The VW Crafter does everything asked of a van, and seems to do it with some added pizazz.
It may not be as technologically advanced as its Mercedes rival, but it isn’t as far behind as you might assume.
The VW Crafter is more comfortable and dare I say, drivable than you would expect from a van of its size. The 8-speed automatic, medium wheelbase model that was driven didn’t feel anywhere near as big as it actually was, which I suppose makes it quite a successful van, in that it feels as if it is smaller on the outside than it is on the inside.
Perhaps VW should have come up with a more fitting name made up of an acronym derived of time, dimension and space.
The Crafter has a number of choices when it comes to its range, starting with the trim level. Trims are available in Startline and Trendline as a panel van. You then have the wheelbase, where your choices are from Medium Wheelbase, Long Wheelbase and something called Long Wheelbase Maxi, which is just an even longer van than the regular LWB Crafter, it seems.
After that, there is a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic on the catalogue where you have a whole host of different choices of power output, all coming from a 2.0L Turbo Diesel. They have the 102ps (100bhp), the 140ps (138bhp), the 177ps (174bhp) and the 122ps (120bhp) which vary depending on if you want the front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive variant.
Basically, this van feels like it has taken a leaf out of Nissan’s ‘One Million Different Nissan Juke’s Book’ and provided the customer with the ability to build the exact van they need. However, recommendations must, personally, go to the 177ps, 8-speed auto, as this has the flexibility, economy and comfort boxes ticked. As previously mentioned, technology on the van is pretty good, but not very much of it comes as standard.
If you’re willing to pay, your van can be more technologically advanced than a number of luxury saloons on the market today. Options like park-assist and emergency braking that you’d expect from a vehicle this size are all available to you, but other options like Crosswind Assist, Lane Management and decent traction control, which are probably not expected to be available, are available. A nice final touch is the heated steering wheel; those cold winter-mornings for the ‘van-man’ are long gone. Hallelujah.
In terms of driving, the Crafter doesn’t feel like a large van at all. It is more comparable to VW’s medium sized Transporter. It feels light yet grounded, qualities supercars dream of, but you’re not sat low to the ground, you’re high-up with a view of the whole road.
The steering is probably the Crafters secret weapon, though, as it is light, fast and responsive regardless of the load. Speaking of load, the ride is comfortable in the Crafter, but it feels as though the ride gets more and more comfortable the heavier the load.
Fantastic news for drivers who will really use the vehicle for what it is intended for.
Load. What is a van used for if not filling it to the brim with useful items that you need to get from A to B with? So what does the Crafter have to offer in terms of load-space? A lot. The MWB tested offers 10.7m3, which may not sound like much, but I was actually able to pack up an entire house and move it almost 50 miles away in just two journeys. Not bad for a 3.5 tonne vehicle.
Obviously, if more load is needed, the LWB and LWB Maxi offer more loadspace, but unless you needed specific sizing, the MWB does serve it’s purpose incredibly well due to the loading design, lots of nooks and crannies make for good storage.
One suggestion, make sure you get the lining option in the back as the floor needs the grip and the panels need the protection when driving around items bigger and heavier than a bedframe.
The verdict: comfort and practicality in a small-feeling large van. It ticks all the boxes of the requirements of being a van with a few luxury comforts thrown in for good measure. Perhaps it is because I am not a regular van driver, but I do feel the £50K price-tag is steep for a van, but the competitors are offering similar products for similar prices, so who am I to complain?
One thing that would make this van perfect is air-suspension. Although the ride is surprisingly comfortable, you only really feel most comfortable when it’s loaded. I think it would benefit massively from permanent comfort, despite the load; and if you’re paying £50K for a van, a little air-suspension won’t be breaking the bank or let you down with a bang.
|FAST FACTS||VW Crafter Trendline MWB 2.0 litre CRD|
|Price: £52,181 (inc business pack & advanced telematics)||Mechanical: 177ps 4cyl 2.0TD E6, 8spA 4Motion|
|Combined MPG: 31.7||Insurance Group: 42A T2|
|C02 emissions: 234gkm||Warranty: 3yrs/ unlimited miles|
|Sizes: L5.99m, W2.43m, H2.36m||Loadspace: 10.7m3|
|GVW: 3.5 tonnes||Payload: 1076kg|
|For: Roomy, agile, good engine and autobox, driving aids
Against: Bouncy ride when lightly laden, pricey options.