not the best of road surfaces. Especially, oddly enough, in the middle row seating positions, where our passengers complained about a degree of road noise.

It’s also noisy in the wind and makes conversation difficult in the individual rows, let alone between the front, middle and rear. And especially so, if one is even a touch hard of hearing.

But then it must be remembered that not much has changed on this car’s mugshot profile since the 1990 T2 and has not changed its glasshouse and its sheetmetal since the ’03 T3, so it is a tad long in the tooth – and too long in the pedigree, after all. But then the all-new T7 comes with a brand new platform pretty soon so we’re also sure that will bring a huge step forward in all these concerns we note above.


All in all, this hugely popular middle of the range Volkswagen Transporter 2.0BiTDI 146kW SWB 4Motion performs very well, packs a hell of a lot of tech and luxury and comes at a price that defies its class. Even if this 6.1 version is close to the end of its career. – Michele Lupini

Images: Michele Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Volkswagen Caravelle 2.0BiTDI 146 kW Highline 4Motion
146 kW 450 Nm 2-litre Turbodiesel I4
Drive: 7-speed DC Automatic AWD
0-60km/h:        4.16 sec
0-100 km/h:      9.59 sec
0-120 km/h       13.73 sec
0-160km/h:       26.49 sec
400m:            16.8 sec @ 132 km/h
80-120km/h:      7.29 sec
120-160km/h:     12.98 sec
VMax:            198 km/h
Fuel:            8.2 l/100 km
CO2:             214 g/km
Warranty:        3 y 120K km
Service Plan:    5 y 60K km
LIST PRICE:      R745K
RATED:           7
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