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The Volkswagen Transporter can trace its lineage right back to the old ‘VeeDub Splitty’ of the late 1950s and early 1960s and has earned itself a tremendous reputation over the years for build quality and longevity. This version was labelled the T4 – the fourth incarnation of the van – and is arguably better looking than its successor the T5, which is still on sale. Originally sporting a 1.9-litre diesel engine, the T4 gained a turbocharger and a new 2.5-litre powerplant in 1999. A variety of models were on offer, including panel vans, chassis-cabs, double-cabs and four-wheel drives, although these latter models are few and far between. The UK’s roads still teems with T4s and they still make top money secondhand, providing they are in reasonable condition.
German cars and vans all feature seats which at first feel rock hard and upright and the Transporter is no exception. It’s only after a couple of hundred miles behind the wheel without a back twinge that you come to the realisation that these seats are very good indeed and that maybe you were wrong to pre-judge them. Even in this guise, the van has a fairly car-like feel – something not all vans of this era enjoyed - and as with most other vans of its time, drivers had to make do with a standard radio/cassette player.
As with most other Volkswagens, the Transporter has excellent ride and handling characteristics and although fairly underpowered by today’s standards, offers reasonably lively performance in turbocharged format. The turbo added to the unit in 1999 raised bhp from 61 to 68bhp and 103lb-ft of torque at 2,000rpm while the 2.5-litre engine offers either 88bhp or 102bhp. The more powerful unit has 184lb-ft of torque at 2,300rpm. Power steering came as standard, giving the Transporter an easy action while cornering and there is plenty of feel through the wheel for what is going on between wheel and road. Some of today’s vans don’t even handle this well.