VW T4 vs T5 Transporter: Comparison and Differences

VW Transporter T4 01
If you are considering buying either a VW Transport then the T5 is a popular option, but it’s also worth considering the T4. These models are getting older and harder to find but they are also cheaper than the T5, pus they have they retro look.

In this article we take a look at the differences between the VW Transporter T4 and T5.

VW Transporter T4 history

The T4 was manufactured between 1990 and 2003 and replaced the Type 2 or T3 model. This was the first VW van to have a water-cooled engine that was mounted at the front, rather than the rear. 

The T4 was produced in a wide range of body styles including the following:

  • Panel van
  • Kombi with additional side windows and an extra row of seats
  • Caravelle/Multivan with all round windows and three rows of seats
  • Single and double cab pickups
  • A “razor back” which had a tipper-stye rear body and was produced in the UK between 1998 and 2000.

The T4 came in two wheelbase lengths, a short wheelbase version with a 2920mm wheelbase and a longer LWB version with a 3320mm wheelbase.

The panel van version of the T4 was also available with a standard roof height of 1940mm and a “high-top” version with a 2430mm height, although this was only available on the LWB chassis.

Rear doors came in two different styles with twin side opening “barn doors” or a single roof hinged tailgate.

The T4 was facelifted in 1996 and Caravelles/Multivans received a longer “nose job”. This was needed to accommodate the larger VR6 engine fitted to these models.

There was also an official VW camper van called the “California” which was made by Westfalia (the US had its own converter, Winnebago).


The T4 had no shortage of engine choices. Petrol engines came in 2.0, 2.5 and 2.8 VR6 guises. Non-turbo diesel engines consisted of the 1.9 and five-cylinder 2.4 D. Turbo diesel options included the 1.9 indirect injection and the 2.5 five cylinder direct injection units.

VW Transporter T4 02

VW Transporter T5 history

The T4 was replaced by the T5 that began production in 2003 and lasted until being replaced by the T6 in 2015.

Similar to the T4, the T5 Transporter came in a large array of configurations and these included:

  • Standard panel van which could also be specced with side windows and rear seats (like a Kombi)
  • A “half panel” van with side windows only behind the B pillars and a removable row of rear seats
  • Two high roof panel van models
  • Pick-up truck
  • A “crew cab” pickup that had two rows of seats in a double cab
  • A Kombi which again had side windows and removable rear seats
  • A minibus (an 8 to 11 seater) called the Shuttle
  • The Caravelle – a posher version of the Shuttle (which in itself was a posher version of the Kombi)

As with the T4, both short (3000mm) and long (3400mm) wheelbase models were available. The extra wheel base length again being 400mm.

A sporty “Sportline” model was also available in panel and Kombi van formats. Sporty additions included:

  • 18” alloy wheels, 
  • bumpers, mirrors and door handles in body colour
  • Lowered suspension (by 30mm)
  • Chrome side bars and grille
  • Roof spoiler

VW continued with the California camper van for the T5, but this time it was produced in-house rather than by a 3rd party.

VW Transporter T5 Facelift (T5.1)

The T5 was facelifted in 2009 and this is commonly known as the T5.1. These models had options such as the  dual clutch DSG gearbox, active safety system (lane assist, blond spot monitoring) and B-Xenon headlights with LED DRL (Daytime Running Lights). All engines in the T5.1 range were 2.0 diesel and petrol units.

An extremely rare Edition 25 Multivan was produced in 2011 but capped at 225 units. This was based on the Caravelle/Multivan model and had a host of styling features. This was launched to ce;ibrate the 25th anniversary of the Multivan.

The 2.8 VR6 engine was dropped in the T5 line-up, although a powerful 177bhp 2.0Bi-Turbo Diesel model was available.

Cost – VW Transpoter T4 v T5

Transport T4s still hold their price fairly well with high mileage examples going for between £4-5k at the time of writing. These will generally be early 2000’s models with over 150,000 miles on the clock.

Later models with (slightly) lower models are around £800. Caravelle models are roughly around the same but I tend to find that the mileage is a lot higher at around 200,000 plus. I did manage to find a 2.8 VR6 model on a 2000 “V” plate with 154k miles for £5,495.

The cheapest T5 I could find was a 2009 (09 plate) SWB panel van with 165k miles at £5,000. Plenty of models are available under £8,000 but you are looking at a minimum of 100k miles. Prices generally go up to the £11k mark (excluding camper van conversions). Some vans were available with under 100,00 miles but you are looking at around £10k for these. A nice example was a 2006 (06 Plate) SWB panel van with 64k miles at £9,995.

Safety comparisons

Only the transporter T5 was subjected to the Euro NCAP safety test. A 2013 model was tested and scored 4 starts (out of 5). It scored above 70% for adult and child occupant safety, a low 57% for safety assist feature and a very low 32% for pedestrian safety.

The T4 is a van from another era when it comes to modern day safety standards (it was last produced in 2003 after all). As was popular at the time, equipment such as airbags and ABS were optional extras and as these weren’t cheap, many owners didn’t go for these otins.

The T5 was a step up in terms of safety and included airbags for both the passenger and driver,and side and chest airbags. Facelited T5.1 models also feature safety assist features such as lane assist and blind spot monitoring, although the majority of these were optional extras.