Volkswagen’s 2010 T5 Transporter range, revamped and launched earlier this year, looks little different to the model it replaced. That’s because most of the changes sit beneath the skin.
The range was also pared back to an all-diesel line-up, but mechanical changes saw both increases in power and improved fuel efficiency for the three turbo-diesel options.
Cosmetically, Volkswagen limited things to a light spruce-up of the Transporter’s exterior and cabin.
But, while the packaging is largely the same as the old model, we found the Volkswagen Transporter van to be an exceptionally solid workhorse with plenty of appeal for trade and fleet buyers.
The exterior bodywork ahead of the A-pillars has been updated to be more in sync with VW’s current design language, with a Golf-style grille and headlight treatment being the stand-out changes.
The bonnet and front quarterpanels are the only expanses of sheetmetal to see changes for 2010, and the bumper – in a raw black plastic finish for the utilitarian Transporter – is reshaped.
Inside there’s a new dashboard, steering wheel and switchgear, all of which are a nice update to what is otherwise a very Spartan cabin.
The engine range has been thoroughly revised for the MY2010 Transporter. Every engine has been replaced by completely new Euro 5 compliant turbodiesels, all of which displace two litres.
Three turbodiesels are on offer in the 2010 Volkswagen Transporter range, ranging in output from 75kW to 132kW with the mid-range motor being a 103kW unit.
A seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic is now offered on the 103kW and 132kW models, delivering better fuel economy than a conventional auto.
Stability control is also standard across the range, with side airbags optional.
What’s the appeal?
Superb build quality (the T5 Transporter is built in Hanover Germany), good fuel economy and decent driving dynamics all work in the Transporter’s favour. Compared to the model it replaces, there’s a more sensible spread of powertrains despite the petrol option disappearing from the range.
With the newer, more efficient engines and drivetrains now offered, fuel economy improvements should also lower the cost of ownership.
The 2010 Transporter update is utilitarian inside, but still well-equipped. What features does it have?
As a workhorse, the Transporter isn’t overburdened with mod-cons.
However, our tester came equipped with a basic AM/FM stereo with single-disc CD player, electric windows, remote central locking, electric mirrors (with heated glass) and semi-automatic climate control.
Pretty spartan by modern standards, but it’s a decent amount of kit for a work vehicle.
Front and rear parking sensors are optional, as are rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps, a reversing camera, 17-inch alloys, cruise control, sat-nav, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity and a trip computer
What’s under the bonnet?
Peak power arrives at 3500rpm, and peak torque (all 340Nm of it) is available between 1750 and 2500rpm.
A six-speed manual is the default transmission, but a seven-speed DSG auto is optional – the first twin-clutch automatic in the commercial van segment, in fact.
As an economy aid, all manual-equipped Transporters get an in-dash gearshift display, which suggests when the driver should upshift (or downshift) to maximise efficiency.
Drive is taken to the front wheels only (the 132 TDI can be had with 4Motion AWD), and front suspension is by MacPherson struts while the rear rides on semi-trailing arms with coil springs.
Disc brakes are fitted to all four wheels, with 308mm rotors at the front and 294mm rotors at the rear.
How does it drive?
The gearlever falls to hand nicely, and the high seating position offers good forward vision. Over-the-shoulder vision is obviously not that great thanks to the all-metal sides, but the wing mirrors are large and cover the Transporter’s substantial blind spots.
The steering is direct and light, and braking performance is more than up to the task of stopping a fully-laden vehicle. The 103kW engine is willing, and only those needing to haul heavy loads regularly would ever need the twin-turbocharged 132kW motor.
On top of all that, the Transporter SWB’s 11.9 metre turning circle is very handy - something all tradies and delivery drivers will appreciate.
What did our passengers think?
Our car was fitted with the optional two-person front bench, which sits beside the driver’s bucket seat. The centre armrest folds down to form a small table with cupholder indents and a writing surface, but it’s very cosy with three people sitting up front.
The outboard passenger also has much less elbow room than the driver, thanks to the bench seat being situated closer to the door.
There’s no height adjustment for either seat, but the driver’s pew is reasonably comfortable on a long drive. An optional height-adjustable driver’s seat is available, but it’s incompatible with the optional side airbag package.
Ticking the box for the front bench seat also means side airbags are a no-go.
An optional steel bulkhead separates the driver and passengers from the load compartment, and was fitted to our car. A fixed glass window is set into the bulkhead, and vision through the back window isn’t obstructed.
