Is Volkswagen's new Transporter the best one yet?
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Volkswagen’s most iconic vehicle, the Beetle, remained (mostly) the same throughout its 80-year tenure with the German brand. The Type 2 on the other hand, has been a lot of things, but has stayed true to the van mantra of hauling anything and everything.
Most commonly known as the Transporter, or Kombi in the early days, VW’s van has gained a few nicknames around the world such as the Microbus in America, or the Camper in the UK. I’d argue that Portugal has the best with Pão de Forma, which translates to “Loaf of Bread”.
So while it has been many things throughout history, the Type 2 is offered in four guises for the latest T6.1 update, ranging from the commercial Transporter, to the decked-out California camper. Recently, we tested both the Transporter and the Multivan.
For the T6.1 update, VW’s van gained a plethora of safety tech based around an “advanced electromechanical steering system”. This system allowed things like lane assist, forward collision warning, and start/stop regenerative braking to be incorporated.
Along the same lines, a new dash has been added that features a 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit. This is available in the California and Multivan, and is optional across the rest of the line.
This new T6.1 uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine which is paired with a seven-speed DSG transmission, and is either front-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive depending on the model. Power also varies, ranging between 81kW/250Nm and 146kW/450Nm.
To complete the courier driver experience, the white Transporter Runner that we got into featured a six-speed manual transmission, and it was awesome. As well as a more engaging drive, picking gears yourself means you get to experience the engine better, and it’s a solid lump. Torque is built up early in the rev range, and while it probably wouldn’t challenge an MX-5 off the lights, it feels somewhat fast.
Obviously, driving like this won’t save you much fuel, but backing off the throttle left me with a (combined) fuel economy of 6.5L/100km, which lines up with VW’s factory claim of 6.4L/100km.
If courier driving isn’t your thing, then the Multivan Cruise is probably the Transporter to go with. Right off the bat, you’ll notice that this van wears a two-tone paint scheme that throws things back to the Kombi’s glory days. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to order a T6.1 with those awesome vintage chrome and plastic wheels, which is a little bit of a let-down.
Despite this, the Multivan Cruise still looks the part, and it probably piqued the most interest with the general public out of any press vehicle that I have had. “Is that the new Kombi?” they would ask, and I would respond with “…yeah, kind of”. I would then open the sliding doors and show them the inside, which is just as impressive as the exterior, and explains the ‘Multi’ aspect of its name.
In here, you get seven seats including the two up front. These two front seats both get armrests, and the lack of centre console means you can easily move about the cabin without getting out. The two second-row seats can be moved back and forth on floor sliders, as well as rotate 180 degrees. The third row consists of three seats that can not only slide, but can also be laid flat to create a bed at the back.
Finally, and arguably the coolest aspect of this interior is the sliding console that doubles as a folding table. There’s also an incredible amount of storage space beneath the third row of seats for anything you’d like to take on holiday.
As a whole, this new T6.1 line-up is extremely appealing, featuring a van for almost every occasion. And with competitive pricing that starts at $47,500 for the Transporter Runner, and $75,500 for the Multivan, they’re hard to beat.
Other options to consider would be Ford’s Transit and Tourneo line-up as well as Toyota’s Granvia at a slightly cheaper price point. Or there’s the Mercedes-Benz V-Class f you’re looking for even more luxury, but without the camper-friendly options.