10 March 2014 by Parkers team

  • VW Transporter Kombi seat removal
  • VW Transporter Kombi unhook front latch
  • VW Transporter Kombi floor
  • VW Transporter Kombi flip seat lever
  • VW Transporter Kombi rear latch
  • VW Transporter Kombi front latch unhook
  • VW Transporter Kombi folding bench
  • VW Transporter Kombi unhook rear latch
  • Dusk falls at the AutoTweetUp with the VW Transport Kombi mixing it with Porsche 911s
  • "It's just like a VW car" sales Hannah Burgess of the VW Transporter Kombi's interior
  • Chris Pollitt's imagining a man-sized road trip for five in the VW Transporter Kombi
  • John Marcar enjoys the spaciousness of the VW Transporter Kombi's van area
  • John Marcar demonstrates the opacity of the VW Transporter Kombi's privacy glass
  • Electrician Duncan Shanks currently drives a VW Transporter
  • Josh Ross would need extra windows in his VW Transporter Kombi for star gazing
  • Duncan Shanks and Joss Ross discuss all things VW Transporter Kombi
  • VW Transporter Kombi: a worthy AutoTweetUp attendee
  • Tailgate VW Volkswagen Transporter T5
  • Transporter quickly reverted to commercial carrying with some plasterboard
  • Elevated gardens in the Valleys mean Transporter even, errr, transported a BBQ
  • Transporter loaded with garden slabs in Somerset
  • Forty-four slabs fitted in Trnasporter with ease, and ratchet net secured them
  • Tailgates can be bad news for forklift drivers
  • Metallic pain and optional wheels mean our Kombi looks anything but basic
  • Weight of slabs did mean rear wheel sat a little further into the wheelarch
  • Ratchet net meant slabs didn't move an inch on 150-mile journey home
  • Garden slabs transported without damage
  • But California lets you cook bacon
  • VW Transporter Kombi has plenty of space with the two-seat bench removed
  • Kombi large enough to stow Ducati in the back
  • VW Transporter Kombi demonstrates great flexibility
  • VW Transporter Kombi is effective at carrying a range of loads
  • Plenty of room for transporting a bike with the rear seats removed
  • The Transporter was thoroughly packed with camping gear, food and spare clothes
  • The VW Transporter in one of the festival's many car parks
  • Route permit has long since been removed from the Transporter's windscreen
  • VW Transporter Kombi rear seat tilts forward then clips out
  • There are simple tabs to pull and levers to push to release seat legs but seat is heavy to move out of the van
  • Both wellies and van survived the mud
  • Rear bench seats three but door only on pasenger side
  • Decent space once it's open though
  • Business end up the back still packs enough room for most loads
  • Business end up the back still packs enough room for most loads
  • You need plenty of space behind the VW Transporter Kombi to open the tailgate
  • The tailgate needs some effort to open
  • Upgraded alloys lend a sophisticated look to our Transporter Kombi
  • Optional £1,272 LED daytime running lamps and Xenon headlights on our Transporter
  • Our car's optional Blackberry metallic paint lifts its image above that of usual white van man
  • VW Transporter Kombi features three detachable rear seats
  • VW Transporter Kombi with DSG automatic gearbox provides a smooth ride
  • VW Transporter Kombi comes with seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox
  • Optional cruise control makes long journeys even easier
  • DSG automatic gearbox shifts smoothly and quickly through gears
  • 2.0-litre TDI engine has 138bhp and 340Nm of torque
  • Towbar and bumper protector there for the hard work
  • VW Transporter Kombi happily takes a range of cargo
  • Both practical and comfortable
  • Fantastic engine and transmission
  • Pricy though, especially with optional extras

Farewell

The keys are handed over to the gentleman from Volkswagen and the T5 vacates the Parkers car park after six months with the team. During its time here, it’s been the perfect companion on trips to Glastonbury, numerous airport runs, two weddings and as a general handy van, with its balance of both practicality and comfort.

Cab environment

The Trendline is very well equipped with climatic air conditioning, Bluetooth phone connection, cruise control, rear parking sensors, electric front windows and electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors.

Our van also came with optional extras like the heated seats, DAB radio and xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, but these were priced way out of the price range for many buyers – the Satellite Navigation with DAB radio alone cost £2,208.

