Volkswagen Transporter Trendline - trendy hauler

 

Clean-cut refinement and vans aren’t necessarily two concepts that mix. However, clamber into a new Toyota Hiace or Ford Transit and you can see the core of the van segment has clearly identified refinement as a location ripe for improvement. However, neither quite takes things to the same height as Volkswagen.

Words: Matthew Hansen   |   Photos Matthew Hansen
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The updated 2021 Transporter T6 has landed locally; joining offerings from Renault and Mercedes-Benz as a European counterpoint to the segment’s leading lights. There are two short-wheelbase variants, the Runner and Trendline, plus a long-wheelbase Trendline for those lugging larger loads. Pricing starts at $47,500 for the Runner manual, representing a $3510 increase. Those wanting to trade the six-speed for a seven-speed dual clutch will pay $52,000 for the Runner auto or $59,500 for the Trendline auto. The extended LWB Trendline flagship, meanwhile, will set buyers back $62,500.

There are two main engines to choose from; the base 81kW/250Nm 2.0-litre turbodiesel and 110kW/340Nm 2.0-litre turbodiesel. Those wanting even more grunt can tick the $4000 option box for a souped up 146kW/450Nm version. Customers can even option 4Motion all-wheel drive for $6000, to replace the standard front-drive layout. Both standard engines show a mild power bump compared with outgoing models, while torque is unchanged. Alongside the mechanical tweaks, most of the new Transporter’s updates concern technology and design inside and out. It wears a van-ified version of the brand’s new corporate face, featured on the Mk8 Golf and recently revised Touareg, among other sister nameplates.

The gaping rear liftgate is standard and arguably more practical than the barn door offered on some rivals.

During the handover, Volkswagen NZ called our tester ‘a bit of a black sheep’. It’s a Trendline (delineated by its body-coloured bumpers and optional alloys) paired with a manual — a combination not sold locally. You could tell the manual wasn’t necessarily intended for the more powerful engine given its gearing is too short in first and second, and top gear at 100km/h has it ticking at barely over 1000rpm. The comparatively short throw makes it fun to use, and I’m sure it pairs better with the 81kW Runner.

The mismatched box ironically helps underline how good the new engine is. Even when trudging along at low revs, it’s more than capable of digging itself out of holes to deliver immediate response without the need for a new gear. It’s quick, too, with significant punch off the line thanks to the peak torque’s 1500–3000rpm arrival. I can only imagine how good that extra power is when paired to a slick dual-clutch. Our best economy sat at 7.0L/100km — slightly short of VW’s 6.4L/100km claim.

Beyond the slightly zestier powertrains, the other big change is in the model’s steering. Gone is the old hydraulic set-up and in its place is an electromechanical speed-sensitive system. The greatest benefit here is ease of lock-to-lock travel; particularly noticeable when parking.


What hasn’t changed is the Transporter’s footprint. SWB variants like our tester sport an unchanged 1904mm width and 1990mm height, although thanks to its new front end, it’s now longer overall, at 4904mm. The way the cabin has been reworked means load length inside shrinks slightly to 2324mm. Height and width, meanwhile, measure in at 1400mm and 1710mm (1244mm between the arches), with outright volume rated at 5.8m cubed.

These numbers make it slightly smaller than an equivalent Ford Transit. Although, it’s worth remembering that the Transporter has a far cheaper entry-level cost. And regardless, there’s still plenty of room (a local pallet will fit with space to burn). The gaping rear liftgate is standard and arguably more practical than the barn door offered on some rivals. Combined with the dual sliding doors, it makes loading and unloading a breeze. Simultaneously, the tie-down lugs are exclusively floor mounted — a few placed higher on the walls would’ve been nice for some added practicality.

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The all-new dashboard represents more radical change. Volkswagen has simplified and condensed its assortment of features; cramming all of them as close to the steering wheel as possible. The raised gear selector makes rowing through ratios a breeze, and the proximity and deliberately angled positioning of the touchscreen puts the Transporter’s tech literally at your fingertips. Admittedly the ergonomics aren’t perfect — the oddly shaped footwell might make throttle and clutch inputs awkward for big-footed drivers, and the floor-mounted handbrake is a stretch.

The cabin’s best trick is its storage. Each clever door card has two cubby holes; one made possible by moving the grab-handle to the sill. The two top-mounted cup holders mean the third cup holder in the dash is a likely home for phones, making it the logical place for a couple of (optional) USB ports and a 12-volt socket. And there’s a convenient cavity cut into the dash on top of the binnacle — perfect for holding documents or, more likely, the fruits of a tradie lunch run.

Both trim levels are similarly equipped with features like a 6.5-inch touchscreen, air conditioning, reversing camera, and a safety suite inclusive of cross wind assist, parking sensors, and autonomous emergency braking. The Trendline has a raft of model-exclusive options, including radar cruise and park assist. Most disappointing is the fact that side and curtain airbags are an $850 option across the range.

Still, the dash of Euro flair and comfort make the Transporter a more-than-compelling alternative to the Hiace and Transit lockout. Factor in the competitive pricing, clean-cut styling, and the availability of a dual clutch, and you have to say the Transporter should be right up there on any commercial shopping list.

The Stats

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Model Volkswagen Transporter Trendline 2020

Price $59,500   Engine 1968cc, 4-Cylinder, 110kW/340Nm

Transmission 6-speed manual

Service 40,000km intervals, 5 year / 150,000km warranty

Vitals 6.4L/100km, 3000kg GVM, 1103kg payload,

2500kg towing capacity, 1897kg kerb weight

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