Regular readers of Fleet Van will know that Volkswagen is on a roll this year. For the first time ever, the German manufacturer has taken the No2 sales slot and with a string of new business centres to help fleet buyers, bosses are looking for even greater success in the future.
One of the reasons for this extraordinary sales increase is the launch of the new Crafter at the back end of last year.
While Volkswagen had always been happy with the success of the Caddy and Transporter – which is a legend in the world of LCVs – it always felt that it was underplaying this bigger van.
One of the problems is that it comes off the same line as the equally legendary Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and is the same apart from engines and a different front end – and a lot of fleet buyers rate the kudos of the three-pointed star somewhat above that of the Volkswagen badge, resulting in lower depreciation.
Then there was that controversial front end. Brutal in the extreme, it gave the Crafter a rather sinister appearance.
Now the front end has been toned down and the old engines have been scrapped and replaced by new 2.0-litre four cylinder ones offering 109bhp, 136bhp and 163bhp.
Our test van is the medium wheelbase highest power model which comes in at £27,700 ex-VAT. In the new models, fuel efficiency is improved by up to 33% over the old engines while SMR costs are reduced by up to 25%.
Our test model carried a BlueMotion badge which denotes its environmental credentials. Despite the fact that it is the most powerful engine in the range it nevertheless returns a reasonable 37.2mpg on the combined cycle and has an equally impressive CO2 output of 199g/km.
Behind the wheel
Our test model came with a lovely shiny blue paint job. However a glance at the spec sheet revealed that this pearlescent option is a monstrous £1,195, so we can assume that no fleet models will have it.
This van presents an awesome spectacle. That aggressive front end has been toned down and now could be called commanding, while the new engine is as smooth as silk.
It’s a big climb up into the cab and once inside there are acres of space for driver and passengers.
The driver’s seat is superb. There is plenty of lumbar support and it hugs the figure from shoulder to knees. There are also plenty of cubby holes.
Back to the extras, our van came with a reversing camera with front and rear sensors and a seven-inch screen, which seems a tad over the top especially at £1,160. In my book, all panel vans should come with at least reversing sensors as standard.
In the rear, the side door is what you’d expect to see outside Fort Knox and it slides shut with a mighty but very upmarket bang. Our van had plywood load liners at £330 but, rather meanly I thought, Volkswagen charges £455 for rubber loading mats. In high roof format, even six-footers like me can stand upright without stooping, which is a plus point if your drivers are likely to be unloading lots of deliveries during the day.
Under way this van is a dream to drive. The power steering is a trifle light, but the steering wheel is nice and big and the Crafter moves well through bends. The engine may be the highest powered but it doesn’t feel racy – more like sheer solid torque that will pull top weights anywhere you want to go.
We did wonder if 2.0-litres was enough to fulfill a heavyweight role, but this van never felt short of power during our test week.
What a great vehicle – it’s solid, reliable and a joy to drive. Mind you it isn’t exactly cheap and some of those options are a ridiculous price.
By Trevor Gehlcken