A niggling point in the cab was the cup holders, because the arms spring back as soon as you remove your drinking vessel, which means replacing it is tricky when driving. Other vans have neater solutions and more storage space for small items in the cabin.

Versatile Kombi

The Kombi is great for those who use their vehicle for work during the week and for the family at weekend; seating for five when you need it, huge load space when you don’t. Our only qualm as the process of removing the seats; it was incredibly tedious and required a lot of effort.

Having said that, the floor covering seemed both durable and grippy, and the tie-down points were very useful despite the lack of lashings at mid-height on the cargo walls.

The lack of a bulkhead had both its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, removing the rear seats reveals a lot more load length and load volume, although it means the driver and front passenger are unprotected in the event of sharp breaking and it also means noise levels are slightly higher.

On the road

There’s no denying that the 2-litre unit from the Volkswagen is a fantastic performer in the wide range of vehicles to which it is applied, and that’s certainly the case with the Transporter. Tuned to 138bhp and 320Nm, it’s sprightly even on the full load and can achieve fuel economy figures ranging up to 42.2mpg.

The DSG gearbox makes the drive all the more comfortable with consistently quick, precise and smooth gear changes, which gives you all the more confidence when pulling out of a busy intersection.

We did, however, find faults with the ‘semi-automatic’ mode of the DSG box. We found ourselves knocking it into Sport rather than the conventional ‘D’ mode and the van would hold onto its gears for much longer, making for a jerky getaway.

This happens because the gear selection lever works in a vertical fashion, with ‘S’ at the bottom and ‘D’ just above, although this shouldn’t be a problem once the driver has become familiarised.

Conclusion

There are some signs the Transporter is showing its age. For example, the graphics on the sat nav are quite old school and not the easiest to use, there is no USB connection and the van is bereft of some of the latest driver’s aids and safety kit such as lane departure warning.

Despite the price, it’s great to drive, very comfortable and practical. It’s no wonder why so many business owners pick a Transporter to help run their business.

by Liam Campbell


Tailgate practicality put to the test

  • Tailgates are more common on Kombis
  • Better for visibility and look smarter
  • Less practical for businesses, though

We’re now into the sixth and final month of our long-term test of the VW Transporter T5 Kombi. One of the interesting features of this vehicle is the tailgate, which is commonplace on Kombis (versions with an extra row of seats) but not on vans, and in this update we will be looking at the benefits of tailgates and the types of businesses and customers they suit best

When it comes to buying a van, or kombi, the two main types of rear doors are Barn Doors, which are hinged on the side of the van and rotate about a vertical point, and Tailgates, which are hinged on the top and rotate about a horizontal point.

Suited for lifestyle customers

Whereas the practical barn doors are a standard feature for medium and large panel vans, tailgates are more widely used on car-derived vans, kombis and minibuses. This is largely because they look more car-like with their large rear windows and the ‘hidden’ wiring and hinges and therefore suit the lifestyle sector better, but there are also a number of other key benefits.

Because there’s no central pillar in the larger rear window, rear screen wipers are often included which allows you to see more of the road behind.

Another surprisingly useful feature of the tailgate is its ability to create natural shelter in the rain, which is particularly useful if you spend a lot of time unloading and loading in exposed areas. Because the ‘attack angle’ for wind in the horizontal position is a lot lower, tailgates are much less likely to catch a gust of wind and slam shut, which has the potential to damage items.

Similarly, on some vans, there are no buffers on barn doors, so if the wrong door shuts first, the lock or handle of the second could smash into the first, which often results in a need to replace the whole door.

Tailgates are also much less likely to get bumped, as they lift up and out of the way of people and materials, whereas barn doors often get caught in the way which results in scratches and dints. However, the flip side to this is when the van is parked facing uphill, or on a slant, and the tailgate could be held at a ‘head hazard’ height.

Less practical

One of the biggest drawbacks of tailgates is practicality. Firstly, they need the length of the tailgate in room behind the van to be able to open it fully and they're also more difficult to open and close, particularly on larger vans and kombis, because they can open to quite a height.

It’s not as easy for joiners and plumbers to store long pipes or planks because any items longer than the load length means the tailgate has to be open, which is illegal if the number plate isn’t visible from behind.

