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VW launches petrol-powered T6 Transporter TSI models in the UK

  • Medium van gets new 150hp and 204hp petrol engines
  • Cleaner and cheaper than equivalent diesels
  • But also less torquey, with lower mpg

Volkswagen is adding a pair of TSI turbo petrol engines to its T6 Transporter van family – which includes the latest Caravelle people carrier and California camper van.

Shocked? Well you shouldn’t be, as diesel’s been getting a hard time in recent months, and petrol power means lower levels of harmful particulate emissions as well as cheaper purchase prices.

VW already offers a number of petrol options for the smaller Caddy, too, so adding some to the Transporter seems like a natural extension of the range – even if they will likely remain a niche choice.

What are the new petrol engines for the VW Transporter?

The new petrol engines are both 2.0-litre TSI four-cylinder turbos – one with 150hp, the other with 204hp, exactly matching the power output of two of the Transporter’s TDI turbodiesels.

New TSI turbo petrol engines for the VW Transporter T6 - badge

The 150hp TSI comes as a front-wheel drive van with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the 204hp model gets the DSG automatic transmission as standard and a choice of front- or four-wheel drive.

Why are petrol-powered vans so unusual?

Diesel is typically preferred over petrol in commercial vehicles because it returns greater fuel economy and produces larger amounts of torque – which is what really gets heavy loads moving.

New TSI turbo petrol engines for the VW Transporter T6 - driving

Even so, the 150hp TSI produces 280Nm all the way from 1,500rpm to 3,750rpm and the 204hp TSI makes 350Nm 1,500-4,000rpm – which isn’t a bad effort for petrol at all.

They are still out-gunned by the equivalent diesel engines, however, which manage 340Nm and 450Nm, respectively.

How do the running costs compare?

In official mpg terms the diesel engines remain champion.

For example, a short-wheelbase 150hp TDI returns a claimed 46.5mpg, while the equivalent 150hp TSI petrol can only manage 31.0mpg. There’s a similar difference between equivalent 204hp automatic Transporters. It’s highly likely this will be reflected in the real world as well.

VW Caravelle also gets TSI turbo petrol power - pictured alongside original Bulli Microbus

However, VW points out that the petrol-engined Transporters are around £1,000 cheaper than their diesel counterparts. Even with greater fuel economy, it therefore reckons you’ll need to travel 18,000 miles in a 150hp diesel before you’ve made up the difference (at current fuel prices).

So for lower-mileage users, a petrol-powered Transporter could make plenty of sense.

And longer term, the petrols won't be troubled by particular filter issues or demand an AdBlue top-up every 5,000 miles...

Why is VW pushing petrol-powered vans all of a sudden?

Diesel doesn’t have it easy at the moment, with particulate emissions in, uh, particular coming under close scrutiny due to health concerns.

The whole Volkswagen Dieselgate emissions scandal hasn’t helped the situation, and the fallout from this continues to rumble on and on.

New TSI turbo petrol power for VW Transporter T6 range - front

Add in the increasing momentum behind the creation of ultra-low emissions zones in cities and towns, and you can see how diesel is becoming unattractive to some buyers.

Van operators who need to travel long distances will still be better served by diesel for the time being, but it’s pleasing to see manufacturers offering wider choice.

VW was also the first van manufacturer to make autonomous emergency braking standard in the UK.

How much does a petrol-powered VW Transporter cost?

Prices for the new Transporter TSI range start at £22,625 plus VAT.

They're on sale now.

How long until we see an electric VW Transporter?

While VW is busy building up its ID electric car brand at the moment, and has confirmed it will put the ID Buzz concept – a kind of modern electric Microbus, picutred alongside the original below – into production, we’re still some way off electric motivation making sense for mid-size vans like the Transporter.

VW ID Buzz and Microbus

The compromise in kerbweight, payload and driving range would just be too great using current technology. But that’s not to say we won’t see one in the future.

To find out more about the state of the electric van market right now, read our full guide by clicking here.

Are other van makers likely to release petrol models too?

As the diesel-bashing continues it's certainly a possibility

But we're struggling to think of many other medium van makers with suitable petrol engines available, so it's likely VW will have this niche to itself for a while.

The forthcoming Ford Transit Custom PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) does use a petrol engine in combination with its electric drive systems. But that's not due to go on general sale until 2019.

The Parkers Vans guide to electric vans

Read the full VW Transporter review on Parkers Vans

Volkswagen ID Buzz concept: electric goes retro – as a van

Autonomous emergency braking now standard on VW vans

VW Transporter now available with TSI turbo petrol engines