PH Fleet: VW Transporter Kombi Sportline

It's like a whole new world opens up when you drive a vehicle like the Transporter Sportline. True, proper van cred only comes with ancient, rust-stained dents, at least one light cluster hanging out like some gouged-out eyeball, a yellowing red-top on the dashboard and some shifty, tattooed young offender type scowling in the passenger seat with a fag tucked behind his ear.

This is apparently what they call 'lifestyle'
This is apparently what they call 'lifestyle'
But even an ostentatiously 'lifestyle' commercial vehicle like the Transporter seems to have genuine credibility from a vast cross-section of drivers.

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.

Mixing it with the exotica at PH Sunday Service
Mixing it with the exotica at PH Sunday Service
Transporters of all ages are very much the favoured transport for outdoorsy folk too and practise for a forthcoming mountain bike race at some local trails saw the VW being put to very good use indeed. The joy of just being able to sling bike(s) and gear into the back and have somewhere to get changed, chill out between runs and generally act the marketing stereotype is already being missed. Climbers, surfers, bikers, track day fanatics - there's a van-shaped space in your life for sure.

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.

Crunch... "Hello, is that the VW press office?"
Crunch... "Hello, is that the VW press office?"
Double the goodness
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.

VW and Caterham a perfect partnership!
VW and Caterham a perfect partnership!
but these are minor quibbles really and on its short stay with PistonHeads the Transporter more than earned its keep. Not least at our last Sunday Service where it provided a most useful mobile command centre for the PH team to coordinate the gate. And stash the very welcome (that's what's known as a hint...) chocolate-based offerings kindly donated by many attendees.


Car: 2012 VW Transporter Kombi Sportline T32 SWB 2.0-litre BiTDI 180 PS
Run by: Dan Trent
On fleet since: July
Mileage: 11,856
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

Previous reports:
Less than 24 hours into 'ownership' and the Transporter is loaded up and headed for France
White vans are the fastest thing on the road, right? This one looks like it ought to be...



Comments (16) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Hellbound 03 Aug 2012

    Next week on PH Vans;

    The Volkswagen Crafter 4 MOTION with four-wheel drive from Achleitner!


  • Cotty 03 Aug 2012

    Blag a camper next time biglaugh

  • tbc 03 Aug 2012

    £40k for a van

    you would need to be foolish to piss that amount away on a van

  • hondansx 03 Aug 2012

    Imagine most would be on the company, so not the end of the world...

    I rented a standard van and was surprised with the decent stereo and air con. Vans have come along way! I've seen some very tastily modified ones lately.

  • missing the VR6 04 Aug 2012

    I have so much want for one of these, as a pretty keen mountain biker I really can see how one of these could be very very useful.

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