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VW Transporter 204hp TSI turbo petrol long-term review: the final verdict

  • We say goodbye to the Volkswagen Transporter TSI
  • Read our verdict after nearly 9,000 miles of driving
  • Find out what the Transporter TSI is like to live with

Long-term test of the VW Transporter TSI 204 kombi on Parkers Vans

Report 14: The final verdict on life with the VW Transporter

It’s time to say goodbye to our mad, bad turbo-petrol VW Transporter – though that’s not bad as in bad, of course. This medium van has been an exceptional companion over the last few months, and it’s left a big hole behind now that it’s no longer in the car park.

I mean, how many other vehicles can you think of will happily swallow a complete dining room table set and still allow you to eat at it, before going on to exceed 130mph on the German autobahn? With plenty of space for five adults and still enough load area to comfortable carry a replacement engine for an old Mercedes, this has proved itself to be a properly multipurpose vehicle.

If this is what it means to be a lifestyle van user, then my goodness you’re lucky if you’re able to indulge yourself.

How was the petrol Transporter’s fuel economy in the end?

Make no mistake – for all its strengths, a 204hp Transporter TSI is certainly an indulgence. Not only did this one cost over £37k new, it cost a comparative fortune to run versus a more conventional diesel model; our overall average fuel economy was 24.5mpg.

To be honest, that’s not as far from the official 30.4mpg figure as we had feared. Thank the more parsimonious members of the Parkers team for that – when Modern Classics borrowed the van they only manage 19mpg.

VW Transporter TSI long-term test review - goodbye - fuel economy

Anything you’d change if you were to get another VW Transporter?

I was pretty pleased with the spec overall – the green is a great colour, and the ride was firm enough on the standard 17-inch alloy wheels that I was glad we didn’t end up with 18s in the end.

However, given the choice to do it again I would definitely opt for the LED headlights over the standard conventional items. The standard lights just aren’t as good as I’d like – especially given how fast this van will go.

The LEDs are a pricey option – though standard on some special editions – but well worth it, I reckon.

So is this the perfect lifestyle van?

It’s close, but perfect would be a bold claim. While the 204hp Transporter TSI has immense performance, and is unique among its peers for offering petrol power, vans like the Ford Transit Custom and Renault Trafic (including all its close relations) are arguably better to drive overall.

As we’ve also noted previously, there is a disappointing lack of proper finishing to the inner door panels in the rear – certainly you’ll be under no illusion that you’re in anything other than a commercial vehicle if you’re sat back there – and it’s not the most refined inside, either.

Not least due to the weird vibration the petrol engines seem to suffer with at low revs. That said, it is certainly quieter than a diesel Transporter.

Did anything go wrong during your time with the Transporter?

Nothing at all. We did have to replace the windscreen, but that was errant winter grit, and hardly a reliability issue.

Buy one of these, however, and you’d better budget for plenty of front tyres as well as fuel. That engine works the rubber pretty hard whenever you make the most of its capabilities.

The long-term review verdict on the VW Transporter TSI

This is a mighty, mighty machine. One that ticks such a wide range of boxes that some of them are on pages that other vans don’t even know exist. We haven’t branded it a van GTI in previous entries with reason. It truly is unique in its class.

Given that, the price and the running costs probably don’t really make much of a difference – if you want one of these vans, you’ll just have to accept those things as a fair exchange for the speed and the specialness. We would.

VW Transporter TSI long-term test review - goodbye

It’s going to a tough act to follow, that’s for sure.

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Final mileage: 8,832
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy (overall): 24.5mpg


Report 13: To the Nurburgring, at speed

CJ’s Dad is keen to catch a ’Ring Taxi – and there’s only one suitable way of getting there: T6 TSI express

VW Transporter TSI long-term test - at the Nurburgring

When my Dad turned 70 last year, he took the unusual step of actually telling us what he wanted as a gift to mark the occasion. He’s the reason I’m into cars, but it still came as something of a surprise when he announced he’d like to be driven round the Nurburgring – or rather, the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife, the 13-mile race-track-come-toll-road that’s become so synonymous with motoring culture.

Driven, that is – not drive. He wanted a professional passenger lap, a real taste of the Nordschleife at speed. A hint at what all his old racing heroes would have experienced there back when men were real men and racing cars were made of tinfoil and ambition.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - parked at the Nurburgring at night

This was immensely pleasing for a number of reasons. The Transporter hadn’t even arrived at this point, but I already knew it would be the perfect way to get him there – it’s a straightforward drive, and our 204hp T6 wasn’t going to be shy of the performance necessary to make light work of it. I like the ’ring, even when it’s relatively quiet. And, best of all, I was absolutely sure my Dad had absolutely no idea what he was letting himself in for.

I even vaguely knew a guy who would do an ace job of the driving – by which I basically mean making sure Dad got the bejesus properly scared out of him. (This might sound cruel, but as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we don’t want any holding back now, do we…)

Driving to the Nurburgring

The Transporter duly arrived, and duly proved to be awesome – as you’ll have no doubt read in the previous entries here. Emails were exchanged, arranging the passenger lap, we got the necessary authorisation to take the Transporter abroad, and sorted insurance so my Dad could drive it, too.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - on the ferry

I decided we should travel by ferry. Convenient and speedy though the Eurotunnel is, I don’t like it over much – too many nightmares about damaged alloy wheels, I think. Besides, my Mum, who was unsurprisingly coming with us, had only ever previously been on a ferry to the Isle of Wight. And you don’t get slightly soggy fish and chips on that.

The crossing was smooth and largely free of roving gangs of school children. We even managed to purchase and then successfully apply the necessary headlight adaptors from the gift shop.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - driving on the right, viewed in the mirror

I also got my Dad one of those Drive on the Right! stickers as a nervous joke – though I needn’t have worried, as his transition into Continental traffic was largely effortless, thanks no doubt to years of driving to Le Mans back in the ’80s.

This didn’t stop him accidentally running a red light when we detoured to do a bit of sightseeing in Bruges. Pretty place and well worth the modest diversion, even if Dad was left disappointed by the stark absence of anything resembling a Belgium bun.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Dad driving

There’s no helping some people.

Our accommodation is at a friendly guesthouse in Dreis-Bruck – which turns out to be rural enough that I fear I’ve brought us somewhere we won’t be able to get any dinner. Fortunately a local pub is open and happy to serve us schnitzels and currywurst, and we get a decent meal in before a relatively early night, ready to head over to the ’ring first thing in the morning.

