The Volkswagen Transporter panel van is an ideal vehicle for converting into a campervan. Once voted one of the most reliable commercial panel vans in the UK, the Transporter remains hugely popular since its introduction way back in 2003. The Transporter has evolved over the years and the predominant versions on the road today are the VW T5 and the VW T6.
The T5 and T6 are the models mostly used at Vdub Campervans for conversion into holiday campers. This is because they are easy to convert and, being sound, reliable solid vans, they hold their resale value in a highly competitive market.
The T5 arrived in 2015, an upgrade from previous generations running from T1-T4, available as petrol or diesel and with a short or long wheelbase. In 2009 production passed the 1 million mark and VW upgraded it with a new engine, transmission and gearbox. In April 2015 Volkswagen introduced the T6 replacement for the T5 as a panel van with no windows, a Shuttle van for up to 8 passengers and as a Kombi with windows and 5/6 seats.
Structurally, both vans are pretty much the same but the T6 boasts extra safety features and better fuel economy. As a result, both vans have remained popular both as commercial vans and as private people carriers. And both vehicles lend themselves well for conversion to campervans. Here are the main similarities and differences between the two models.
The main difference between the two models is the engine. European emission standards prompted the installation of the new Euro 6 engine which has lower pollution levels. Emission control does not affect the engine performance.
With the installation of a new engine Volkswagen reduced the fuel tank capacity from 80 to 70 litres. This was possible because the T6 engine is more fuel-efficient than the T5. Other reasons for the increased fuel economy of the T6 is the automatic start-stop ignition which turns the engine off when it is stationary, lower rolling resistance and a braking system that helps retain energy lost when braking or accelerating,
Both the T5 and T6 are easy to drive, although the latter ushers in a few improvements for the driver. More efficient streamlining brings lower road and engine noise in the cab while the updated gearbox gives smoother gear changes. Both Transporter models come with anti-roll features, hill start assistance, intelligent braking and trailer stabilisation but the T6 has a few extra safety features. Radar is used to monitor the distance to the vehicle ahead and an emergency collision-avoiding braking system at lower speeds. Dashboard features are numerous on both models and include parking sensors and digital radio, but the T6 has a few interior extras such as touchscreen displays, Bluetooth connection, heated windscreen and auto-lite driving, which helps for long-distance travelling.
Although there are differences between both Transporter models, they can be considered minor. The T6 can be viewed very much as an upgrade to the T5 rather than a new generation of the vehicle. Both models have the same basic body dimensions and come in a range of wheelbase lengths and body panel heights. Engine output is similar although the T6 can boast higher efficiency and better fuel economy. Driving extras make the T6 and slightly more comfortable to drive, especially long distances, but the T5 is very similar.
When it comes to choosing which model is most suitable for a campervan conversion there is frankly very little to distinguish them. Both are very similar and lend themselves extremely well for converting into a camper. There is plenty of capacity in both for beds, hob and sink kitchen units, fridge/freezers, storage units and more.
For those who prefer more headroom in the camper, pop-top roofs fit seamlessly when on the move but offer more internal space when parked up. Although many drivers prefer the lower noise levels and smoother driving experience of the T6, it is the case that the older T5s cost less to buy.