First drive: Volkswagen Crafter



The latest version of Volkswagen’s large panel van should make a bigger impression with cost-conscious fleets.

The old 2.5-litre powerplants have been junked in favour of a new range of 2.0-litre engines. These engines, says Volkswagen, are up to 33% more fuel-efficient, have greater torque and have SMR costs of up to 25% lower.

The launch of Crafter this month will also coincide with new dealer initiatives: Volkswagen will be instructing its specialist van dealer network to beef up its range of demo models and it will also be expected to carry more ready-to-sell stock, including chassis-cab variants.

The manufacturer is also planning to launch a ‘try and buy’ scheme in which existing and potential customers will be offered models to test for three to six months before they make a buying decision.

You have to drive a Crafter to appreciate its finer qualities: the cab is light and airy, the seats big and amazingly comfortable and in the back is a large cargo area that will hold up to 17 cubic metres.

It is the new engine range that we are here to talk about and, yes, the VW engineers are right – even in the smallest 109bhp output, this neat little performer will give plenty of power for most fleet purposes.

We drove all three versions – 109bhp, 136bhp and 163bhp – and, unless you happen to lug full loads up and down the M6 every day, the 109 is the one we would go for. It is expected to be the range’s biggest seller.

Speedy progress involves rowing around the gears on the hills, but the doughty little powerplant never shows signs of throwing in the towel.

The general road manners of the Crafter are immaculate, with nicely-weighted power steering giving plenty of feel for what’s going on between steering wheel and road.

The Crafter has always played second fiddle to the Sprinter despite Volkswagen’s success with Transporter and Caddy. With these impressive new engines, the van is more than a match on ability.

Author: Trevor Gelkin

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.