Things to do in Nurburg when you’re in dread

We’re travelling early in the season, so there’s more meal-time near-calamity when we arrive in Nurburg and the place is practically deserted.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Porsche 911 GT3 at the Nurburgring

Fortunately, the staff at Dorint Hotel kindly extends its breakfast hours for us, and as we sit there overlooking the next-door Nurburging racing circuit (the one where modern F1 races take place), we gradually realise there’s a press launch for the latest Porsche 911 GT3 going on. Which gives us something to look at.

Dad’s lap isn’t until the late afternoon, when the Nordschleife opens to the public for so-called ‘tourist driving’ – though judging by the way every other Nurburg household seems to have a track-prepared road car parked in its driveway, you’ll quickly appreciate that plenty of these tourists are dedicated locals – so we kill time in the gift shops, taking the obligatory photos of the van under the Nurburging sign, and by climbing to the top of Nurburg Castle.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - view from the top of Nurburg Castle

This is something I’ve never done before, despite a number of previous visits, and view from the top is spectacular. What’s more, it gives you a real sense of the scale of the Nordschleife, which winds its way around the Eifel mountains to such an extent that separate areas of the track can get dramatically different weather at the same moment.

Dad is decidedly quiet.

The lap

You can choose from a variety of vehicles and companies offering what are known as ’Ring Taxi laps, but only Jaguar still offers a manufacturer-backed programme – and it just so happens that the guy I vaguely know runs it.

His name is Dale Lomas, a Jaguar test-driver during normal working hours (like many carmakers, Jaguar has a dedicated test centre located at the Nurburgring) he’s also the man behind the well-known Bridge-to-Gantry website, which is all about lapping the Nordschleife. He’s done tens of thousands of laps – testing, racing and just for fun – and I’ve met him a few times on car launches as he has another side line as a motoring journalist. He never remembers me, but my ego is fine with that – the most important thing is that I’m confident he knows where the track goes and that my Dad is in safe but very quick hands.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Jaguar F-Type SVR Ring Taxi

The car is a specially prepared F-Type SVR – a 575hp all-wheel drive coupe that does 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and has an official top speed of 200mph. Mods for taxi duty include a full roll cage and a built-in camera system, so Dad gets to take his lap home with him, too.

The pair have a good chat around the car, Dad dons a helmet and off they set; we’ve deliberately chosen the first slot of the session to make sure Dad gets the clearest (read: fastest) possible run – so Mum and I have only minutes to get from the ticket barrier to a viewing position in order to watch them come past. Dale promises to beep the horn on approach so I’ll be able to get the camera ready.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Jaguar F-Type SVR Ring Taxi

Just about the only car to get round the circuit before them is a Lamborghini – another ’Ring Taxi – and from our vantage point you can see Dale isn’t hanging around.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Jaguar F-Type SVR Ring Taxi

The whole thing is over for Dad in around eight minutes, which means he’s already out of the car and waiting for us in the Taxi office/portacabin by the time we get back to it. He’s looking suitably shocked and awed – but that’s nothing a meal at the Restuarant Pistonklause won’t solve, so we head there for the traditional Nurburgring dinner of steak on a hot stone. Fantastic.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - steak on a stone at the Pistonklause

Gradually the colour returns to Dad’s face.

Did you take the Transporter round the ’ring?

I’d promised my heavily pregnant wife that I wouldn’t, and I stuck to my word. So no Nurburgring sticker for the back of the T6.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - filling up with 100 octane race fuel

But no-one said anything about not having some fun on derestricted sections of the autobahn, which I duly take maximum advantage of on the trip back to Blighty the following day. After stopping at a petrol station selling 100 octane race fuel (who could resist?), this resulted in an indicated 136mph and still accelerating when we had to back off for traffic.

At which point I remembered I hadn’t checked the speed rating of the tyres and that I had my parents in the van. Regardless, both came away extremely impressed with the Volkswagen – my Mum praised its comfort, my Dad loved driving it. The 500-odd miles home flashed by, despite a detour to Spa-Francorchamps (another tick on my Dad's bucket list) and the usual snarly traffic round Brussels.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Eau Rouge at Spa

I’ll be very sorry to see it go, but end of term for the Transporter is fast approaching and it will soon be time to say goodbye to this remarkable multi-purpose vehicle.

By CJ Hubbard

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Miles so far: 8,160
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy: 24.5mpg


Report 12: ‘Does anyone want a dining table?’

Lawrence to the rescue, in our A-Team van

To stop our Finance Editor Chris Lloyd from being submerged in tumbleweed as he struggled to offload a spare dining table set to a member of the Parkers team, I managed to find a taker.

The next challenge however, was to find a suitable vehicle to fit everything in from his house and get it to its new home some 80 miles away. Cue our long-term Transporter.

Our A-Team van

This is the van that not only comes to the rescue but does the job quickly, too. We just need to cue some music every time it makes an appearance – maybe an introductory jump onto the scene to really make an entrance, although we may keep that part quiet in case our Van Editor disapproves. I digress…

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - with dining room table in the back

Back to the job at hand. Fears of having to spend hours stacking the table and six chairs with the use of my best Tetris skills were never encountered. Visions of Chris endlessly typing away dimensions onto his trusty calculator never came to light either – the Transporter quite simply swallowed the whole set.

In fact, there was enough room to sit and eat at the dinner table after it was ‘installed’.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Chris Lloyd eating at the dining room table in the back

Not only that, the initial idea of removing the second row of seats would have been an unnecessary amount of physical labour, as they acted as a secure holding point for three individual dining chairs; with the seatbelts anchoring them in securely.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - dining room chairs secured with seatbelts

This removal process went far too well. In fact, the only issue we encountered didn’t involve the Transporter at all, but more when the table wouldn’t actually fit through the front of the destined house.

Community service: Transporter tidies up Birmingham

With the risk of eating dinner out in the front garden of the house rather than inside it becoming a potential reality, we improvised a Plan B that meant a brief detour on foot to the rear of the house instead.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - dining room table door interface issue

Nothing was going to stop us. Not even the abandoned shopping trolley blocking the gate on route, which ended up in the back of the van – with attached leaves and all – and subsequently returned to its supermarket home.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - shopping trolley in the back

TSI petrol-power continues to impress

While everyone starts to question whether they should turn their heads away from diesel and look at some form of electrification to power their vehicle, it’s quite a relief to find a van making use of petrol.

The quick-shifting automatic gearbox is well calibrated and eagerly changes down the gears as you slow down before a corner; almost making up for the absence of steering wheel paddles. The only time the gearbox appeared to get caught out was on a stretch of 50mph road works on the M6 where it couldn’t quite decide whether to stay in fifth or sixth gear.