A raised tailgate also acts as an obstruction for the tall masts of forklifts, so the only way to load heavy pallets would be through a side loading door, if there is one.

by Liam Campbell


Seat removal

  • Final month with our Transporter Kombi long-termer
  • Removing rear seats proved time consuming and hard work
  • Not recommended for regular conversions

We’re now six months into our long-term test of the Transporter Kombi, and it’s ‘so far, so good’ for VW’s most popular commercial. We decided to put its practicality to the test, by investigating how easy, or difficult, it is to remove the second row of seats.

Given the vagueness of the instructions in the manual (Page 100), we had to figure it out most of it for ourselves, which took some doing! Volkswagen is usually good at thinking things through for its customers, but this was nothing but a struggle from the start.

So, after 15 minutes of painstaking lifting and bending down into uncomfortable and ungodly positions, we’ve compiled our ‘VW Transporter Kombi Rear Seat Removal Guide’.

Stage 1 - Preparation – First things first. You need to de-clutter the area and make as much room for yourself as possible. This includes removing any tools or boxes from the foot wells, removing the headrests and moving the passenger and driver’s seat as far forward as possible.

Stage 2 - Flip single seat forward – Because of its size and convenience, we picked on the single seat first. This is flipped forward by lifting the lever located on the side of the seat.

Stage 3Unhook rear latches - Once the seat is pushed as far forward as possible, you must lift the black bar located at the bottom rear of the seat. This will unhook the rear latches and allow the seat to be pushed further forward.

Stage 4Unhook front latches – No doubt the hardest stage, so bear with it! With the seat held forward, you must lift the small levers on the seat legs next to the latches. Once both have been raised, you shake and jiggle the seat around until both legs prize free of the latches – not an easy thing to do considering it weighs around 20kg and the latches easily clip themselves back in. Once it’s free, simply unload out of the side loading door.

Stage 5Fold bench back down - So you’ve survived the dreaded Stage 4; that’s good. The bench is slightly easier and we start by pulling the strap in the middle of the bench back to fold it down.

Stage 6Unhook rear latches – There are a further two straps in either corner of the bench back. If you pull these, it will release the latch and allow the bench to roll forward.

Stage 7Unhook front latches - Because the bench rolls much further forward than the seat, it’s a lot easier to access the little levers on the front legs and unhook the front latches.

Stage 8Load 'er up – It may take two people to carry the rear bench but once it's removed you’ve access to another two cubic metres or so of load space. If you remove the mats, you also reveal additional lashing points.

Volkswagen hasn’t made this easy for us, especially at Stage 4, and the whole process is both time consuming and fiddly. For those hoping to switch between utility van by day and family van by night, this simply isn’t a viable option. Even after we’d played around with it a couple of times, it was just as hard work as the first time.

by Liam Campbell


It's Showtime!

  • Our VW Transporter Kombi goes to a car show
  • Space, practicality and resale values impress
  • Purchase price and hard plastics don’t

Being a car enthusiast who doesn’t (currently) own his own car can feel burdensome at times, not least when attending events where others show off their automotive wares.

The opportunity to attend the biggest AutoTweetUp yet – where fans of all kinds of eclectic vehicles make a pilgrimage to chat and tweet about their motoring likes and loathings – presented another dilemma. Which motor from the Parkers test fleet to take?

Recent shows have highlighted the popularity of all generations of Volkswagen’s Transporter, a model celebrating 60 years of British sales. Okay, our long-term Kombi’s not been tricked out with lowered suspension or a powerful engine upgrade, but it looks slick in its Blackberry paint, smart alloys and LED day running lights.

So, decision made, what would fellow car-loving attendees, many arriving in array of classic Mercedes, Porsches and a smattering of Morgans make of the VW Transporter Kombi?

Duncan Shanks - Electrician

Duncan doesn’t need the Transporter’s virtues extolling to him, as he currently runs one, albeit in long-wheelbase form and modified with lowered suspension and extra seats installed in the back for family use.

“They’re expensive vans,” he concedes, “and I’d be looking at least at the thin end of £40,000 to spec one up the way I’d want one, but ultimately you feel like you’re buying something that’s built to last.” Metaphorically and literally, this is a van you can throw a lot at, it appears.

