1996 - 2003 Volkswagen Transporter

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There aren’t many vans out there that have the same reputation as the Volkswagen Transporter . This model was always ahead of the pack when it comes to build quality and longevity and is around since 1950s.

The T4 was the fourth generation of the Transporter and was sold between 1996 – 2003. The T4 had the strong genes of the previous Transporters in its bones, which helped it earn itself a tremendous reputation fairly fast.

At that time the turbo diesel technology was only at its beginning, so in 1996 the vehicle was launched only with a standard 1.9 diesel unit, being followed by a 2.5 liter turbo engine in 1999. Continuing the heritage of its versatile predecessors the Transporter T4 was offered in various shapes namely as panel van, chassis cab, crew cab and even a four wheel drive model.

Despite its old age, the Volkswagen Transporter T4 can be still seen on today’s roads and kept its value well on the second hand market.

Design

Volkswagen Transporter

The old Transporter had a rugged, purposeful design and some purists consider that it looks even better than the next T5 generation. However, even the newest model of the Transporter still looks pretty similar with the T4, as most of its exterior changes are mostly flying under the radar.

A fast glance over the T4’s silhouette will inform you about its lack of swooping curves or fluid lines. All you get it’s a basic conventional design that consists of rakish lines, squared shapes and an overall bulky shape.

Up front there is a chunky black grille traversed by a few horizontal stripes that bares the small company’s badge in its center.

The grille was flanked by two rectangular headlights which continued the basic design language found at the rest of the body. The front bumper had also a simple design and underlined the utilitarian nature of the vehicle.

Leaving apart the dull visual appearance, the Transporter’s design is fairly practical and its bulky body can swallow up to 5.4 cubic meters of load in standard roof guise. Payload capacity ranges from 800 kg to 1200 kg, while gross vehicle weights vary from 2.5 tonnes to 2.8 tonnes.

Access to the load area was made easy by means of sliding side doors and two rear doors with a wide opening angle. The loading height was also pretty low measuring only 515mm.

Interior

Volkswagen Transporter

If we’ll judge the interiors by today’s standards, the Transporter T4 looks pretty rudimentary. But back at that time, the cabin look was at par with its competitors. However the build quality was a half step ahead of the rivals, yet the materials remain rock hard as this is the usual treatment received by most of the vehicles in this class.

The dashboard has a pretty minimalist style and we like the uncluttered center console. The German ergonomy never had major faults and the T4 makes no exception, as everything is in the right place with all the controls being easy to reach.

There is enough living space, so you won’t have any complains about head- or leg-room. Though, the driver’s seat is pretty rudimentary and offers only basic support being a bit hard for our tastes. It’s true that there are a few adjustments available, but don’t expect to any wonders as you’ll still feel a bit uncomfortable. On the other hand we like the ergonomic adjustable steering wheel as it looks pretty modern and offers a confident grab.

But, while the steering wheel looked pretty good, we’ll have to admit that the instrument cluster had a pretty ancient appearance. Yet its big gauges were easy to read during both night and day.

We’re happy to notice that the road visibility was excellent thanks to the big panoramic windscreen and the generous side windows.

Drivers will be also happy to find a raft of storage options for odds or ends, including a lockable glovebox and big door pockets.

Engines and performance

Volkswagen Transporter

The Volkswagen Transporter T4 was offered with a choice of 1.9 and 2.5 liter engines. The 1.9 liter unit received a turbo system in 1999 which raised its power from 61 hp to 69 hp and 103 lbft of torque achieved at 2000 rpm. The stronger 2.5 liter unit was available in two outputs with 88 hp and 102 hp with 144 lb.ft and 184 lb.ft, respectively.

Both units are clearly underpowered if we’ll judge them by today’s standards and they are also pretty unrefined showing their raspy voice every time you push them harder. At their time however, were at par with competition and both units were also reliable to the core.

Volkswagen Transporter T4 Engines Specifications

Engineshp@rpmlb.ft@rpm
2.588 @ 3600144 @1900 – 2500
2.5102 @ 3600184 @ 1900 - 2500

Ride and handling

Volkswagen Transporter

The Volkswagen Transporter T4 had an excellent ride which was able to soak most of the road bumps without too much drama. The vehicle had also a good overall balance and the body roll wasn’t as bad as other vehicles in its class.

Baked up by its good compromise between ride and handling, the Volkswagen Transporter T4 was among the best performers in its segment with first class road manners.

Power steering came as standard, permitting you to move easy around the tight city streets and at the same time, offering a proper feedback from the road.

Verdict

Volkswagen Transporter

The old Volkswagen Transporter T4 was among the best vans available on the market at that time. The vehicle had a strong build quality, backed up by a versatile character and a generous load area. The cabin offered a lot of space and even if it didn’t came with the same amount of comfort found at the newer models it was still pretty ergonomically designed compared to its rivals. Judging by modern standards the engines weren’t something to rave about, as today we find more powerful and efficient units, but back in the 90s they were at par with competition.


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