I wasn’t impressed with Sport mode though, as I found it changing down to a lower gear mid-corner, leaving the engine frantically spinning at 5,500rpm but with no performance gain whatsoever.

Seeing an average 29mpg on the trip computer isn’t bad, considering the performance and blunt aerodynamics on offer. Admittedly, while the Transporter’s struggle for traction from stationary may not be something to celebrate, the front wheels tugging at the steering wheel as you accelerate does remind me of my 2004 Civic Type R.

It’s not a useful feature but definitely adds a bit of character, as if it’s enthusiastically trying to help you and your cargo arrive as quickly as possible.  A-Team van? More like a Transporter GTI.

By Lawrence Cheung

VW Transporter Highline kombi 2.0 TSI 204 long-term test review

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Miles so far: 6,396
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy: 27.8mpg


Report 11: Petrol vs Diesel, or Transporter Edition vs Transporter GTI

The enemy within...

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - vs the Transporter Edition

One of the more surprising things about our T6 test van is that despite its scorching performance and 204hp turbo petrol engine, it’s not even close to the top of the Transporter range.

The equivalent 204hp diesel Highline is over a grand more expensive, and you can buy that as a 4Motion four-wheel drive model for a further £2.5k – an option that isn’t available to petrol fans.

Above that sits the Transporter Edition trim level, which tops out at just over £34k (as a panel van), before you finally reach the pinnacle, the Transporter Sportline. List price for a Sportline kombi is an eye-watering £43,025 on-the-road (OTR) before options (not that you’ll be needing many of those, given what’s fitted as standard).

All prices quoted exclude VAT, incidentally.

Since the Sportline kombi is £10k more than our humble TSI Highline, we figured a comparison with this ultimate Transporter would be a little unfair. But the Edition kombi is a different matter.

Tell me more about the VW Transporter Edition

Available with diesel power only, pricing for the Edition kombi starts at £32,375 OTR, which meshes rather nicely together with the current £32,995 OTR before-options price of our long-termer.

VW Transporter Edition - side view with door open

It’s still not an exact match-up between petrol and diesel, however. The kombi version of the Edition is only available with 150hp (only the van gets the 204hp engine option for some reason), and although that can be combined with the DSG automatic transmission, the one we’ve got on test is the standard six-speed manual.

Since this is also an interesting comparison, however, we figured what the hell.

Which is better to drive?

If you’ve read any of the previous reports on the 204 TSI, you’ll know it’s left everyone who’s driven it in a state of faintly disbelieving awe. No-one really needs a van as fast as this one. The speed can make the handling a little wayward at times (nothing drastic, mostly a bit of wheelspin, and an occasional need to concentrate a little more in the rain), but this is a quick, comfortable, capable van.

And in day-to-day driving, the 150hp diesel Edition feels barely any slower.

True, you don’t get the same enjoyment out of revving the nuts off it – but with 340Nm of torque nearly matching our TSI's 350Nm, low-down response and in-gear acceleration is still pretty punchy. The manual gearbox of this example was among the nicest we’ve used in any van, too, so rowing through the gears was never a chore.

VW Transporter Edition - cab interior and dashboard with manual gearbox

Compared to the petrol, the diesel felt a little more in touch with the road as well – keen to change direction and not leaning too much. But perhaps that’s down to having a little less power after all.

The Edition is, then, a rather lovely thing to drive. Although our long-term TSI does ultimately have a little more shock and awe – if that’s what you’re looking for in a van.

It also rinses through far greater amounts of fuel – even going by the official figures – the diesel claiming 45.6mpg to the petrol’s 30.4mpg. In reality, we’ve been getting more like 24mpg in daily driving…

How do they compare for looks and equipment?

The Edition gets a smart set of graphics, which suits the white paint of this one very well. It makes the long-termer look a little plain.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - vs Transporter Edition, rear view

The biggest visual difference – in more ways than one – is at the front, however, where the Edition gets full-LED headlights as standard. This is one option I still really wish our TSI was fitted with, as they not only look modern and purposeful, but cast much better light for driving at night. The standard headlights in our green Kombi are disappointingly pitiful.

So which is best?

I really like the way the Edition looks, and I was unexpectedly impressed by the sweet driving experience. So if you’re like the majority of people and diesel suits the miles you do with its greater economy, then you definitely won’t be disappointed if you’re looking for a really nicely specced mid-size van.

Given the choice, I confess I’d have a hard time giving up petrol power. But I know that really isn’t a logical decision for most buyers…

By CJ Hubbard

>> Read the full VW Transporter Edition review

VW Transporter Highline kombi 2.0 TSI 204 long-term test review

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Miles so far: 6,021
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy: 25.7mpg


Report 10: House move number two

Finance Editor Chris Lloyd does the house-move math in our turbo-petrol T6

Mercedes engines, oversized chairs and copious fishing kit – our Transporter has swallowed the lot over the last six months and still provided indecently fast performance. It’s also already taken on a house move, so I nabbed the keys from CJ, seeing it as the perfect tool for another bout of furniture shifting.

Yes, the flat in question was tiny, but with an oversized single mattress to remove, plus an enormously heavy desk table, a load of boxes, clothes, kitchen kit and desk chair to tessellate into the load space – albeit with the rear bench seat removed – it was still a good test for the Transporter.

Removing weighty rear bench harder than loading Transporter

In fact, removing the weighty rear bench posed the biggest challenge. Thankfully with several extra pairs of hands I managed to extricate the bench, though that left the follow-up challenge of where to leave the oversized seats; it turns out even in a large, open-plan office they take up a lot of space.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - loaded with lots of house move stuff

With two sliding doors, a hatch, and a usefully low floor, loading luggage into the back of the Transporter – as you’d hope – is a cinch. The most difficult bit for hauling in bigger items is that the grippy floor makes it tricky to slide anything, as do the mounts for the bench seat.

The low roof of our model also means that getting heavier, bulkier stuff in place requires a lot of hunching and awkward manoeuvring, but it’s still far better than pretty much any passenger car or MPV.

Grippy floor good for keeping luggage in place

The friction-full lining, however, more than pays its way once you’ve loaded your gear, since it stops things from sliding around dramatically – something you’d otherwise expect, given the Transporter’s startling acceleration.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - loaded with lots of house move stuff

With only a half-bulkhead, you can also keep an eye on your cargo, to make sure that you don’t get too carried away enjoying the 204hp coursing through the front tyres.

It also prevents smaller items from sliding forward into the cab – a big distraction on the move and potentially a safety issue should anything be rolling around near the pedals.

