The Volkswagen Transporter 6.1 is somewhere between a mid-life facelift of the really popular and really rather good previous van and an all-new van. Confusing, right?
In a nutshell, it’s the six generation of a van that’s been around since the dinosaurs were young lads and it uses pretty much the same bits, like the bodywork and a lot of the interior, as the Volkswagen Transporter T6.
What has been changed on the Transporter 6.1 is a revamped grille, bumper and headlights. The grille has been made larger to help the Euro-6d engine meet emissions standards, while the headlights have been slimmed down and merge with the bars in the grille to make the front end look a bit sleeker.
There’s also a different exhaust system compared to the previous model which is how VW has met the required emissions levels for this model without having to make changes to the engine.
On the inside there are a number of changes, the most important of which is the eye-catching touchscreen (more on that later).
I bet you’re also wondering what that 6.1 bit is about, and you might have also seen it as T6.1? Long after VW launched their first van – you know the one, the hippy bus – in the 50s, some bright spark at VW decided the vans needed a sort of nickname. Strangely that first van platform was called the Type 2, but to simplify things after getting all the way to the fourth generation when it became a Transporter they retrospectively added the T naming system as well.
That meant the first-generation Transporter became the T1, the second the T2 etc etc… Eventually, after 70 years, we arrive at the modern day where the latest Transporter T6 had to be upgraded and naturally, it being full of tech, it got a 21st century .1 upgrade. It’s that simple. Oh, and Volkswagen also tend to ignore the T part these days because they use that elsewhere, so you’ll just find it being called the Transporter 6.1 a lot.
The simple answer is that T28, T30 and T32 all refer to the weight of the Transporter. That thing we told you about the different T generations of van… forget about it.
The modern T-numbers are the gross vehicle weight of the vans – that’s the total weight the van is allowed to drive on the roads at. Therefore a T26 can weight 2.6 tonnes, the T28 can weigh up to 2.8 tonnes, a T30 can weigh 3 tonnes and you guessed it, a T32 can weigh 3.2 tonnes.
That’s the weight of the van plus you, all the liquids and anything you want to transport (excuse the pun).
It goes without saying that the Transporter 6.1 is available as a van, but you can also buy the Transporter as a single- or double-cab chassis, crew van with more seats and less storage called Transporter 6.1 Kombi, a proper minibus called Transporter 6.1 Shuttle, a posh executive shuttle bus that is called Volkswagen 6.1 Multivan or 6.1 Caravelle, and of course the Volkswagen California campervan. Buyers go crazy for the Transporter because of its campervan heritage, and regular vans are always in high demand for conversions.
When it comes to the Transporter van, there are short and long wheelbases, as well as standard, medium and high roof heights.
Buyers can choose from three trims levels with Startline, Highline and Sportline models each getting more kit (and more expensive) as they go.
Before we get into it, you might like to know that there is a world of other options out there that are similar to the Volkswagen Transporter 6.1 in the medium van sector. Want one that drives better then choose the Ford Transit Custom? What a smoother engine then head for any one of the Citroen Dispatch, Peugeot Expert, Toyota Proace or Vauxhall Vivaro. What the only other badge that can top the VW one, then that’ll be the Mercedes-Benz Vito.
There are loads of rivals, check out the medium van reviews section for the full range.
Is the Transporter 6.1 a good van to drive?
Ever driven a Golf? They’re pretty good aren’t they. Well, the Volkswagen Transporter is the van equivalent of the Golf, and there’s a reason why it’s the best-selling van the world has ever seen with more than 12m global sales.
The latest van adds to the dynasty in a clever new way with electro-mechanical steering. We don’t want to bore you with the details, but it’s an important update because it allows the Transporter’s clever brain to control the steering for things like lane keeping assistance and in this instance has actually improved the way the van drives.
Modern VW vans have a really light steering feel. Some people like it, but we’re less of a fan. The new steering is no different but it does feel a bit more connected to the road which is definitely a good thing.
The Transporter isn’t a big van, but the steering makes it feel even smaller, more nimble and more pleasant to drive. If you’re interested in the people mover Multivan, then redesigned front suspension also helps improve the quality of the ride.
The Transporter uses Volkswagen’s own 2-litre turbodiesel which along with a revamped exhaust system has been reworked to meet tougher emissions levels.
Volkswagen sell all their vans with a PS number – which is kind of the European way of saying horsepower as it stands for pferdestrke which means “horse strength”. There’s a slight variation in the maths, though, so PS is slightly larger than horsepower making the Transporter’s 90 PS engine 89hp, the 110 PS engine 109hp, the 150 PS engine is 148hp and the 204 PS engine has 201hp.
To recap, you can have the Transporter with a choice of four diesel engines, as well as an electric version called the Volkswagen ABT e-Transporter 6.1 van.
Here’s a nice easy question. Yes. The Volkswagen Transporter 6.1 is available with an automatic 7-speed DSG gearbox.
As standard, the Transporter 6.1 gets a six-speed manual transmission but if your budget allows we would recommend the automatic. It’s a dual clutch system which means that it sneakily has a second gear waiting in the wings ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. That means the changes are lightening quick and also super smooth as it picks just the right moment to make the shift.
Another party trick is that because of the electric steering if you have an automatic gearbox and use the adaptive cruise control it will bring the van all the way down to a stop if the car in front slows. Then, it will restart again! It’s great for traffic jams and lazy people like us.
Another easy question. Yes. The four-wheel-drive Transporter 4Motion is available on 150 PS and 204 PS models. That’s the short answer, the longer answer is that the all-wheel-drive system uses an electronic clutch on the rear axle to gauge when wheels haven’t got any traction. It then limits or increases power to other wheels (all four of them in fact) to get you unstuck. In case that’s not enough, the Transporter is also available with an optional mechanical diff lock which makes it easier to drive off when the surface is really tricky.