Impressed with the level of fit and finish, the firmer interior plastics aren’t an issue for Duncan either “there’s no problem hiding the fact it’s a van offering comforts of a car. Transporters go on and on and on and don’t need these soft-touch mouldings people obsess with these days.”

“I can see myself in one of these, but I’d need the longer wheelbase, with more space behind the seats, so I can get in all my kit.”

John Marcar – Events & Logistics Coordinator

Used to driving a variety of supercars and specialist vehicles through his logistics role at Gumball 3000, John instantly appreciated the benefits of the Kombi’s van-meets-car rationale.

“When we’re recceing routes, we often need a couple of large vehicles to transport the guys and their kit around,” says John. “Many 4x4s just aren’t big enough but something like this, where there’s all the van space behind the seats, is brilliant.”

Not only would the vertical sides of the van look great in Gumball livery, John also points out another key Kombi advantage: “look, if you really needed to, you can even have a crafty kip in the back too!”

Hannah Burgess – Public Relations

“Well, this is impressive, isn’t it – you climb in and immediately you know you’re in a Volkswagen simply from the fit and finish.” Hannah’s clearly a fan of the Transporter Kombi.

“Okay, the plastics aren’t as squidgy as in its car range, but it feels good – you don’t feel you’re in something too commercial.”

Could a vehicle like this VW fit in with Hannah’s busy PR lifestyle and her collection of sports cars? “Hmmm, not sure I could really see myself buying one, but if one of my friends had one and a few of us were going away in it, it’d be great fun.”

Chris Pollitt – Freelance Journalist

“I can see the point of this,” confirms Chris, “it’s got huge amounts of space, great for when you need to carry larger than normal items without having to hire a van or hook up a trailer. Plus the Kombi seats mean it’s great for carrying people around too.”

Suffice to say Chris and I are somewhat on the broader side, but we’d easily manage a journey with another sat between us in the back.

Future residual values are they key for Chris though in order to offset the high purchase price. “You’d really have to be sure you needed a dual-role car-cum-van like this and make a lot of use of it over the years.”

Josh Ross – Public Relations

Having been wowed by the Transporter Kombi’s DSG automatic transmission and contemporary infotainment system, Josh’s focused attention switches to the interior plastics: “they’re solid, but like the weave used on the seat materials, they’re going to stand up to well over 200,000 miles of driving, aren’t they?”

Could Josh see himself driving something like the Kombi? “Well, I’d need to see how responsive it was on the road, but the spaciousness of a vehicle like this would appeal when my future wife and our children go on trips. I’d prefer the glazing to be all-round though to improve rearward visibility.”

Everyone at Parkers has found much to enjoy about the VW Transporter Kombi – the evidence is stacking up to confirm we’re not alone.

by Keith WR Jones

Mileage: 5,728 miles

Fuel economy: 32.3mpg (calculated)


Festival headliner

  • Transporter travels to Glastonbury Festival
  • Easily accommodates plenty of camping gear
  • Surprisingly comfortable on the drive down

With a week’s holiday booked to head to Glastonbury Festival as a volunteer steward, my tent dug out of the loft and the mud from last year brushed off my wellies, the final thing I needed to do was procure a car from the Parkers fleet to make the 170-mile or so journey down to Worthy Farm in Somerset.

I had planned to take the new Kia Soul long-termer to the festival but then it turned out that the Transporter was available.

This was good news as not only did it save me the job of thinking up soul music puns for this article, it meant that having enough space for all my camping gear wouldn’t be a problem and if weather conditions turned biblical I’d always have the option of sleeping in the van.

Space for everything

As someone with a compulsion to over-pack, having the freedom of a three-tonne van rather than the Soul’s 354-litre boot was a liberating experience.

Therefore, camping chairs, camping stove, coolbox, plenty of food and drink, and every piece of waterproof clothing I own (I’d checked the weather forecast…) were all bundled into the back without a second thought. I don’t think I troubled the 1,100kg-plus payload, though.

By using a cargo net to stop anything sliding under the rear passenger seats and by packing it snuggly across the width of the load bay the kit pretty much stayed put. Helpfully, the floor covering proved grippy enough to help prevent anything sliding around.

An experimental lie down in the load area to check I could stretch out in a sleeping bag if needs be revealed that the odd, springy plastic lining the floor makes a surprisingly comfortable mattress too.