Rear window and side glass makes Transporter feel car-like

It may be little larger than some MPVs and SUVs, but driving a Transporter-size van can still be an intimidating prospect for many drivers. With glass on both sides and a rear window, however, you can still cram in a lot of gear without hindering the view out of our Transporter.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - loaded with lots of house move stuff

Despite having the single mattress on its side against the window and a raft of boxes, bags and odds and ends thrown in, little of the view out was restricted. The only real irritation came from the assorted smaller boxes strewn in the footwell of the cabin, with the flat floor making it all too easy for things to roll across to the driver's side.

Thankfully a narrow box wedged between the front seats’ armrests prevent too much movement.

Transporter drives just as well with load in the back

Unloaded, the suspension in the Transporter has always been reasonable firm – as you’d expect for a van – but not only does it handle just as well with weight in the back, acceleration doesn’t seem to be affected either.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - loaded with lots of house move stuff

Considering this version is powered by petrol rather than diesel – with notably less torque to pull it along at lower engine speeds – it’s an impressively muscular machine.

The load does nothing to help the scarily high fuel consumption, though...

VW van equally good at transporting people and large loads

The Transporter is far from the largest van, nor capable of hauling the heaviest loads, but where it impressed most over a weekend of carting around people and luggage at different times, is in the way it’s equally good at both.

Drive the Transporter by yourself and with an empty load bay it’s entertainingly fast and enjoyable. Add a couple of passengers and it’s a supremely spacious and easy-to-drive people-carrier-alternative. Chuck a load in the back meanwhile, and it’s a usable but unthreatening van.

I, for one, think that’s quite a feat.

By Christofer Lloyd

VW Transporter Highline kombi 2.0 TSI 204 long-term test review

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Miles so far: 5,658
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy: 22.4mpg


Report 9: Removing the rear seats

Need more room in your kombi? Then grab a mate and get the rear seats out.

Removing the rear seats from a VW Transporter T6 kombi

Bit of a public service announcement this one. Our Transporter is – obviously enough – a kombi, which means it’s got a second row of seats for three extra passengers, essentially turning it into a giant family hatchback with an enormous boot.

However, big though that boot is with the rear seats in place, there have been a number of occasions where we’ve needed to remove them to make space for an especially large payload. So I thought we should run through how easy (or not) that process is.

How easy is it to remove the rear seat from a VW Transporter T6 kombi?

Personally, I think it’s very straightforward – you just pull on a couple of things and you’re done.

But. You do need to do the pulling in the correct order, and unless you’re built like a World’s Strongest Man competitor, you’ll probably need a second pair of hands to actually get it out of the van.

Then there’s the matter of finding somewhere to put it…

How do you remove the rear seat from a VW Transporter kombi?

First of all, I should probably re-empahsise that although this isn’t a difficult task, the seat is heavy and should be handled with care – you don’t want to put your back out, or have it fall back and crush your fingers. So be careful.

Start in the load area and look for the fabric strap hanging below the seat base; pull this to fold the seat back down.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - removing the rear seats stage one

Important note: you don’t actually have to fold the seat back to remove the seat, but if you don’t it makes it much more difficult to get the seat back into the anchorage points in the floor. This is a particular problem on our T6 because we’ve got the optional half-height bulkhead behind the front seats, leaving very little room to manoeuvre.

You can probably guess how I know this.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - removing the rear seats stage two

Anyway, once the seat back is folded, you need to locate the straps that release the rear anchorage points. Pull here, and the seat should now tilt forward while remaining locking in the floor at the front anchorage points.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - removing the rear seats stage two

If you only need a little more space you can leave the seat folded up in this position, rather than complete remove it from the van. Just be careful it’s securely positioned, and so doesn’t fall back down on you.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - removing the rear seats stage three

To release the seat entirely you simply lift the black lever – a u-shaped piece of metal bar between the two front anchorage points – which should unlock the two front feet from the floor.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - removing the rear seats stage four

Grab a mate at this point (thanks Gareth), and you should be able to wrangle it out of the side door (or the rear door if that’s better under the circumstances. Just remember what I said about it being heavy.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - removing the rear seats, carrying seats out through the side door

Refitting is the same process in reverse. You may need a little patience when trying to slot the front anchorage feet back into the floor, but once that’s done the seat folds back into position with no difficulty at all.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - removing the rear seats, empty load space

Another important note: do make absolutely sure the seat is properly locked back into the floor before driving the van again. There should be no movement from the mounting points at all.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - removing the rear seats, load space with sofa

By CJ Hubbard

VW Transporter Highline kombi 2.0 TSI 204 long-term test review

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Miles so far: 5,364
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy: 24.2mpg


Report 8: VW Transporter TSI becomes an honorary Modern Classic

Another adventure for the Transporter this time, as the editor of Modern Classics John-Joe Vollans takes the wheel. Got an engine to haul? This could be your van…

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - loading an engine into the back

A busy weekend agenda involving a Modern Classics cover shoot and the collection of a large six-cylinder Mercedes-Benz engine meant I was in desperate need of a large vehicle. Fortunately, my day job as the editor of Modern Classics magazine means that I work in the same office as Parkers Vans editor, CJ Hubbard.

After saying nice things about him and bribing him with coffee, he duly furnished me with the keys to the long-term test VW Transporter TSI 204 kombi.

Job one: photoshoot support vehicle

As I was planning on spending most of my waking hours over the course of the weekend in this van, I was instantly glad of the interior options that greeted me.

Linking my phone with the on-board media meant I could stream my Spotify playlists, and the multiple cup holders meant that a latte was never far from reach. Heated seats were particularly welcome too with temperatures outside barely climbing above zero.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Editor of Modern Classics driving and giving the thumbs up

The first leg of the journey was a run over to Brackley for our May issue cover shoot. We’d booked a large (32,000 sq-ft) warehouse for five 1980s hero cars. It turned out that the van made the ideal lounge for the owners to relax in. The rear load area also doubled up as a canteen come lunchtime.

We even managed to do some indoor action with our photographer Dean Smith, laying down in the rear of the cabin foot well shooting out of the open side door.

With the shoot over, the van got me home without fuss and once again in surprising comfort for a utility vehicle. The best part of the trip back, without a doubt, was baiting executive saloon drivers at roundabouts. The look of utter confusion on their faces as I blasted past them on the dual carriageways was priceless.

In the cold, damp conditions of early spring though, it did highlight this van’s almost comical lack of grip. With boost built to the maximum, the steering started to fidget as the torque unleashed caused the front wheels to scrabble for grip. It was a giggle, if ultimately not very productive.

Job two: Mercedes engine transportation module

The last task for the Transporter was collecting an entirely superfluous – but very reasonably priced – M103 3.0-litre six-cylinder Mercedes-Benz engine from a W124 E-Class.

