The medium-sized business van: VW Transporter

The latest iteration of Volkswagen’s most popular van is a powerful, versatile option for almost any business, whether you’re a plumber, builder, courier or minicab firm boss

Who’s it for? Builders, plumbers, couriers, minicab companies (Kombi verson)
Launched: 2003
On-the-road price (ex-VAT): £18,260
Contract hire price: £275/mo
Price used (ex-VAT):
£13,750 (2012, T28 panel van, 29,000 miles)

Why it’s good for business

Suitable for virtually any small business, the VW Transporter has become a byword for reliability and build quality within light commercial vehicles.

The fifth-generation model is now well established, and has retained all the features that have made previous versions so popular, whilst adding a host of enhancements that has seen it win plaudits from those in the industry.

The vehicle received a facelift in late 2009, with a common-rail diesel version now available in addition to an optional 7-speed dual clutch transmission (a way of offering the best of both worlds between manual and automatic gears as it offers a smoother driving experience when shifting between odd and even gears and thus better fuel economy).

Referred to as DCT by those who prefer to use informed terminology when buying or leasing a van, the dual clutch transmission is also operated at dashboard level with paddle shifters. Again, car and van buffs may call these wheel mounted gear changers ‘flappy paddles’.

There are various models of the Transporter; the basic panel van, a Sportline version with higher horsepower  and a host of extra features (although this will cost you more than £11,000 more), and Kombi versions with windows and five seats in total, meaning you could conceivably use it as a minicab or private hire vehicle.

All models come with the same 2-litre diesel engine, which should deliver respectable power and acceleration for the majority of users. If you wish to reduce running costs, you can specify a ‘BlueMotion’ package, which claims to reduce fuel consumption through a combination of features such as low-resistance tyres, cruise control, and stop-start technology. A regular Transporter has 37.7mpg fuel consumption, which rises significantly to a stated 44.8mpg on the BlueMotion version.

Although you have no flexibility with the engine that comes in the vehicle, you have considerable options when it comes to load space, allowing you to pick the capacity that best suits the needs of your business. The smallest version has a still-respectable 5.8 cubic metres of space, allowing you to fit two fully-loaded Euro pallets in the rear, whilst the largest model goes up to almost 10 cubic metres, which allows you to fit a whole extra pallet in there and should be more than enough for the vast majority of small businesses.

One drawback with this vehicle is that the bulkhead (the partition that protects the driver and passengers from loads in the back) is not included as standard in the base and Sportline models, costing £165 extra. This is more or less an essential purchase, as the cab becomes considerably noisy without one and you run the risk of injury from loose objects.

A key advantage of Volkswagen vans is their reliability record – Transporters in particular have been known to go many years without needing significant maintenance. If you look after it, the Transporter will hold its value well against other vans in its class.

“For small businesses this is the perfect panel van,” says Ralph Morton of BusinessVans.co.uk. “It’s smart, reliable, good to drive and brilliantly built.

“More than that, it’s an aspirational van that says much about your business, whether you’re a builder or a florist. No wonder our judges named the Transporter our Business Van of the Year.

Alternatives

The medium-sized vans market is amongst the most competitive; most major van manufacturers will have an alternative to the VW Transporter.

There is little to choose between the Transporter and Ford’s newly-released alternative, the Transit Custom; both have been widely lauded as excellent vans, and have similar price points. If fuel economy is important to you, the Custom just about has the edge with its ECOnetic versions, which deliver best-in-class MPG and also puts out slightly lower emissions.

Elsewhere, the Renault Trafic (rebadged versions exist as the Nissan Primastar and Vauxhall Vivaro) and Citroen Dispatch are both well-reviewed vans in the same weight class, although lacking some of the cutting-edge features boasted by the Transporter and Transit Custom.

5 key features

–          Extremely versatile

–          Holds value well

–          BlueMotion fuel-efficient version available

–          Large load capacity for van in its class

–          Wide range of customisation options

2 negative features:

–          Not cheap

–          Bulkhead not included in base price

Specification (Long wheelbase T28 model)

Load length 566mm
Load width (max)1692mm
Load height1410mm
Carrying capacity: 5.8cu m
Payload1088kg
Towing capacity braked/unbraked2200kg/750kg
Engine1968cc TDCi diesel,
Power/Torque250Nm
Economy (combined) 37.7mpg
CO2 Emissions198g/km

 

Small business case study

Edd Manix is the owner of Ilfracombe-based wholesale fruit and vegetable supplier Edd’s Greengrocers, which serves retailers across Devon and the South West of England. Edd comments: “As a business we count on our vans to undertake a busy delivery schedule each day and therefore need our fleet to be reliable and cost-effective to run, with the ability to carry a weighty payload and cope with the twisty roads in Devon.

“The Volkswagen Transporter continues to deliver all of this for us and offers excellent value for money.”

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