From carrying ornamental shrubs to being a mobile billboard, the crafter has lived a varied six months on the What Van? fleet, writes Steve Banner.
It’s time to wave bye-bye to our Crafter. During its sojourn with us it carried everything from potted ornamental shrubs and trees to rotten, disintegrating fence panels and posts and lumps of old concrete destined for disposal.
It even served as a mobile billboard in the local government elections earlier this year.
With 13.6m3 to play with, load cube is its big advantage. It will swallow vast quantities of ... er ... stuff, and its wide and tall rear and side door apertures make it easy to load and unload.
The fact that our demonstrator is rear-wheel drive, and therefore has a higher loading height than its front-wheel drive stablemates did not turn out to be an obstacle when it came to lifting items on and off the cargo bed – unless they were really heavy. The built-in steps and grab-handles helped.
Payload capacity isn’t quite so impressive, but then again you buy a 3.5-tonner of this size because you need to shift bulky rather than heavy items.
I had no quarrels with the handling or any big issues with the van’s on-the-road performance or the quality of its gear change. A bit more horsepower would have been welcome had I been fully laden all the time, but the Crafter was never called on to carry much weight.
Ride comfort isn’t its strong suit, but the same can be said of any big panel van if you run it lightly laden. In-cab noise levels were a greater concern, and VW needs to take more action to tune them out.
Build quality is, of course, superb, in true VW style, with no squeaks or rattles.
VW quite rightly lays great stress on safety, and the Crafter is no exception. Front assist, which uses an acoustic alert and a red warning light to warn of an imminent collision, proved especially timely when I encountered an ancient Volvo estate driven in an alarmingly wayward fashion along the M50.
Fuel economy improved gradually to around 35mpg – below the official combined figure, but not so far below it as to cause any concern.
The Crafter has tended to be shoved into the shadows somewhat by Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter and Ford’s all-conquering Transit. On the basis of my experience I think it deserves more prominence. So if you’re in the market for a big-capacity panel van, put it on your shopping list.
Safety = 5/5
Emphasis on protecting the driver and other road users has to be applauded loud and long. There’s nothing more important.
Options list = 3/5
Business Pack that was fitted gives you some useful extras, but does not include satnav, alas. For that you pay extra.
Driving = 4/5
Handles well with no lack of performance, and a smooth gear change allows you to make the most of what the engine has to offer. Noise levels need to be better controlled though.
Load bay = 4/5
Cavernous, and the big door apertures make it easy to access. Rear-wheel drive and a comparatively high load bed proved no obstacle to easy loading.
Cabin = 4/5
Roomy with bags of storage space, but while the driver and outboard passenger should be comfortable enough, the legroom for the middle passenger is a bit restricted.
Build quality = 5/5
It’s a VW. Need I say more than that?
VW Crafter CR35 LWB Trendline 2.0 TDI 140hp 6-spd manual RWD
Official combined consumption 36.2mpg
Our average consumption 35.0mpg
Price (ex VAT) £33,280
Price range (ex VAT) £23,920-£33,655
Warranty 3yrs/unlimited mileage
Service intervals 2yrs/30,000mls
Load length 4,300mm
Load width (min/max) 1,380/1,832mm
Load bay height 1,861mm
Gross payload 1,267kg
Load volume 13.6m3
Engine size/power 1,968cc/140hp
Gearbox 6-spd manual
Business Pack £1,265
Click below to see previous report