This is a popular upgrade for a 190E and as I own a manual 2.6 version of the aforementioned Merc, I’ve been on the lookout for one for a while.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - a bunch of old Mercs

There’s nothing wrong with the motor that’s currently in it, but for a modest outlay of just £180, I get an additional 25hp and 33Nm. Not bad considering the blocks are identical, making them almost a straight swap.

Arriving at the breakers in Rugby suitably fresh and warm, the first surprise that awaited me was the lack on an engine hoist. A farmer’s forklift came to the rescue, raising the heavy engine to the correct height, while I carefully reversed the van into position.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - nervously putting the Mercedes engine into the back of the van

There was a nervous moment when the tower of the forklift looked as though it was going to contact the leading edge of the large tailgate on the transporter. Thankfully though, there was just enough room (about an inch) and the engine was safely secured on some wooden chocks.

An uneventful return to the workshop proved this van’s ability to not only keep its occupants cosy and entertained, but also to roll up its sleeves and do some graft.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - unloading the engine from the back of the van

From behind the wheel, you could certainly tell there was now nearly 200kg of additional weight in the back, but it really didn’t change the predictable feel of the Transporter.

Getting back home and working out the mpg proved a surprise, just 19. That’s what happens when you enjoy this van’s 204bhp party piece a little too often…

By John-Joe Vollans, Editor of Modern Classics

VW Transporter Highline kombi 2.0 TSI 204 long-term test review

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Miles so far: 4,500
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy: 19.0mpg [Thanks JJ...]


Report 7: The fishing frontier

For this update, Thom Airs, editor of sister title Carpfeed and carp content editor of Angling Times, borrows the Transporter TSI to see how it fares among image-consicous fishermen...

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Carpfeed / Angling Times fishing test

Fishing will never be cool to outsiders, but even us saddos in waders compete to look the part in front of our angling peers.

We might not be surfers or wakeboarders, but in carp fishing, as in other hobbies, a VW van buys you important social capital at the water’s edge.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Carpfeed / Angling Times fishing test side view

T4s and T5s are a common sight at angling venues, so when I was offered the keys to this bonkers-sounding T6 I knew it would get admiring glances beside any flooded gravel pit.

Turning heads

Rolling into a bustling fishery, the Volkswagen soaked up the monster potholes on the access road and turned heads as it glided past a row of bivvy-dwellers.

Did anyone know it was a T6 rather than a T5? I’m not so sure, but this instantly recognisable design looked at home and gave me an insight into the undeniable ego boost you get from driving a new Transporter.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Carpfeed / Angling Times fishing test load area

If you’re an angler looking to buy one, the VW’s selling points are certainly attractive. The load space is vast and the rear bench sit fitted to this version folded up and out of the way with impressive ease.

Power doors a plus

As an angler, I loved the power-assisted twin sliding doors, which feel almost tailor-made for loading and unloading bulky fishing kit. The chunky pedals afforded by the automatic gearbox also meant it could be driven in field boots with ease.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Carpfeed / Angling Times fishing test boots and pedals

I found the DAB entertainment system excellent and the dash-top charging point very handy for the increasing amount of tech carried by anglers, but what did infuriate me in my relatively short period with the van was the auto shifter.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Carpfeed / Angling Times fishing test DSG shifter

The throw between drive, park and reverse is short and, maddeningly, the labels are on the passenger side, so I found myself peering over the shifter to see what function I’d selected. An example of left-hand drive design transferring badly to an right-hand drive vehicle, perhaps?

Melting hearts, licences and credit cards

As a vehicle range, the T6 will doubtless find plenty of fans in the fishing fraternity, just probably not in such an extravagant spec.

A low-speed manoeuvre on our test venue’s sodden grass saw the VW surprise me by struggling for grip, and the steering felt similarly vague when I inevitably tried to see what a 204hp van could do on tarmac.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Carpfeed / Angling Times fishing test driving

It is immensely fun – and genuinely quick – and then you glance at the fuel consumption and feel your credit card melting. Another gutpunch comes when you suddenly realise vans are subject to stricter speed limits on A-roads and you wonder if your licence is melting with it.

That melting feeling, I discovered, was just the heated seats, which light up from cold almost as quickly as the van itself – and I mean that in a purely positive way.

The Carpfeed verdict

I loved my 24 hours with this bonkers creation, and I love the fact VW offers this spec in the first place. As a kid, I marvelled at Volvo’s 850 Estate touring cars, and this van has a similar air of ‘because we can’ about it.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - Carpfeed / Angling Times fishing test rod

Almost every fisherman will buy a diesel version, but, like that elusive monster fish, it’s nice to know this beast is out there.

By Thom Airs, Editor www.carpfeed.com

VW Transporter Highline kombi 2.0 TSI 204 long-term test review

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Miles so far: 4,019
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy: 25.1mpg


Report 6: Having a cracking time - windscreen replacement for our T6

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - crack in the windscreen

It’s always a bad sign when something hits the windscreen so hard that it makes you duck. The never-ending winter we’re having means minor roads seem to be layered with grit, and sure enough, while on route to a funeral, a piece of something struck the Transporter with enough velocity to chip the windscreen.

The chip promptly developed into a crack, and so, come the following Monday, I was on the phone to the local VW Commercial Vehicles dealer, trying to get the glass replaced.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - with National Windscreens van

Turns out the dealer doesn’t do windscreens. Then Autoglass was out of stock, and I was beginning to fear the worst. Fortunately National Windscreens had no such trouble, and a man in a van appeared in the car park and got to fixing the go-faster bus.

All done within a couple of hours – which wasn’t a massive surprise. However, I was slightly stunned to discover that despite the sensor array and the heating elements, the replacement screen costs just £310 + VAT.

VW Transporter T6 TSI long-term test review - with National Windscreens van

We were advised to avoid driving it for a couple of hours, and to avoid washing it for a couple weeks – just to ensure the sealant properly set. Given the weather, the latter was more painful than the former, but I’m pleased to say everything appears to be a-ok. Cracking job all round.

By CJ Hubbard

VW Transporter Highline kombi 2.0 TSI 204 long-term test review

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Miles so far: 3,064
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy: 26.4mpg


Report 5: You can only take a pun sofa

Richard Kilpatrick borrows the T6 to retrieve some chairs...

Christmas inevitably results in paying too much attention to your decoration. Not the tinsel and other trinkets, but the fact that having a minimalist music studio for a living room isn’t very sociable. IKEA’s compact and inexpensive Klippan sofas already occupy part of the room, so a matching set on eBay solved that problem.

