Access to the cargo area is by means of a sliding nearside door plus twin rear doors that can be swung through 270° and latched against the van’s sides. Both door apertures feature big yellow grab handles to aid access.
It’s good to see that the full-height steel bulkhead looks strong enough to stop a charging rhino. As a consequence, anything that breaks loose is more likely to damage itself than damage the occupants of the cab, so providing 10 floor-mounted tie-down points to which wayward cargo can be secured still makes sense.
It’s also good to see two lights. Van load areas are so often badly lit. A tailored cover protects the cargo bed and half-height panels protect the doors to half their height, but the rest of the interior will need timbering out.
While nobody would describe the Crafter’s dashboard as stylish – except, perhaps, the designer – it is certainly practical, and after a day or two we began to quite like its looks. We certainly liked the good-quality plastic that was used throughout the roomy three-seater cab’s interior.
Storage facilities include shelves and cubbyholes on top of the dashboard with cupholders at each extremity, a roomy, lockable glovebox with a narrow shelf above it, and three shelves/bins in each of the doors.
Pull up the passenger seat cushions and you will find storage underneath. Pull down the middle seat’s back and it turns into a desk complete with pen trays, a couple of cupholders and an elasticated band to keep paperwork in place. Legroom for the passenger in the centre isn’t generous, but it is better than in other three-seater cabs we have encountered.
Both the steering wheel and the driver’s seat are height-adjustable with the latter featuring lumbar adjustment too. The wheel can be altered for reach.
A driver’s airbag, cruise control with a speed limiter, electric windows and electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors are included in the deal. The mirrors have a lower wide-angle section. An eight-inch touch screen for the DAB radio and optional satellite navigation sits in the middle of the fascia as part of a Bluetooth-enabled package, with USB/iPod connections on top of the dashboard. The two 12V power sockets are useful features.
Putting a destination postcode into the satnav proved to be such a fiddle that we gave up and resorted to sticking our trusty Garmin to the windscreen instead. At least the optional air-conditioning allowed us to keep a cool head while doing so.
Disc brakes are installed all round and the Volkswagen Crafter comes with a comprehensive safety package that includes ABS, electronic stability programme, electronic brake assist and hill hold. Also fitted is crosswind assist, which reacts if a sudden, powerful, gust of wind threatens to blow the van out of its lane and into the next one, and potentially into the path of traffic travelling at high speed.
Automatic Post-Collision Braking is a standard fixture as well. It immediately initiates braking after a smash in order to prevent any secondary impacts if the driver is incapacitated. A Front Assist emergency braking system is fitted in conjunction with City Emergency Braking. The former alerts the driver if there is the risk of a front-end collision, gives a jolt to the brakes if the warning is ignored, then ensures full braking power is immediately available if the driver then wakes up and hits the brake pedal.
City Emergency Braking automatically applies the brakes at speeds of up to 18mph on city streets if the driver fails to spot an obstruction. This package is now standard on all models. which makes Volkswagen the first manufacturer to fit autonomous emergency braking (AEB) to its entire light commercial line-up.
If all these safety devices are not enough for you then you can add a few more – if you are willing to pay for them. Options include lane keeping assist, to help prevent you drifting out of your lane on the motorway, and Rear Traffic Alert, which warns you if you are about to back into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
Rear parking sensors are an option on Trendline models too and should really be included in the deal.