Fiddly cupholders

I had been wondering whether I’d regret taking a van rather than a car for the four-and-a-half hour drive down but the Transporter turned out to be surprisingly comfortable and quiet.

A minor gripe with the cabin is the lack of stowage space for the various food packets and drinks cartons inevitably built up during the journey, and also the design of the two cupholders which pop out of the dashboard.

They comprise a hinged metal arm over a plate, enabling them to accommodate bottles and cans of different sizes. This design, however, means they have an annoying habit of springing back to the smallest position when a large bottle is removed, making it difficult to replace.

The large conventional cupholders in the rival Ford Transit Custom are a better bet, especially as there are more than two of them.

Why no USB?

The extra stations available on the DAB radio (part of the pricey optional navigation/multimedia unit fitted to our van) and the aux-in port in the glovebox for my mp3 player helped make the long journey a bit easier.

It would have been nice to have been able to connect it via a USB port instead and be able to scroll through tracks using the steering wheel, as you can in many cars. Our van includes an SD card slot, iPod adapter and 3.5mm aux-in socket (all of which are options) but no USB, which is surprising.

Overall though, our Transporter Kombi is one seriously refined van and it did pretty well on fuel to and from the festival too.

What’s more, in the inevitable queues leaving the site after the festival was all done and dusted the automatic DSG gearbox meant I didn’t get a tired clutch leg.

I didn't even have to resort to sleeping in the van.

by James Taylor

Mileage: 4,399 miles

Fuel economy: 31.0mpg (calculated)


California Dreamin'

  • Transporter impresses with versatility, but we've found even better VW van
  • Similarities between our Kombi and California camper are striking
  • One best for lugging large loads, the other better for catching Zzzzzz

It always amazes me just how versatile our Transporter Kombi is. Kieren’s been removing seats and stuffing motorbikes in the back, I’ve transported half a garden of paving slabs and even taken guests to wedding receptions in it. Whether it be a long motorway run or hauling heavy loads, it’s always been entirely comfortable, dependable and trouble-free.

In fact, of all the long-termers on our fleet (and we have the fast in the SEAT Leon Cupra, the capacious in the Skoda Octavia, the attractive in the Mazda 3, the luxurious in the Audi A8 and frugal in the Peugeot 308) it’s clear that the Transporter Kombi is absolutely the most versatile of the bunch.

So I didn’t think things could get much better with a VW-based van. Until I needed to camp in a field for a friend’s wedding, and borrowed the excellent California, that is. Quite how they manage to squeeze so much stuff in there is beyond me – think of it as the Swiss Army knife of Tardis’ and you’re nearly there.

To be fair you could lob a double mattress in the back of our Kombi, but that would be more creepy than comfortable. Plus there’s no cooker to crisp your bacon in the morning. Which for most members of the team would be an unforgivable oversight.

However, there were a few more similarities between our Kombi and the test California than you might expect; for a start both used the firm’s excellent 2.0-litre diesel engine, though the Camper had an extra turbo and 40bhp over ours. In truth, the extra weight of its cupboards, kitchen sink and ‘upstairs’ bedroom meant that even unladen it actually felt a little slower.

Still, the excellent seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox is found on both, which blends cogs together smoothly, quickly and seamlessly – perfect for carrying precious cargo or even more precious kids on the way to a family holiday.

And both are just as easy to manoeuvre, thanks to our Kombi’s parking sensors and rear view camera system. Though in truth the California sports slightly worse rear visibility thanks to the cupboard on one side.

Add to that kit-list the same upgraded sat-nav, multifunction steering wheel and swivelling front seats as found on the Kombi and it even looks the same up-front. The hatch for the ‘upstairs’ on the Camper is replaced by a glass sunroof on our Kombi though; popping up through that will only result in al-fresco sleeping in RHK.

And no one wants to see me perched on top of the Kombi in my pajamas.

Clearly I wouldn’t want to spend a night in the Kombi (though it would be better than just a plain old tent) but for every other job we ask of it, our purple van excels. In fact we’ve yet to find a task to defeat it – though we are having lots of fun trying.

Might go off-road next...