Naturally, it also introduced another one – initially thinking I’d just fetch them in my Fiat Fullback pickup, the weather had other ideas, and CJ had the solution…

Volkswagen Transporter visits the farm

It’s some time since I’ve lived with a VW Transporter – other than renting a T4 a decade ago, the associations are all ‘No Worries’ waves and a time when 'dub' was shorthand for a style of music and aircooled German cars, not massive wheels. Strongest of all are the memories of Rusty, a 1973-ish bright orange camper van I bought – for a barely-comprehensible £400 – over 20 years ago. It was even road-legal and reliable for that.

What it wasn’t was habitable (except for nesting mice), so Rusty & I never went camping. We did drive all over the Scottish Borders at a leisurely pace, the curious gait and flat steering wheel merely soothing any irritation with the slower traffic. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t refined, but it definitely felt like it had personality.

VW’s surprising time machine

Aside from doors that clang like some exotic percussion instrument, the T6 should be worlds away from the original Type 2 bus. The engine is in the wrong end. The gearbox is a fast, smooth DSG automatic, not a four-speed manual at the end of a long pokey stick. It can exceed any speed limit you’ll find here, uphill.

Somehow, though, Volkswagen has kept elements of the Microbus, Kombi, or whatever you know them as, alive within the latest model. Visually, there’s a subtle link in the dashboard shape, harking back to the first plastic-dash bay window models. The instruments appear flatter than in a car, and the wheel can be given a reasonable approximation of old-school flatness.

Even the pedals have an arc that reminded me of the floor-hinged originals. It doesn’t make sense, as the engineering is bang up to date, but VW’s understanding of what differentiates a car from the competition is definitely working here. It’s not about the machine, but the associations with the lifestyle and memories around it.

Hippies, students, artwork, travel… it’s all about experiences. Even if most Transporters experience racing down dual carriageways, loaded with stuff, getting dented and used, from the outside the big round logo carries all that New Age spirit before you even step up and behind the wheel.

It probably goes some way to explaining why – more than any other van – Transporters get personalised. It may be a modern car, but buyers want that individuality and lifestyle and perhaps the accuracy of VW’s tactile cues is enough to inspire.

It’s not bigger on the inside, though…

Time machine it may be, but it’s no Tardis. CJ warned me about the rear seats, but this was just a simple IKEA Klippan sofa – it should fit! As it was with the seats in place, it took four attempts to find the right angle with the backrest lowered, and a useful lesson learned for fans of Swedish furniture – the regular seats come apart. The fake leather ones are one astonishingly heavy unit.

The return trip involved the temptation of memory lane, albeit more recent memories – visiting a house from a few moves ago that was next to a particularly good chip shop. Sitting in the cab, looking at moonlight and stars and eating chips; it’s no Scott’s View, but Leicestershire has a few pretty places.

Unlike the old bus, the seats were heated, the cab insulated, and the radio clear and impressively free of buzzes. Families won’t choose this kind of vehicle, which is a shame. It has a lot of possibility and flexibility, far more lifestyle potential than a compact SUV. With the powerful petrol engine and DSG gearbox, it’s impressive on the motorway too. Electric sliding doors are handy, and overall the fit and finish is better than robust, it’s pleasantly functional.

We got back and unloaded in the dark, in the rain – for anyone moving furniture that rubberised floor will not help, but it keeps normal items from sliding around as well as insulating the interior well.

Handing it back, there’s a horrible nagging feeling at the back of my mind that I want a motorhome – no, a camper – again. And the time to take those leisurely drives.

VW Transporter Highline Kombi 2.0 TSI 204 long-term test review

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Miles so far: 2,894
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy: 22.3mpg 


Report 4: Testers’ notes

Something a bit different for this update. At the beginning of the year, the entire Parkers team took a couple of days off so we could collectively drive each other’s long-term test vehicles. To Whitby, no less.

Strangely, it is at times a little difficult to get the rest of the team to drive the vans that pass through Bauer Towers, but this was a situation where they couldn’t escape. Lucky for them the Transporter is so awesome…

That’s my opinion, of course. Did my colleagues agree? Here are a few of their notes on the experience.

Adam Binnie's view of the VW Transporter long-termer

Describing a van as ‘car-like’ seems to be the ultimate praise at the moment, and the VW Transporter offers perhaps the most car-like interior of any commercial vehicle currently on sale.

In the case of the 204hp version, the Transporter also feels like a very fast car. The DSG automatic transmission races through its ratios smoothly and the steering is very precise and devoid of slack.

Given the utilitarian nature of vehicles like the Transporter it’s a fantastic surprise to find one that is genuinely fun to drive. I’m not sure why it needs to be so powerful, but I’m certainly glad it is.

– Adam Binnie

Tom Goodlad's view of the VW Transporter long-termer

A 204hp petrol-engined, DSG-equipped front-wheel drive van sounds like madness (especially when your average fuel economy starts with a 2...), but driving a commercial vehicle as smooth and refined as this is very refreshing. Plus it comes with all the niceties you’ll find in one of VW’s regular cars.

– Tom Goodlad

Lawrence Cheung's view of the VW Transporter long-termer

User error – lowered the armrest on the right-hand side, forgot about it and when it came to opening the driver’s door I was pushing against the armrest instead with my elbow and couldn’t figure out why the door wouldn’t open!

The 12v socket and tray on the top of the dash was genuinely useful for charging phones and mounting them onto the windscreen.

Lots of road noise resonating in the cabin. Decent quality stereo when listening to DAB radio.

Performance is a pleasant surprise. I’d expect any petrol engine in a van – turboed or not – to be a bit asthmatic, noticing a large torque deficit at low engine speeds, especially when mated to an auto ’box too, but it’s not the case here.

The limitation here was more related to traction issues in the wet, and having to build up faith in the level of grip available. The steering is too light to know what’s happening and just the sheer size of the thing makes you more cautious about entry speeds.

The engine sound is quite bassy from the inside; this is also the first time I genuinely couldn’t tell if it was a petrol or diesel under normal driving conditions, without looking at the rev-counter.

– Lawrence Cheung

James Dennison's view of the VW Transporter long-termer

Surprisingly fast, not just for a van but for any vehicle full stop. Ride and handling were all far in excess of what I’d previously experienced in similar vans, and I could well imagine doing a long journey in one without feeling any form of hatred towards it at the end.

– James Dennison

Keith WR Jones's view of the VW Transporter long-termer

What a weapon. Not only is the Transporter pace accessible – aided and abetted by the slick-shifting DSG transmission in Sport mode – but it handles with remarkable composure. Being able to keep ahead of a couple of chasing superminis in a straight line wasn’t a surprise, but continuing to pull away on twistier sections of our North Yorkshire Moors test route was. A genuine giggle.