You’re either wanting to pull a trailer with some cool work equipment on it, or more likely you’ve come here wondering if a Transporter can tow your caravan. The Transporter 6.1 can tow up to 2.5-tonnes or 2500kg. The tow bar does cost a few quid more, or there’s a removable tow bar option, but you do get Trailer Stabilisation on top which automatically applies the brakes if it senses the trailer getting out of hand.
Smart, comfortable, and grey. But that sounds a bit harsh, because the Transporter has a properly sophisticated infotainment system that fits neatly into the restyled interior which gets piano black plastic bits to smarter the dash up and a revised layout for better storage in the top section of the dash. VW has also reshaped the door pockets to let you store more there.
The amount of noise getting into the cabin has been lowered with more sound deadening, making the Transporter probably the quietest of all medium-sized vans when you’re buzzing about the motorway.
It has some neat features too, including inductive charging in the large storage tray to juice up your phone, alongside a USB C connection instead of a standard USB – a bit of clever futureproofing from VW there. Nice one.
Because it is a mild-facelift model, the Transporter 6.1 update is largely technology based, but they didn’t need to do much work to the feel of the van on the inside anyway. It’s comfy, spacious and feels well made. It is a little boring compared to a Ford Transit Custom, and lacks the driver focused appeal of the Citroen Dispatch with its head-up display, but it makes up for it with its eye-catching touchscreens and “digital cockpit”.
The “digital cockpit” is a 10-inch screen which replaces the traditional instrument cluster you find behind the steering wheel. You know, the dials you look at.
Instead of little needles, VW has put in a wide rectangular screen that lets you choose almost any combination of displays on it from the navigation directions through to music and phone. You can also get the speedo and vehicle status reports – which are handy, as it is a van after all.
Of course it does. VW hasn’t just added an 8-inch touchscreen in the dash so that you can see in the radio settings really well, they’ve also tied in Apple and Android’s smartphone interface to turn your van into a mobile, err mobile. If you want to see your apps even larger, there’s also a 9.2-inch screen which fills the space a little bit better – but is probably not worth the money.
If you have your heart set on the Transporter 6.1 you’ll soon find out that there are a mad amount of options to choose from. This can make the cost of a Transporter really add up on top of the basic Startline trim level.
For your money, you get steel wheels along with grey plastic bumpers, mirrors and door handles. There’s folding load lashing points in the back and half-height hardboard protection to stop the metal getting damaged. Nice to have features on the inside include a more modest 6.5-inch touchscreen display with DAB radio, driver’s seat with armrest that is 4-way adjustable, dual passenger seat, leather trimmed multi-function steering wheel, electric windows and an allergen filter for the heating system. There’s also a load of standard fit safety systems (see below).
There are two body lengths for the Transporter giving you internal storage of up to 2,572mm for the short wheelbase van and 2,975mm for the long wheelbase model. Load volumes range from 5.8 cubic metres to 9.3 cubic metres.
Payload will depend on which gross vehicle weight your van is (T26, T28 etc) but range from 685kg to 1,217kg.
Overall the 6.1 hasn’t changed in is loadspace dimensions which is great news if you have racking or other internal items that you need to swap over.
For more on what you’ll be able to fit in your van see the Volkswagen Transporter 6.1 dimensions article and for how much you can move check out the Volkswagen Transport 6.1 payload post.
The Volkswagen Transporter 6.1 was given a Gold rating by the Euro NCAP test with a 65% safety assist performance score.
Standard safety features on the Transporter 6.1 include automatic post-collision braking, brake assist, crosswind assist, driver alert system, front driver and passenger airbads, eCall emergency, hill start assist, and front assist with emergency braking.
It also gets cruise control with speed limiter as standard.
It’s one of the most comprehensive standard safety systems of any mid-size van to stop you being blown off course, fall asleep at the wheel, roll backwards, or inadvertently roll forwards.
Adaptive cruise control can also be had on the Highline models and the lane keeping assist system is one of the best on the market as it gently corrects your steering to keep you between the white lines for a few seconds giving you just enough time to take proper control.
The Transporter 6.1 gets a three-year or 100,000 mile warranty as standard. VW also includes three years of roadside assistance and you can pay for a fixed price servicing contract upfront.
In terms of running costs it’s no worse or better than many of the other medium sized vans on the market.
You can expect fuel consumption in the region of 33mpg to 35mpg in the real world which is smack bang in the middle of the estimates from the fuel boffins. Obviously if you run a bit heavy you'll struggle to get that, but when it comes to having a drink, the Transporter is one of the better vans.
The basic price for the Transporter 6.1 starts at just under £23,000 excluding VAT and on the road costs for a Transporter 6.1 T26 Startline 90 PS SWB. Expect to pay more than £28,000 for a bigger and better equipped T30 Highline 110 PS SWB van. Prices can take you well over £40,000 for the most powerful models with the Sportline trim. The dual clutch DSG gearbox will set you back in the region of £2,000 and its roughly £3,500 to step up from Startline to Highline trim levels. The all-wheel-drive 4Motion system adds at least another £2,500 to the price.
This question is a bit like asking us what you should have for dinner. But the answer is sausages.
And yes, you should buy a Transporter 6.1. Why not? It’s one of the safest, best looking and nicest medium sized vans to drive. Like most manufactures, VW lures you in with the thought of a nice cheap van, when in actual fact the one you want is going to cost you a lot more, but the Transporter is worth the money. It has a great interior, is well built and will still be worth a good chunk of money when you come to sell it.