Body, cabin & electrics
Panel vans are obviously cheaper than seated buses, but don’t be tempted by the lower prices if you want to carry passengers in the back, because it’s a fiddle fitting the anchor points for a rear seat and you’ll need to cut in some windows (they’re around £150 a pair, plus another £150 or so to fit them). Volkswagen applied a variety of treatments to the underside of the T5, including polymer panels, which do away with the need for wax sealants. This not only helps prevent corrosion, but also acts as noise insulation. Additionally, the body is fully galvanised, so there is a three-year warranty for the paintwork and a 12-year anti-corrosion guarantee. As a result, rust shouldn’t be an issue on the T5, so any signs of corrosion will be as a result of badly-repaired accident damage. That said, the paintwork on early examples could very well be looking a bit scruffy by now, especially if they started out as a builder’s workhorse.
Interiors are robust, but look for wear in the side bolsters, particularly on ex-business buses. Beware of water leaking through the sliding side windows, which can rot out the base of the sill if left for too long.
As for the seating arrangement, the Shuttle buses have anchored seats which tilt forward or can be removed entirely, while the Caravelle has a more flexible sliding arrangement so you can move them back and forth on runners. Some T5s can seat up to nine if you opt for one with a double-bench arrangement up front.
For some reason, electrics aren’t a T5 strong point, with many older vans suffering electrical niggles, namely issues with the EGR valve and various sensors, notably the N75 valve which controls the turbo wastegate actuator.
The central locking can also be temperamental. Sometimes it’s the driver’s door lock that’s at fault, but more often than not it’s due to breaks in the wiring that runs under the driver’s seat, not helped by the fact that water from wet shoes tends to feed directly to the underseat area via the rubber mats. It’s a case of sliding the seat base fully forward and carrying out a thorough inspection, looking out for tell-tale signs of corrosion and making good poor connections with new fittings and/or a soldering iron.
Bargain-hunters beware: even the pre-facelift models still have relatively high used values.
The Caravelle has a sliding rear bench arrangement, so you can vary the amount of boot space, while the minibus-like Shuttle has fixed seats.
The post-2009 T5.1 had a much-revised cabin, but even early T5s offer plenty of comfort. The high driving position is one of the T5’s key assets.