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The sixth generation Volkswagen Transporter range gets a facelift

  • The facelifted T6.1 range will go on sale from Volkswagen dealers in South Africa from January 2021

Johannesburg – The Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles T-Series range has been refreshed with a facelift that will now be called the T6.1.

The facelifted Transporter range consists of the Pick Up (Single and Double cab), Panel Van, Crew Bus, Kombi, Caravelle and California. The T6.1 range will go on sale in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia from January 2021.

In South Africa the T-Series, especially the legendary Kombi and Caravelle, have been the best-sellers for the past six decades. Now in its sixth generation, the Transporter range has sold around
12 million units worldwide; no other commercial vehicle in the world has been on the market for as long as the Transporter has. In South Africa, 10 097 units of the T6 range have been sold since its launch in 2015. The T6.1 will now continue the heritage and sales success story of the T-Series model range in South Africa.

What’s new?


Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has further developed, honed and refined the T6.1, especially at the front. Particularly striking is the radiator grille, which is now significantly larger and forms a single stylistic unit with the new bumper. All elements below the bonnet, like the headlights, are new. On all versions two chrome-plated cross-bars link the new headlights to the radiator grille. The lines of the two cross-bars are continued as LED daytime running lights, extending all the way into the housing units of the headlights, which depending on the specification can also be LED. The grille itself is now drawn out into the striking bumper. On the higher specification models a chrome strip also adds a refined touch to the bumper. With or without chrome elements, the new front design emphasises the width and increases the charisma of the T6.1. Six newly designed wheels, six new exterior colours and seven newly combined two-tone paintwork finishes round off the new exterior updates to the range.


The new instrument panel not only meets the requirements of digitalisation, but also the aim of providing high levels of practicality. The panel has been equipped with an additional shelf in front of the driver. Also new is a larger tray for a smart phone with, an inductive interface for charging which is an optional feature. The air vents in the dashboard can now be adjusted in every direction and simultaneously opened or closed using one slider control. Previously a second slider was needed for opening and closing. The steering wheel has also been redesigned – on the new multifunction steering wheel there is now a ‘View’ button, which enables the driver to switch between the digital cockpit’s different display configurations with just one click.

Infotainment and digitalised instruments

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has reconfigured the entire range of infotainment systems in order to provide an unprecedented array of web-based functions and services. With the T6.1, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is offering a vehicle that is equipped with fully digital instruments, like the digital cockpit. All T6.1 models are equipped with a Composition Colour radio system as standard, whereas the Caravelle and California are equipped with the Discover Pro Media system with navigation as standard and on the Kombi Trendline Plus, it is available as an optional feature.

Digital Cockpit

The 10.25-inch digital cockpit in the T6.1 sets new standards. It is fitted as standard in the Caravelle Highline and California. The graphics of the high-contrast display have a clear, high-quality look. The driver can choose between different screen configurations which is done via the ‘View’ button on the multifunction steering wheel.

The T6.1 steers electro-mechanically

Electro-mechanical power steering is being used for the first time in the T6.1. This has two major benefits: unlike the hydraulic system it replaces, the new steering system can be controlled as needed and this reduces fuel consumption. At the same time, through its controllability it opens up access to numerous new driver assistance systems.  The electro-mechanical power steering system transmits steering commands to the wheels more directly than the systems in previous models. That makes the T6.1 noticeably more agile and precise. In order to utilise the potential of the new steering system combined with the new range of tyres optimised for low rolling resistance, the tuning of the conventional and regulated chassis versions has been further optimised in the direction of driving comfort and handling. With the introduction of the optional second-generation chassis control system (DCC) the adjustment options have increased. Via driving profile selection, the driver can now set the desired level of damping almost seamlessly using a slider control. On the conventional chassis versions the damping forces are set dependent on the spring travel and thus ensure that the T6.1 is smoothly kept stable in all load situations. The range of familiar slip and braking control systems has been expanded through the addition of the XDS function, which improves the handling and traction characteristics of the T6.1 through gentle application of the brakes. As a result of the combination of electro-mechanical power steering, vehicle dynamics control systems and adapted chassis adjustment, an appreciable enhancement in handling and driving fun is a feature of the T6.1, while it continues – including on longer journeys – to offer the familiar high level of ride comfort.

Safety and Driver Assistance systems

The following driver assistance systems are available in the T6.1: Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Automatic Post-Collision Braking (also standard), Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Assist (for 4MOTION all-wheel drive), the Tyre Pressure Loss Indicator, lane change assistant Lane Assist, the standard cruise control system inclusive of speed limiter and parking assistant Park Assist. Optional safety systems include Trailer Assist and the advanced main-beam control system Light Assist. The full spectrum of driver assistance systems makes the T6.1 one of the safest and easiest driving commercial vehicles on the market.

