IT is necessary to adapt your driving style when behind the wheel of a vehicle that does not have a rear view mirror.
This becomes clear when I am sat in the Volkswagen Transporter Trendline 2.0 TDi Bluemotion. It is the white van man’s dream vehicle, tough and robust, fast and efficient. And although it very much does feel like a car to drive with fairly light steering and a good driving position, the fact remains that there are no windows at the rear and no rear view mirror. The driver must rely on the wing mirrors. Now that is all very well but it is still not possible to see behind the back of the vehicle so any reversing must be done with extreme care. On the centre console where the radio and sat nav can be found, there is also ParkPilot which automatically appears when reverse is selected on the five speed manual gearbox. But this is not a camera feed which I think would be really helpful in a vehicle like this. However, it will bleep thanks to sensors in the rear bumper should anything get in the way.
Nevertheless as a motorist who more often than not can be found behind the wheel of a car, driving a panel van such as this does take considerable getting used to. First of all I take it for a run to the local tip, after removing two moth bitten rolls of carpet from the upstairs bedrooms. Such a van makes life so much easier; just sling the carpet in and close the double doors. It would have taken two journeys in my little Fiesta. On arrival at the tip I am told to report to the site office. “Why?” I ask. “Because you are driving a commercial vehicle and you need a permit.” I wasn’t expecting that. Anyway, after a chat with the site manager, I am informed that as long as I am only dumping residential rubbish that it is possible to apply for a free permit from Hampshire County Council. Explaining that I only had the vehicle for a short time, the manager kindly agreed to let me deposit my waste without further ado. My two daughters Harriett (5) and Heidi (3) sit on the double passenger seat watching all of this going on and thoroughly enjoying the entertainment. “Why did you have to go to see the first aid office?” asks Harriett. Apparently it looks similar at school and the teacher wears a fluorescent top, too.
So carpet gone and hopefully the moth problem, I have another task for the Transporter. This time we need to drive to Suffolk to collect some of Caroline’s late uncle’s belongings including his 2002 Vauxhall Corsa.
Our daughters stay with their grandparents and little Henry (7mths) accompanies Caroline and I in his car seat. It is easy to switch off the airbags in the front, one by button and the far left one by using a key on the edge of the dashboard that meets the door. There are of course no child locks to lock the doors but fortunately it is impossible for a child to grab the door handle from a rear facing car seat. More trust is required with my older daughters but there wasn’t a problem.
We leave at 6am and get to Suffolk three hours later where we load the van up with various items of furniture. It is easy to tie them down thanks to the loops that are fitted to the floor to tie straps through. The floor itself is a clever sort of rubber which also helps hold the furniture in place. The useful sliding side door is really helpful because it allows items to be lifted in from the pavement. My wife would have liked to see loops on the walls and ceiling too because she felt that that would have been even more useful.
It takes longer to travel home because traffic on the M25 is at a standstill as usual during daylight driving. I follow behind Caroline, who is driving her new Corsa with Henry in the back. It’s a bit of a challenge to drive such a distance with one following the other but during our journey we notice other vehicles doing just the same. Despite some vigorous driving around roundabouts near home all the furniture stays upright and in the same position as I left it – nothing broken – so very impressed.
It’s been a good test and one that saw the Transporter return around 30mpg.
Facts at a glance
Transporter panel van T28 Trendline SWB EU6 2.0 TDI 102PS 5-speed Manual
Price: Total RRP incl. VAT £ 25,410
Top speed: 98mph
Watch the video at www.testdrives.biz