Mileage: 3,960

Fuel economy so far: 31.6mpg


Ten days, ten tasks

  • VW Transporter Kombi scores ten for ten with our Road Test Editor
  • Takes in weddings, airports, garden centres and congested motorways
  • Averages 32.7mpg and carries 44 garden slabs with consummate ease

Ten days, 2,815-miles, three countries, forty-four garden slabs, a BBQ, two weddings, one kilt, two dresses, two passengers, one airport and three petrol stations. No one ever said life with our long term VW Transporter Kombi long termer was anything but varied.

But then that’s what life with a ‘van’ is all about these days. Sales of these multi- or dual-purpose vehicles are going through the roof, and owners are using them for work one day and leisure the next. It’s no different with our purple long-termer.

It’s thanks to the spec of our Kombi, with £8,249 of options, that it’s such an agreeable travel companion – regardless of journey. Job one was the humble commute, but while it’s not the most obvious wedding vehicle, and ours refrained from carrying the wedding party, carrying guests to the reception was task two. The sharp looks mean it doesn’t get mistaken for the man with the van fixing the church’s leaky roof when in the car park either.

We can thank the Blackberry metallic paint (£500), 17-inch Cascavel alloy wheels (£672) and Bi-Xenon LED daytime running lights (£1,272) for that though. The inside is equally impressive thanks to the carpeted cab (£72), upgraded sat-nav and hifi (£2,208), leather multifunction steering wheel (£204) and glass sunroof (£588).

But it doesn’t just look good, it is good – especially on the move. The first time I drove the Kombi I was amazed at just how easy it was to pilot, the torquey 2.0-litre diesel engine and seamless seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox meaning little concentration is required for smooth progress.

Handy for that early morning run to the airport the night after; job three ticked off the list. Squeezing in under five metres in length (the long wheelbase models stretch to 5,292mm) it slots neatly into the spaces at Heathrow’s long stay car park, so there was no stress for the next 1,956-mile journey to Lisbon – by plane. The Transporter’s good, but it’s not that good.

Bags repacked on the night of our return (job four) there was no respite before job five the next morning taking plasterboard to a friend’s garage for an office construction. Decorating materials delivered, the next box to tick on the list (6) was Transporting (pun intended) myself and my girlfriend to a wedding reception (90 miles away) in Colchester. Dancing the night away and exploring the excesses offered by the bar meant the next day – time for job seven (driving to Wales) - was a solemn affair.

Ultimately a chauffeur-driven executive saloon would have been ideal, but having to drive myself the Kombi proved perfect for the job – the carpeted cab was quiet, the armrests on the seats comfortable, and the high driving position made for excellent visibility and forward planning on the congested Bank holiday motorways.

Thanks to the rear seats we even escaped the £12.80 van charge for the Severn bridge toll (paying ‘just’ £6.40 instead, like every other car) and just under 250-miles later – and many hours – we arrived for the family BBQ. Such is the severity of the altitude change in Valley’s gardens the Transporter even shifted the BBQ from one end of the garden to the other. That’ll be job eight then.

Job nine was to get us to Somerset to catch up with more family (job nine) and then home to Dunstable, with 44 freshly loaded Garden slabs on board – proper VW Transporter territory this. Despite each piece of paving weighing 17Kg the stance of the Kombi altered little, and though it had to work it’s gearbox and engine a little harder on the Mendip hills it rarely felt overwhelmed.

Over 220 miles later (Tylorstown to Dunstable via Shepton Mallet) the Transporter had the slabs and human cargo (undamaged and unflustered respectively) at home and unloaded. I’d say that was the final job’s (10) box well and truly ticked.

By the time I was back at work the next morning, I’d re-filled the Transporter’s diesel tanks for the third time. Despite the 80-litre tank’s propensity for post-£100 bills, the VW had averaged 32.7mpg for the whole trip – and in fact the long term 2,761-mile check to this point.

Which just leaves one last job for me; come up with another ten days and ten tasks for the VW Transporter Kombi to master just like it did these. 

Mileage: 3,477-miles

Economy: 32.7mpg (calculated)


Smooth operator

  • Torquey diesel and automatic 'box combine for smooth power delivery
  • Plenty of space in the back for unusual loads and carrying passengers
  • Feels very car like to drive and easy to manoeuvre or park

In the last update the VW was plying its trade as a motorcycle transporter and proving very effective at it.

I seemed to have got the removal of the rear two-seat bench down to a fine art managing to roll the bench off and out of its runner locators in one swift moment.