Lane Assist

Lane Assist, which is standard in the T6.1 Caravelle and California, alerts the driver if they stray out of the lane and onto oncoming traffic. The system works at speeds of 60 km/h and above and functions even in fog and darkness.

Trailer Assist

Trailer Assist, which is standard in the T6.1 Caravelle and California, relieves the driver of the complicated task of mentally adjusting to the fact that when reversing with a trailer because the steering wheel has to be turned to the left to make the trailer go to the right – and vice versa. The system is designed to make it easier to reverse in a straight line over relatively long distances.

Rear View reversing camera

The reversing camera is now available as a standard or optional feature in the T6.1 range and comes in three different versions, two of which are new:

  1. Reversing camera with static guide lines in the rear hatch as in the current T6.
  2. New: reversing camera with static guide lines now also in vehicles with wing doors.
  3. New: reversing camera with dynamic guide objects in combination with Trailer Assist and rear hatch only. In this case, unlike the static guide lines representing an extension of the vehicle contour, what now gets projected in the reversing camera image is a choice of dynamic guide lines, parking boxes or a trailer guide line, dependent on the steering angle.

Side protection

The T6.1’s side protection, which is standard on the T6.1 Caravelle and California, function makes manoeuvring easier. Via six ultrasound sensors in the front section and six in the back of the vehicle, the side protection system charts its entire 360-degree surroundings. It provides visual and audible warnings of any objects, such as posts or walls that the vehicle is getting close to, and also, for example, of any pedestrians.

Park Assist

Park Assist, being offered for the first time in the T6.1, assists through automatic steering with getting into parking spaces (both parallel and perpendicular parking) and with getting out of tight spots after parking parallel to the kerb. Park Assist, which is standard in the T6.1 Caravelle and California, utilises the parking sensors (six at the front, six at the rear) and thus recognises different parking spaces for parallel or perpendicular parking. Even parking on corners is possible if the radius is not more than 20 metres.

Manoeuvre braking function

Vehicles with Park Assist and Park Distance Control are automatically equipped with a manoeuvre braking function. It protects the vehicle from any damage that could be caused by a collision with any static or moving obstacle during the manoeuvring process. If the T6.1 goes above a certain speed or gets too close to an obstacle, the driver is warned by an audible signal and if there is a risk of collision, there is an additional warning through the abrupt application of the brakes.

Rear Traffic Alert

Another additional layer of safety is provided by Rear Traffic Alert, the new assistance system for reversing out of parking spaces. This new feature, which is standard on the T6.1 Caravelle and California, reduces the risk of backing out of driveways and parking spaces at right angles to the road. What makes it really innovative is that using the radar sensors in the rear, the system ‘recognises’ not only stationary or moving vehicles directly behind it, but also any that might be approaching at 180 degrees from the side which would be almost impossible for the driver to spot. If there is a risk of collision, the system produces a visual alert and an audible warning. If the driver or other road user do not take action to avert the danger, Rear Traffic Alert automatically applies the brakes before a possible collision.

Crosswind Assist.

As part of the Electronic Stabilisation System (ESP), this applies the brakes (undetected by the driver) if the vehicle encounters a strong crosswind. Standard across the T6.1 range, Crosswind Assist is activated automatically when travelling above 80 km/h. Crosswind Assist detects track offset caused by strong crosswinds and thus helps the driver to remain in their lane. The track offset is significantly reduced and the influence of the crosswind blasts is largely balanced out or reduced.

With six models and numerous specifications, the T6.1 range allows for several specifications

The three categories of the T6.1 will continue with the commercial vehicles (Panel Van, Pick Up and Crew, Bus); passenger carriers designed for private use (Caravelle and Kombi) and the recreational vehicle (California Coast). Along with the various engine combinations, the choice of short and long wheelbases offers flexibility and functionality.

T6.1 Pick Up

The Pick Up, which can be ordered as a single or double cab variant, is the workhorse of the Commercial Vehicles range. The Pick Up is only available with a long wheelbase which offers a sizeable cargo loading bed of 5.7 square metres for a single cab. The height of the aluminium side panels, which can be dropped down on every side, is 39 centimetres. The double cab provides a cargo bed of 4.2 square metres. In the double cab there is storage space under the rear bench seat.