– Keith WR Jones

Percy Lawman's view of the VW Transporter long-termer

Loved it – almost car-like.

Oodles of useful power with those 204 horses scamping you down the road very rapidly.

Great on twisty roads and real fun to drive.

– Percy Lawman

Chris Lloyd's view of the VW Transporter long-termer

Rapid, comfortable and impressively quiet – thanks to a surprisingly potent petrol engine – this Transporter isn’t like any van I’ve driven before. With a slick media system, comfy cabin and leagues of space for luggage and passengers alike, it’s just the petrol fuel consumption that might make you think twice…

– Christofer Lloyd

TL;DR: they all rather liked it.

As for me, I was rather taken with Denno's SEAT Ibiza (dreadful gearbox, though, and crap DAB radio reception) and Lloyd's Mazda CX-5 (despite the overly firm ride). It's difficult to ignore the overwhelming competence of Binstergram's Skoda Kodiaq, too.

But above all, I'm still happy to be driving my van.

VW Transporter Highline kombi 2.0 TSI 204 long-term test review

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Miles so far: 2,647
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy: 22.3mpg


Report 3: A quartet of quizzical moments

Gareth Evans borrows the Transporter TSI to move house...

VW Transporter TSI petrol long-term review - crammed with stuff for the dump

Ah, the house move. Perfect fodder for a long-term update on the VW Transporter. CJ had very kindly lent me the keys to it for a weekend so I could find out just how practical a five-seater kombi is when load space is the priority rather than passenger-carrying ability.

Let me start by suggesting that perhaps ‘house move’ is over-egging it a bit. I’d already moved a lot of stuff, but the remaining bits to take to the dump were the bulky ones – namely a three-seat sofa and a double bed. Surely I’d need a couple of trips?

1) Squeezy does it

Turned out the terrific Transporter thought otherwise, and we didn’t even need any K-Y Jelly.

VW Transporter TSI petrol long-term review - crammed with stuff for the dump

So that’s its first surprise. As you can see, everything went in without hassle. I simply folded up the rear bench, which liberated enough room to slot everything neatly inside.

Next job was to head to the concrete dystopic mud berth that is Peterborough Household Recycling Centre.

2) Entering a grey area

And now to a grey area of a different type. On Peterborough Council’s website it states: ‘If you are using a van or trailer to dispose of your waste you will need to apply for a free permit. If you are using a car you do not need to apply for a permit.’

Clearly, the Transporter isn’t a car. It’s a van. But it has got a lot of windows and rear seats, and not an eyelid was batted by the staff at said facility when I arrived in the VW.

VW Transporter TSI petrol long-term review - at Peterborough Household Recycling Centre

I guess that’s a ringing endorsement of the fact that increasingly families are using these van-cum-car arrangements as family transportation. A ‘lifestyle vehicle’ if you will.

No reason they should have to apply for the same warrant to dump stuff that Mark the sparky does in his battered white 52-plate Transit.

3) Poor fuel economy (made worse by driver)

Surprise three was the fuel economy, which I’ll admit I hadn’t checked until later in the day when the light was drawing in.

Flicking the trip computer to the average mpg display, it showed 19mpg. I’ve driven Ferraris that do better than that. There’s some silliness afoot here…

VW Transporter TSI petrol long-term review - 19mpg

But what I’d failed to appreciate – in partial mitigation because I was concentrating on driving carefully and not damaging the load space lining – is how rapid this incongruously ordinary-looking van is.

4) It is fast

Put your foot down in this big green machine and you’ll have other drivers wondering just what on earth you’ve shoe-horned under the bonnet.

Once empty and on the country roads back towards my place, I found myself up behind a mk4 Golf that was quite obviously a huge VW fan; evidenced by the ‘Dub’ stickers festooned on pretty much every bit of glass on the car.

He wasn’t hanging around, but the Transporter more than kept up. It was the sort of memorable spirited drive that had everyone involved smiling like a Cheshire cat – nothing dangerous or illegal, but good honest fun. In a van. He gave me the thumbs-up as he turned off and we parted ways.

Of course, that didn’t cause my fuel economy to get any better, but in terms of smiles per mile it’s close to the most fun I’ve had in a van.*

By Gareth Evans

VW Transporter Highline kombi 2.0 TSI 204 long-term test review

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Miles so far: 1,750
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy: 25.3mpg

*Editor's note - while Gareth has been doing his best to ruin the fuel economy, compared to the previous report the overall mpg average has actually gone up slightly. So there.


Report 2: Reading the instructions

Or: how to properly run-in a VW Transporter T6 TSI

VW Transporter TSI petrol long-term review - driving fast

For the first time in I’m not sure how long, I’ve actually read the instructions for something.

I figured that given the 204hp T6 is going to be a relatively rare sight on UK roads I’d better take care of it properly. Which meant checking the owner's manual to find out how to run it in.

VW Transporter TSI petrol long-term review - owner's manual

The manual itself is kind of an extraordinary document, as it covers all versions of the current, sixth-generation Transporter – including the Caravelle MPV and factory-built dropside models – in one relatively compact book.

That said, it seems a shame the distances inside are listed in kilometres rather than the miles that will be more familiar to British operators. Would it really have taken that much more effort to convert those during the translation process?

Anyway...

The official VW Transporter T6 running-in process

VW Transporter TSI petrol long-term review - engine running-in process

Direct from the manual this is what you're supposed to do.

Up to 1,000 kilometres:

  • Do not depress the accelerator fully
  • Do not drive the vehicle at more than 2/3 of the top engine speed
  • Do not drive with a trailer attached

From 1,000 to 1,500 kilometres:

  • Increase the driving speed and engine speed gradually

To translate from the European, 1,000km is equivalent to around 620 miles, so the full running in process takes about 930 miles.

And let me tell you, when you know you’ve got 204 horsepower under your right foot, 930 miles feels like an age. For the record, the 2.0-litre petrol engine in our Transporter redlines at 6,000rpm, leaving us restricted to 4,000rpm for the first period, too.

The full running-in instructions also talk about not thrashing the engine when cold (very sensible) and not letting the engine revs drop too low by making sure you change-down gears appropriately as well as change-up. The DSG automatic transmission fitted as standard on this model means no worries for us there.

Don’t hurry up, but wait

My daily commute is about 33 miles in each direction – so 66 miles a day, five days a week, and that’s when I’m not travelling further afield to get to a launch or a press conference. So even though I’m sometimes driving test vehicles and not the VW, I do crank through the miles quite quickly. But my god, what a wait.

