Volkswagen Transporter 2003 Model review

Volkswagen T5 Transporter 2003 model year

Volkswagen T5 Transporter 2003 model year

2003 Volkswagen Transporter T5 - It was Volkswagen, arguably, that invented the light van market back in the 1950s with its original and classic Transporter campervan. The original was complete with an air-cooled engine derived from the VW Beetle. The 2003 Transporter, or the T5, as they refer to it at Volkswagen HQ, is the fifth generation of this long lineage of Volkswagen vans. The T5 continues the tradition of its ancestors by offering a wide array of body styles to suit every driver, from surfers to tradesmen.

Competitor to the Vauxhall Vivaro and Ford Transit, the 2003 Volkswagen Transporter is more powerful, bigger and better equipped than its predecessor. Drivers are offered two direct injection diesel engines to choose from, both with several outputs, ranging from a 1.9l TDi producing 85bhp to the mighty 2.5l TDi with 174bhp. Body styles include the common panel van, the chassis cab, with a double chassis cab variant as well, alongside a crew cab, a Shuttle minibus and, of course, the classic California campervan.

Tech Specs

Both of the direct injection diesel engines pack plenty of punch and power. The 1.9l TDi comes with outputs of 85bhp and 104bhp. Its larger cousin, the 2.5l TDi, offers 130bhp and 174bhp. The 2.5l engine is perfectly engineered to handle seriously heavy-duty work. Body styles with the 4MOTION four-wheel-drive system come with manual six-speed transmission, while other variants offer a tiptronic semi-automatic gearbox.

Maximum payloads vary from 729kg to 1,333kg, with load-space volumes expanding from 5.8m3 to 9.3m3. This puts the Volkswagen Transporter towards the upper end of its class but fails to unseat the leaders. Due to the size of the van, some body roll must be expected, but this doesn’t occur to excess and the van handles with confidence and reliability. Vibrations have been minimised to promote driving in comfort.

For access, the Transporter includes as standard a sliding side-rear door. A second sliding side door is available as an optional extra, and the rear of the vehicle boasts twin barn doors that open to 90 degrees. Rear doors with full 250-degree access are another optional addition. Drivers are also given the choice of three bulkhead styles to choose from, including a full bulkhead with no window, a fixed window or sliding window.

Driving Experience

Instruments, buttons and switches are carried over from passenger car lines by VW so will be familiar to many drivers. The fascia boasts a smart look and feel, with instruments receiving smooth blue backlighting, ensuring that they’re easy to read. The gear stick is located in the centre of the dashboard as opposed to the floor, making it more ergonomic to operate. Volkswagen have included a few luxuries as standard, such as air conditioning, large cup holders and a spacious glovebox. Safety is covered with ESP traction control, driver and passenger airbags and hill-hold control systems, again as standard across the entire range.


The Volkswagen Transporter offers a highly refined and car-like feel when driving due to its upmarket, durable and well-built cabin. The TDi engines are smooth and powerful when it matters. That said, the price for a new Transporter is higher than some rivals, but you get what you pay for. Additionally, the equivalent Ford Transit is still top of the class for the sheer number of variations available - something that the 2003 Transporter has failed to overtake.

Categories: Volkswagen / Transporter /

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