First Drive: Volkswagen Crafter

Date: Monday, September 12, 2011

The facelifted Volkswagen Crafter range has now arrived in the UK, with a less divisive styling being the big indicator of the revised model.

 New 2.0-litre engines replace the previous 2.5-litre units, and the interior trim is darker than before to make it longer-wearing.
What Van? sampled the range in July, but its appearance on UK shores gave us the chance to drive the biggest seller in the range: the medium-wheelbase 109hp diesel.
The change to a smaller engine is one factor behind a weight reduction of up to 100kg, depending on model. On this version, payload rises by 25kg to 1412kg. The smaller power unit brings predictable efficiency, and the 109hp 2.0 TDI now has an official economy figure of 32.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 226g/km.
To drive, this 109hp model is noticeably more sluggish when half-loaded, compared with the almost sprightly empty examples that were also available to test. If the vehicle is likely to spend much of its time towards the upper echelons of its payload limit then a larger engine may be advisable. The good ride quality and steering remains, although refinement suffers when you have to work the engine harder.
Standard on the revised Crafter is a gearchange indicator, flagging up the best gear for optimal fuel consumption. It’s a tiny arrow next to a digit on the dash showing what gear you’re currently in, and is easily missed or ignored. Other firms use big, lit arrows that are more difficult to disregard.
Bluemotion versions of the new Crafter range are also available on the 109, 143 and 163hp power outputs, offering a 1.2mpg improvement in fuel economy and an 8g/km reduction in CO2. Priced at £360 above the standard-issue vehicle, the Bluemotion versions get cruise control and a stop/start system as standard. The stop/start cuts the engine when the van is at a standstill with the clutch disengaged, but has the safety override of not restarting if a seatbelt is disconnected or a door opened.
The new Crafter’s more subtle nose is a welcome introduction, as is an interior colour that should hide dirt and grime better, but the introduction of more efficient, smaller engines, proven in VW’s Transporter model, is the big thing for van operators, especially as it comes with the added bonus of reduced SMR costs described as “significant” by VW. The Crafter has always been a competitive proposition, but never more so than in its latest iteration.


Sensible and logical update of VW’s big van is good news for operators thanks to lower running costs and better engines


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