VW Transporter TSI petrol long-term review - full throttle at last

It was worth it, though. Literally the moment I rolled through 930 miles – which happened mid-journey on a traffic-jam dodging B-road route – I nailed the throttle, and the performance to giggle ratio confirmed that although a petrol-powered mid-size van does seems a little crazy, there are definite compensations.

The unnecessarily sporty sound being as much a welcome case in point as acceleration that delivers an entirely believable 8.8-second 0-62mph time.

In short, I’m loving it. Although I am also in a lucky position where I don’t have to worry too much about the fuel economy...

By CJ Hubbard

VW Transporter Highline kombi 2.0 TSI 204 long-term test review

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Miles so far: 1,393
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy: 25.2mpg


Report 1: 204hp turbo petrol Transporter joins the fleet

Having completed a six-month stint in the latest VW Crafter – a modern large van, dedicated to carrying stuff for long distances – I’ve now downsized to a VW Transporter T6. In what I’d describe as a much more lifestyle-orientated specification.

For starters it is, as you probably can tell from the windows in the side doors, a kombi, rather than an out-and-out panel van. So while there is still enough room in the back for plenty of said stuff, despite the choice of a short-wheelbase model, that’s combined here with the ability to comfortably transporter (sorry…) up to five people.

What’s not so obvious from a glance is that this particular VW Transporter is powered by a petrol engine. A 2.0-litre TSI turbo petrol engine. With 204hp.

A petrol-powered van? Have you gone mad?

I did say it was lifestyle, didn’t I? When VW announced it was bringing petrol power to its medium van range back in July 2017, it immediately crossed my mind that this would make an interesting long-term review companion.

VW’s pitch for these new Transporters – there’s a 150hp version as well, and the engines are also available in the Caravelle people carrier and California camper van – is that their lower NOx emissions makes them ideal for owners and operators who mostly work in concentrated urban areas.

For around towns and cities is where the potential improvement in air quality off-sets the inevitable reduction in mpg versus a diesel model.

VW Transporter TSI petrol long-term review - owner's manual

The sales material also points out the petrols may have extra appeal for more enthusiastic drivers, too – good though modern diesels largely are, I’m certainly among those who still prefer a perky, sweet-revving petrol given the choice.

Luckily for me, in this instance I did have the choice. So, bathed in the green light of approval, I instantly went and got carried away on the VW Commercial Vehicles configurator.

Speccing the Transporter TSI – dreams versus reality

VWCV has completely overhauled its UK website in recent months, and the configurator function is now rather cool, to the extent it even generates these fantastic renderings of your potential new van.

VW Transporter TSI petrol long-term review - original configuration render, rear

I say ‘potential’ advisedly in this instance, because fair to say some people with sensible hats did stick a (sensible) oar in when it came down to the Transporter’s final specification.

So while I was keen on 18-inch wheels with upgraded suspension, and fancy features such as full-LED headlights and the ‘comfort’ dashboard complete with body-coloured trimming panel, someone far, far more level-headed than me was thinking of the additional purchase cost versus the second-hand residuals.

My counter-argument that this kind of van is definitely going to appeal to lifestyle buyers, who will want such additional fripperies even (or especially) when looking for used examples only held so much sway. I gracefully conceded to VW’s product planners.

VW Transporter TSI petrol long-term review - original configuration render, front

Especially since I was still allowed to get away with the 204hp engine (rather than the predicted better-selling 150hp version), and got to keep the twin power-operated side doors, Discovery Media infotainment system with sat-nav, and the essential (given we plan to let plenty of different people drive it) front and rear parking sensors plus reversing camera.

Oh, and the Bamboo Green metallic paint. That was my choice as well.

Still plenty of toys

In the final reckoning we've ended up with a short-wheelbase T32 model in the top-spec Highline trim level, meaning a 1,097kg payload, smart coloured-coded bumpers and alloy wheels as standard. There are few more creature comfort items above and beyond this, even so.

VW Transporter TSI petrol long-term review - arrived, front

We’ve got carpet in the cab, power-folding door mirrors and a heated headlamp washer system, ideal for the coming winter. Ditto the optional heated front seats. Combined with the standard heated windscreen I feel very ready for the elements.

I’ve also been able to add the side scan with cruise control package; the latter great for my A14/A1(M) commute, the former a blind-spot monitoring system again optioned with our variety of different drivers in mind, some of whom will be less-confident about driving a van.

Hopefully we won’t be testing the upgraded airbag package, which adds side and curtain airbags at the front.

More unusual options include a mini-bulkhead behind the front seats for added load-carrying safety, and a power-latching function for the tailgate (this is not a powered tailgate, just a latch that pulls the tailgate fully shut as it’s so big it’s difficult to slam; a fully-powered version is available but I wasn’t keen at the time – this may be a decision I regret).

All told, the Parkers Transporter comes in at £44,647 on the road – including VAT. That’s an ex-VAT price £37,206 – aka, a lot of money for a mid-size van. It had better be good, then…

Great expectations

Suitably restrained (honest), the build was signed-off. Three months later, the real thing has arrived.

Initial impressions are excellent. I might not have the luxury dashboard (as rendered, below), but the quality of fit and finish inside is as Volkswagen as you’d expect, the cabin is far quieter than I’d feared given the kombi’s lack of full-height bulkhead, and the 17-inch wheels still look pretty decent, don’t they?

VW Transporter TSI petrol long-term review - original specification render, interior

Plus I love the green – which adds a real touch of class, I think, compared to some of the more obvious colours.

With just 75 miles on the clock, a painfully slow running-in period lies ahead. Gladly, the seven-speed DSG automatic transmission – fitted as standard with the 204hp engine – is so far taking all of the pain out of this process. But the power of the engine remains blatantly obvious, and I can’t wait to let it off the leash…

By CJ Hubbard

VW Transporter Highline kombi 2.0 TSI 204 long-term test review

List price: £32,985 (ex VAT, OTR)
Price as tested: £37,206 (ex VAT, OTR)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 204hp, 350Nm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Miles so far:75
Claimed fuel economy: 30.4mpg
Actual fuel economy: TBC

 

Describing a van as ‘car-like’ seems to be the ultimate praise at the moment, and the VW Transporter offers perhaps the most car-like interior of any commercial vehicle currently on sale.

 

In the case of the 204hp version, the Transporter also feels like a very fast car. The DSG automatic gearbox races through its ratios smoothly and the steering is very precise and devoid of slack.

 

Given the utilitarian nature of vehicles like the Transporter it’s a fantastic surprise to find one that is genuinely fun to drive. I’m not sure why it needs to be so powerful, but I’m certainly glad it is.