Production of the T5 started in 2003 with this iteration of the iconic Transporter, and with it, for the first time, came car quality into the van world.
Whilst the T4 was undeniably still a work van at heart, the T5 gave drivers a whole new level of ride. With more configurations, seating options and size choices than any van that had come before it, the real innovation from Volkswagen was the galvanised body – a world first for vans, we think!
Before now, love was the key factor which looked after all Transporters in the long run, but here was the T5, with its new VW car build quality. Money invested in this van was now money well spent as it provided a fantastic driver experience, that would last a very long time.
These changes moved the T5 into a league of its own and away from the commercial vehicle market, which would generally expect a life of no more than 10 years – often less – for heavily used vans. In fact, as far as we know only Glasgow City Council use the VW T5 as a works vehicle – perhaps due to the fact that, with all that winter salt on the road, it has superior rust resistant bodywork?
Offering over 100 different variations in total, the flexibility of the T5 gave it an edge in the increasingly competitive marketplace.
With a choice of two load lengths, the T5 was also available with front wheel or all-wheel drive, three roof heights and diesel or petrol engines, in either 1.9 and 2.5, both now with turbo.
The Kombi provided a flexible entry level 5-6 seater van, whilst the Shuttle vans offered up to 9 seats, an upgrade and options such as colour coded bumpers and bench seats. The Caravelle combined the best of both as standard, and Multivans were available with a rail feature allowing the seats to move in the van offering as much versatility and usability as one could imagine.
Volkswagen produced the T5 California Camper in house for the first time too, making it the world’s first fully factory-built campervan.
The somewhat dated feel of the T5 was given something of a facelift in the T5.1 with cosmetic changes made to the front of the van and a smarter, more up to date interior, including silver aircon dials giving it a more car-like feel.
Also with the 5.1 – out go the 1.9 and 2.5 engines, and in comes the 2.0 with 85bhp, 102, 140 single turbo and 180 twin turbo, giving the Transporter even more oomph!
Volkswagen’s T5 remains an incredibly popular choice for campervan conversion. Check out our guide to choosing the T5 for your base vehicle here.
And on to the sixth generation Transporter, the now ever recognisable T6.
Why are VW Transporters so popular as campervans and are there any advantages with other makes?
From known faults to low or high mileage, get the lowdown on sourcing a good camper base vehicle