The challenge remains getting the seat out of the back of the van, since the bench is so heavy (it has to be for crash protection as it comes with two Isofix fitting points), cleanly and without damage to the Transporter.

Soft touch floor covering

Loading the bike revealed the floor covering provides mixed benefits. It provides grip (useful for wet soled trainers) but not overly so, enabling me to slide the bike more easily into position.

But the black floor covering hides a slightly spongy base so any heavy object (especially ones with feet or stands) will press firmly down and cause an indent – that’s a problem when you have only 200kgs concentrated through a contact patch not much bigger than a £2 coin. Solution? One piece of wood under the stand helped spread the load.

The key with driving with the motorcycle in the back is steady progress and no sudden movements, even with it strapped down. Having a bike tip over means at best broken indicators and wing mirrors and at worst expensive plastics crumpled and busted.

Automatic gearbox aids smooth driving

The spacing of the seven forward gears in the automatic gearbox matches the pulling power of the two-litre diesel engine extremely well. What really helps smooth out the gear changes is the automatic gearbox which uses two clutches – one to control the gear in use, the other to pre-select the next gear.

By pre-loading a gear before it is required it makes for a quicker, slicker gear change – meaning there is very little if any jerk through the transmission. Result? It’s one smooth ride that wouldn’t wake the most fractious of sleeping babies let alone rock a motorcycle about.

Longer journeys prove pretty comfortable for drivers and passengers too. This is one-well specced van with heated front seats for chilly morning starts, DAB radio for maximum number of radio stations, iPod connection for your own tunes and sat nav, for homing in on new destinations.

Space for passengers and cargo

The combination of seats and luggage space proved effective again with a trip for three people to pick up a wagon load of firewood. Thanks to a low loading lip hefting up large lumps of tree trunk proved simple, while the  grippy floor helps prevent a Jenga-style collapse of the stacked wood.

A cargo net also helps secure the odd shaped pile while driving and keeps it neatly in place by clipping into the floor-mounted ring loops.

At over £40k brand new the VW Transporter Kombi should be impressing the pants off everyone, and in truth is it is. It's certainly proving hard to fault the Kombi for its flexibility, driver and passenger comfort and outright load carrying abilities.

Mileage: 2,232 miles

MPG: 39.0 mpg (indicated)

by Kieren Puffett


Load lugging

  • VW Transporter Kombi proves its versatility for lugging a large load
  • Linear power delivery and seamless gear change makes for smooth trip
  • Removing the second row of seats requires mix of brawn and brains

It's not been with the Parkers team long but already the VW Transporter Kombi has been pressed into action as the van it was intended to be.  

So far the van's been pulling off a great double act trick of carrying passengers and luggage, thanks to its massive load space and five comfortable seats.

There are times, like now, when a lot more space is required. That time arrived in the shape of a motorcycle needing servicing and the mechanic being 25 miles away.

Big though the load bay is, with the seats in place there was no way I was going to get my Ducati in, so out came the reear seats to allow the full length of the bike to fit in the van.

Removing the rear seats

The rear seats seat three people with a two-seater bench and a single seat, and the single seat tips forward easily then folds flat thanks to a simple tag at the bottom of the bench.

So far so good, but on the rear legs of the bench there are two straps that release the feet and allows the bench to tip forward. On the front legs there is a lever (one on each) which when pressed forward did… nothing. I tried everything and the feet remained firmly attached to the floor.

A quick read of the comprehensive owner’s manual confirmed that the bench does indeed detach and can be removed. Reassured that I wasn’t about to break anything, I had another go.

By using a vaguely remembered scrum down technique I found that tilting the bench forward as far as it would go by using my shoulders and pressing the two levers down simultaneously the seat pivoted out of its slots cleanly. Job done.

Well so I thought. The bench is heavy and doesn’t slide on the rubber floor covering. Ideally this is a two-person job but one fit person can manage it with some patience, leverage and a few rest breaks.

With the rear two seats out there was now plenty of room to load the bike. Use of an impromptu ramp (a thick plank) meant loading the bike was straight forward and it wasn’t too much hassle to slide the bike across to the side of the van.