There is, of course, a lot of noise and reverberation from all the bare sheetmetal in the back, but some of it is cut out by the bulkhead.
Those seeking a little more peace and quiet can opt for the Comfort Package, which brings some extra sound deadening for the cabin.
Interior quality and feel?
The new dash plastics look good, but don’t have the same quality feel as those in VW’s passenger car range.
Generally, the inside of the Transporter feels quite durable, with thick (and soft) rubber matting on the floor proving very easy to wipe clean. The glovebox lid, however, requires a firm shove to latch into the open position, with anything less just making it flop closed.
The all-urethane steering wheel though is comfortable to hold (it’s a little like the Golf’s tiller)..
No complaints with the rest of the body hardware. The side-door slides smoothly closed with a solid ‘thunk’ and the various tie-down points in the load area are very strong.
The floor is flat and fitted with eight tie-down points. Maximum floor width is 1692mm, with the gap between the rear wheelarches measuring in at 1244mm.
All SWB Transporters have a load area length of 2353mm, while the standard roof offers 1410mm of height.
A driver’s-side sliding door is optional (power sliding doors are optional too), while rear barn-doors can be had at extra cost.
The optional front bench seat also has a handy stowage compartment beneath its cushion, ideal for storing a lunchbox or other personal items.
How safe is it?
The big news for 2010 is the addition of stability control to the Transporter’s list of standard equipment. The system also incorporates traction control and ABS along with a hill-start assist feature – great for when heavy loads exacerbate roll-back on inclines.
Dual front airbags are standard, and side airbags are optional – but not with the front bench or height-adjustable driver’s seat. All seats – including the centre seat on bench-equipped models – get three-point seatbelts.
The updated T5 has yet to be tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, however the 2008 model achieved a four-star rating under Euro NCAP crash testing.
Fuel consumption and green rating
A lengthy highway run from Melbourne to Philip Island and back obviously helped, but the Transporter was also put to work by us when roughly 400kg of car parts needed to be hauled from one end of town to the other.
Tradies with a boot full of tools and materials will obviously consume much more than we did, but our experience was a sound endorsement of the Transporter’s fuel-sipping credentials.
The government’s Green Vehicle Guide rates the Transporter 103 TDI 6 out of 10 stars for greenhouse gas emissions, and 5 out of 10 stars for air pollution. The 103 TDI emits an average of 203g/km of CO2.
How does it compare?
Prices have come down this year to make it a more appealing proposition, and despite the ditching of an entry-level petrol model, the rest of the Transporter range is pretty keenly priced.
Ultimately, it’s the Hyundai iLoad and Renault Trafic that pose the most serious competition for the Transporter 103TDI. The equivalent iLoad and Trafic models sell for just under $35,000 (before on-roads), and the iLoad is significantly more powerful.
The Trafic has less overall grunt, but its standard rear barn doors (which swing through 180 degrees, no less) may hold greater appeal for tradesmen and delivery drivers. On the downside for the Trafic is the question mark over the durability of the ‘robotised quick-shift’ transmission.
The Hiace – a traditional favourite in the segment – is no longer at the pointy end of the pack, costing about the same as the Transporter 103 TDI yet with a much less powerful engine.
All new Transporter models are sold with a three-year/100,000km warranty, along with a three-year paintwork warranty and a 12-year corrosion warranty.
The 2010 VW Transporter is available in a grand total of 15 colours, with seven solid colours, six metallic colours and one pearlescent hue.
Colours range from the typical white, black and silver, to brighter tones like orange, red, green and yellow.
The Volkswagen Transporter 103 TDI SWB that we tested here costs $37,990 before on-roads, with the long wheelbase option adding $2000 to the retail price.
SWB models are available with a slightly taller roof, which costs an extra $1190.
As a work vehicle, the Transporter is very hard to fault. It may not be able to compete with the Hyundai iLoad and Renault Trafic on pricing, but the Transporter more than makes up for it with its quality, driving dynamics and impressive scope for customization.
With several combinations of wheelbase and cabin height available, it’s easy to pick a Transporter that suits your type of business. A lengthy list of options means extra safety, comfort or utility is always available, albeit at a cost.
Strong and fuel efficient, there is a lot of appeal in Volkswagen’s T5 Transporter. You get a lot of car, and proven performance, for the money you put down.
As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. That certainly rings true with the 2010 Volkswagen Transporter.