PH FLEET: VW TRANSPORTER KOMBI SPORTLINE
A short but sweet tenure for the Transporter sees it back to VW and leaving a big hole in the PH fleet
My commuting patterns mean I tend to arrive at PH Towers earlier than most and at a time when delivery vans are doing the rounds. And on a number of occasions I had chaps wander over, drink in every detail of the Transporter's Sportline trimmings and murmur admiration for it in hushed, reverential tones as if I'd turned up in a Koenigsegg or something similarly exotic. Maybe it was the colour, but I'd have expected to be shunned as a wannabe van driver in such a vehicle.
Back where it belongs
Safer ground, meanwhile, was found doing the things 'civilian' van users buy these things for. Turning up at Brands Hatch with a Caterham behind felt like very much the done thing and the rig got further admiration then. A shame my numpty towing 'skills' (term used loosely) resulted in a messy interaction between trailer hitch and bumper at one point, grovelling and apologetic emails to the VW press fleet administrator following in short order.
But what was it actually like for doing normal non van-like stuff then? Well, for all that prattling on about its on-road footprint being comparable with a large SUV there's no escaping it feels cumbersome when you need to park it. And though very luxurious and refined for a van - ours getting the Cab Comfort Pack with extra sound deadening - there's no escaping it still felt utilitarian compared with a similarly priced passenger car.
Unladen, the twin-turbo, 180hp diesel makes it feel properly sprightly and it's an unexpectedly revvy engine too and very happy to spin into the 3s and 4s on the rev counter without feeling strained. Even a Caterham on the back didn't blunt its edge too much, though the trip computer's average dipped to the low 20s rather than the high 30s it usually recorded.
Gripes? The Kenwood nav/stereo was about the most fiddly, least user-friendly piece of kit I've ever had the misfortune to use. Why VW uses this rather than the regular OE touchscreen unit like the one in our Golf GTI astounds me, the flaky nav and absurdly complicated interface just two of its many annoyances. The only other moan was the weight of the seats when you remove them to go to full van mode - a two-man job really and a real faff if you don't have a garage to store them in.
Car: 2012 VW Transporter Kombi Sportline T32 SWB 2.0-litre BiTDI 180 PS
Run by: Dan Trent
On fleet since: July
List price new: £39,066 (List price of £30,340 plus VAT and delivery, plus Candy White paint/Gloss Black roof - £450, 'cab comfort pack' inc. additional carpets and noise suppression - £210, removable tow bar - £470, 'seat pack C' featuring heated front seats - £225, 'side door pack B' - £440, parking sensors - £150, mud flaps - £95, cruise control - £175; all options prices plus VAT)
Last couple of weeks at a glance: Dan lives out the 'lifestyle' ... lifestyle