Plenty of room in the back

Tying the bike down was straight forward thanks to the three metal loops placed along the length of the van and secured the bike for the trip. The side stand was creating a worrying dip in the soft floor covering though, so that was soon sorted with a piece of wood to spread the pressure.

Thanks to the Transporter's engine and the automatic gearbox the very smooth power delivery meant it was easy to prevent the bike from pitching back and forth under acceleration.

With the bike safely delivered it was relatively straight forward putting the bench back, the only issue remaining was wrestling it back into the final position between the single seat and van sides.

With the seat clipped securely in place the Transporter is now back plying its trade as a people carrier and lugging the odd large object about. It’s a double act the Kombi pulls off incredibly well.

Mileage: 1,966 miles

MPG: 38.1 mpg (indicated)

by Kieren Puffett

 


Welcome

  • We welcome a five-seat Transporter Kombi to our fleet
  • Car-like cabin means options push price of ours past £40k
  • DSG gearbox and reversing camera make it easier to live with

When you don’t have to drive a van all the time there’s a certain appeal to getting behind the wheel of one. White van driver might carry a stigma, but for us mere car-driving mortals there’s little else with four wheels that offers such an occasional sense of frission.

Which is exactly why the arrival of Parkers’ new Volkswagen Transporter Kombi has had the team so excited. Even if it’s not white.

More and more of you are buying into the ethos of these quasi van/people movers than ever before too; they offer enough flexibility for serious work during the week and fantastic versatility and comfort come the weekend – whatever your lifestyle demands.

And with such a varied team at Parkers – between us we’re single, married, male, female, with and without children, DIY experts (read: we’ll give it a go), amateur mechanics, outdoorsmen, sportsmen, and kart racers – we’ve got plenty of tasks lined up for the Transporter Kombi already.

Even our daily commutes, ranging from 2.5 miles to over 70 miles each way will test the van’s credentials, in town, on the motorway and across our favourite back roads. If only someone would let us take it to a track day we’d have every corner covered.

But since we have such diverse demands and different lives, it made choosing the exact specification of our Kombi somewhat difficult – our Transporter was in danger of becoming a jack of all trades and master of none.

There’s actually something of a bewildering choice when it comes to engines; they’re all 2.0-litre diesels but power ranges from 83bhp to 178bhp. It’s torque that matters for something as big as a van though, so we were left with the most powerful and the second in command 138bhp example. We chose the latter for its promised 36.7mpg economy and reasonable 203g/km CO2 emissions. Plus it’s a chunk cheaper than the 178bhp model.

Choosing the gearbox was far easier; by far the best seller on this model is the seven-speed DSG automatic. So it’s a case of put your foot down and go in our Transporter. And unlike some of the other Kombis on the road that foot goes down onto carpet, our cab being covered in the stuff – normally there’d be a hard wearing rubber instead.

Thankfully the Highline trim level is as well-specced as it sounds too, with air conditioning, electric windows, cruise control, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors and a leather steering wheel. We added heated seats (£276) and mirrors (£132) to take away the winter chills and a glass sunroof (£588) to enjoy the promised spring weather, as well as £1,272 Xenon headlights with LED day light running lamps and heated washers.

To make the cab feel even more plush we added the upgraded stereo and touchscreen sat-nav with hard drive and DAB radio (£2,208), the leads for attaching the latest smartphones (£189) and buttons on the steering wheel to control it (£204).

It would have been easy to have stuck with plain white paint, wheel trims and the bare minimum inside, but this isn’t a working van, so to finish off our Transporter’s upmarket look we opted for Blackberry metallic paint (£500) and upgraded the 16-inch alloy wheels to 17-inch rims instead (£672). Ensuring that paint remains un-marked is the £756 reversing camera, while should the worst happen the side and front curtain airbags (£306) will hopefully ensure our bodies remain blemish-free too.

It does have to earn its keep with us though, so we did add a tow bar with 13-pin electrics (£456), a rear bumper cover to protect the paint (£72) and a ratchet nets system (£276) to stop larger loads in the rear breaking loose on the move.

That adds up to over £40,000 so before it’s even turned a wheel we have some lofty expectations of our new workhorse. Still, with all we have planned for the Transporter Kombi you can be sure it won’t be too long until we find out just how well it stacks up.

You can read our full Volkswagen Transporter review on our van site here.

by Graeme Lambert