More civilised than many of its competitors, the Crafter is a breeze to manoeuvre, as found in its roadtest.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has expanded the Crafter range with an array of new model derivatives which are now available to order.
Panel vans with 4Motion all-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox are now available, along with open body models in single and double cab variants.
At its launch, only front-wheel-drive versions with gross vehicle weights up to 3.5 tonnes could be ordered, with three engines and a manual gearbox.
The expansion of the range now sees available gross vehicle weights up to five tonnes.
The addition of open-body models to the range opens the door to conversions via Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ Recognised Converter scheme, meaning customers in the market for a Luton, dropside, tipper or other more unusual adaptation have the choice of a Crafter base vehicle.
We’ve tested the CR35 medium wheelbase model, fitted with the most powerful (177PS) engine available and front wheel drive.
It costs £35,155 (as tested ex VAT) and offers an 11.3 cubic metre loadspace and a total payload of 1,235kg.
None of these figures are class-leading but the Crafter does make up for its shortfalls in a number of different ways.
First, the Crafter is far more civilised than many of its rivals. The cabin is quiet and the controls are light and easy to use.
Much of the switchgear is derived from Volkswagen car models, too, and the dashboard is well laid out with an abundance of storage compartments.
It also offers long service intervals of 30,000 miles and comes with a three-year/100,000-mile warranty and three-years of breakdown cover.
The 177PS engine is quiet at idle and once on the move, offers little noise intrusion.
It develops 410Nm of torque from 1,500rpm which means there are very few moments when the Crafter is unable to accelerate in any given gear.
Combined fuel consumption for the more powerful engine is rated at 37.2mpg – that’s only one mpg less than the 140PS derivative, while CO2 emissions are increased by 5g/km to 199.
Due to the extra weight of the 177PS engine, the overall payload capacity of the CR35 MWB is slightly reduced (by 9kg) when compared to the 140PS version.
Similarly, the towing capacity of three tonnes remains the same despite the engine’s extra grunt.
The extra power becomes advantageous for operators that regularly load their vehicles to maximum weight, or often tow heavy trailers.
There is less need to work the engine hard or use more fuel to maintain speed over hills, which should keep the driver relaxed and the operating costs down.
Our mid-spec Trendline test van came equipped with an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with digital radio and Bluetooth, cruise control, 270-degree opening rear doors and a multifunction trip computer.
This was in addition to the standard Crafter specification which includes Front Assist with Emergency Braking, Cross Wind Assist and a sliding side door.
Our van also had the optional (£960) Driver Assistance Package which includes front, rear and side parking sensors with active side protection.
It can warn the driver if the side of the van is likely to contact another vehicle or object while manoeuvring.
During our test we found the Crafter a breeze to manoeuvre. It has an overall length of 6.8 metres and a width (including mirrors) of 2.4-metres.
But thanks to a combination of great visibility and the parking sensors, we were able to squeeze the Crafter into car-sized parking spaces and negotiate tight urban streets without breaking a sweat.
There is no doubt the Crafter is among the best in its segment.
While the 177PS engine may not stand out on paper it offers a stress-free experience for drivers with a maximum payload – with little impact on fuel or emissions.
Model tested: Trendline CR35 MWB 2.0 TDI 177PS