T6.1 Panel Van

Such is the strength and rigidity of the Transporter’s body that it can be fitted with two sliding doors. A left-hand door is standard, with a right-hand door available as an option. With a low load bed, maximum opening width of 1 700mm and maximum load height of 1 410mm, the Panel Van is designed to make work easier. All
Panel Van derivatives provide a spacious load compartment with volume of 6.7m³.

T6.1 Crew Bus

The biggest difference between the Crew Bus and the Panel Van is that the Crew Bus has a single front passenger seat as well as removable rear seating for a further three passengers, whereas the Panel Van only has seats for the driver and front passenger.

The Transporter Crew Bus offers three options of engines in addition to the choice of wheelbases. Access to the rear passenger area is through a double near-side glazed sliding door, while at the rear there’s a glazed tailgate with heated window and wash-wiper. Featuring a robust rubber floor covering throughout the cab and cargo area, as well as four load-lashing rings in the cargo area, the Crew Bus’ flexible interior can be transformed in seconds from a comfortable five, six, eight or ten-seater, into a spacious delivery van.

T6.1 Kombi

The T6.1 Kombi, the best-seller in the range, is being offered in two model lines: the Trendline and the top-of-the-range Trendline Plus. The Kombi’s interior trim is in Titanium Black in all model lines, as are the seat covers in the standard version. The door handles are in chrome. In addition, the Kombi is embellished inside in all models by chrome-look trim and black instrument visors. Even on the base Trendline version, the Kombi’s bumpers are painted in the vehicle body colour. In the Kombi, the Circuit fabric is used as standard. The backs of the seats are also equipped with two new pockets to create space for gadgets such as smart phones.

T6.1 Caravelle

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles covers a huge variety of possible uses with the Caravelle – from a large taxi to an elegant shuttle bus. The Caravelle is only being offered as a Highline model.

The T6.1 Caravelle Highline leaves the factory in the German city of Hannover with a chrome-look trim (in the air vents, the spokes of the multi-function steering wheel and as edging around the gear lever), black sun visors, decorative strips in the Pewter Wave Grey pattern (instrument panel and door panels) and leather seats in Nappa leather. Standard features of the Highline include; 17-inch Woodstock black diamond-turned alloy wheels, electrically adjustable, heated and folding exterior mirrors, digital cockpit, ‘Discover Pro’ with 10.25-inch touch screen, Wireless App-Connect and USB, Crosswind Assist, Side Assist (blind spot monitoring), centre table and Trailer Assist with Park Distance Control in front and rear and a rear view camera. Optional features include the cooler box with additional battery and Adaptive Chassis Control.

T6.1 California Coast

More than 18 000 California’s are sold internationally each year, thus making the California the number 1 camper van. Both a camper and a van, it is ideal for big trips and daily journeys. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has further refined the top seller; the living and sleeping areas of the camper van have been carefully enhanced and optimised.

TDI engines deliver between 81kW and 146kW

The T6.1 range will launch with three 2.0-litre turbo diesel (TDI) engines with common rail injection that are both economical and sustainable. The four-cylinder engines deliver between 81kW and 146kW of power.

2.0-litre TDI delivering 81kW

The 2.0 TDI develops a power output of 81kW. The maximum torque of 250 Nm is already available at the very low engine speed of
1 250rpm. It is fitted with a 5-speed manual gearbox and has a fuel consumption 7.9 l/100 km in the Pick Up Single Cab and Double Cab, 7.5 l/100 km in the Panel Van and 7.3 l/100 km in the Crew Bus and Kombi.

2.0-litre TDI delivering 110kW

With a power output of 110 kW (as of 3 250 to 3 750 rpm) the front-wheel drive T6.1 with a 7-speed gearbox reaches an impressive top speed of 172 km/h. What is much more decisive, however, is this TDI’s supreme traction, which is down to the high maximum torque of 340 Nm – a level that is consistently available between 1 500 and 3 000 rpm. In the Pick Up Single Cab, Panel Van, Crew Bus and Kombi, the powerful engine consumes between 8.0 – 8.3 l/100 km.

2.0-litre BiTDI delivering 146 kW

The model with the top engine specification is powered by a 146 kW twin turbo engine, which is supplied as standard in combination with 7-speed DSG®. The TDI delivers its highest power output between
3 800 and 4 000 rpm. The engine develops its very high maximum torque of 450 Nm between 1 400 and 2 400 rpm. This powerful drive train accelerates the T6.1 to a speed of up to 191 km/h. The derivatives that are offered with this engine are the Pick Up Double Cab, Crew Bus, Kombi, Caravelle as well as the California Coast.

The sixth generation Volkswagen Transporter range gets a facelift

Tristan Wiggill
Special Features Editor at Business Fleet Africa