Volkswagen has been steadily rolling out all the different versions of the latest Crafter – winner of the 2018 What Van? Light Commercial Vehicle of the Year award – since its UK launch at the Commercial Vehicle Show back in April 2017.
Unlike its predecessor, the current model can be ordered in front- as well as rear-wheel drive guise. A 4Motion 4x4 variant is available too.
The Crafter gross weights run from 3.0t to 5.0t, and you can specify it with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Van models are marketed in both medium- and long-wheelbase guise with three overall lengths and a low, a high, or a super-high roof.
Load cubes range from 9.3m3 to 17.5m3 while gross payloads run from 735kg to 2,573kg.
All Crafters currently on the market are powered by a 2.0-litre TDI diesel at 102hp, 122hp, 140hp or 177hp. The electric e-Crafter will not appear until next year.
The van is also produced as a chassis cab and as a chassis double-cab and is additionally marketed by truck maker MAN under the TGE banner.
Faced with all this choice, What Van? decided to add a rear-wheel drive long-wheelbase high-roof CR35 3.5t van in Trendline trim to its long-term test fleet. With 340Nm of torque on offer, the 140hp engine is married to the manual gearbox.
The newcomer is graced by an optional Business Pack, which includes an alarm with tow-away protection, aircon, front and rear parking sensors, and shelving above the windscreen.
One of the key reasons why the Crafter won the 2018 What Van? award is the stress VW places on safety.
Our demonstrator boasts Crosswind Assist to prevent it from being blown into an adjacent lane if hit by a sudden gale on the motorway, not to mention a Front Assist emergency braking system with City Emergency Braking.
The latter automatically applies the brakes on urban streets at speeds below 18mph if the driver fails to spot an obstruction.
A 100-mile-plus initial unladen test run on a mixture of motorways and A- and B-roads culminating in a trundle around Bath city centre on a busy Saturday morning revealed a van with remarkably good handling – weaving through the traffic was a doddle, despite the vehicle’s size – and sufficient performance on tap. A slick gear-change allowed me to make the best of what the engine has to offer, but with no weight in the back the suspension struggled with even moderately uneven highway surfaces, and in-cab noise was a little too high.
Build quality is, of course, rock-solid, and while I dislike the dashboard’s somewhat dull styling there is no denying it offers some useful storage space, including a cavernous, lockable glovebox. Other oddment stowage facilities include big bins in the doors and voids beneath the two passenger seats.
Access to the load area with its 12 floor-mounted cargo tie-down points is by means of twin rear doors and a sliding nearside door. Grab-handles aid access through both of the generously proportioned apertures.
A full-height steel bulkhead is installed. So is a fitted ply cargo bed cover, but there is no such protection against damage for the sides.
The load area really needs timbering out and the wheel boxes look particularly vulnerable. Guess I’d better be careful…
Report Card: Handling/performance = 4/5
Both are better than might be expected given the size and weight of the vehicle.
VW Crafter CR35 LWB Trendline 2.0 TDI 140hp 6-spd manual RWD
Official combined consumption 36.2mpg
Our average consumption 33.0mpg
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