Fuel is estimated to make up almost half of the day-to-day running costs of a van, with manufacturers placing a greater emphasis on improving efficiency than ever before.
Freight Transport Association research shows that controlling fuel spend is also taking a higher priority among van operators, so the launch of the Volkswagen Crafter Bluemotion seems to have arrived at a timely moment.
This model offers fuel economy of 39.8mpg on the official combined cycle, a 21% improvement on the standard SWB CR30 2.0TDI 136.
CO2 emissions also reflect a similar trend, with the Bluemotion producing 187g/km compared to the standard version’s 226g/km.
This improvement is produced by the standard fitment of Volkswagen’s Bluemotion eco technology, which means the van comes with an energy recuperation system which charges the battery during braking, a stop-start system, low-rolling resistance tyres and cruise control, as well as improved aerodynamics.
The increased efficiency has not come at the expense of practicality either.
Load space is unchanged at 7.5cu m, while payload is down just 8kg to 1,019kg.
There is, however, a small price premium over the standard model of £475, although theoretically the extra cost of the Bluemotion model would be recouped in fuel savings in just over 2,500 miles.
Over the course of a typical lifecycle of a van, this should add up to a significant amount.
Like all other Crafter vans in the range, the Bluemotion model is equipped with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist.
In the event of an emergency stop, the brake assist system automatically increases braking pressure, activating ABS and ensuring adequate braking. Volkswagen says this makes it possible to reduce braking distances by around 25%.
Crafter Bluemotion also has a nearside sliding door as standard and is equipped with load lashing eyes in the floor.
Behind the wheel
One of the biggest compliments I can pay to the Crafter is that there seems to be no discernible sacrifice made to achieve its improved efficiency.
Often an eco model brings with it tall gear ratios which blunt the vehicle’s performance, but the Bluemotion’s 134bhp engine and six-speed gearbox provide no hint of this at all.
Instead it offers plenty of performance and also feels agile on the road despite its size (the loadspace is 2,600mm long, 1,780mm and 1,650mm high), while its 12.3m turning circle makes it easy to manoeuvre at low speeds.
The cabin also impresses through its well-designed dashboard and good build quality, while there are plenty of storage options around the cab, including overhead bins, enormous door pockets, five cup holders and a handy document clip.
The wide cab means that three people can easily be accommodated on the front seats, although it does mean the volume control on the radio is a real stretch to reach for the driver.
Fuel economy during our test was not far off the 38.9mpg official figures at around 37mpg, while the stop-start system proved seamless in its operation, automatically switching the engine off and on instantaneously while waiting in traffic.
The Crafter Bluemotion offers significantly improved efficiency over the standard van with very few compromises. The small loss of payload should have a minimal impact, while the ease at which its £475 price premium is wiped out by fuel savings makes this a very strong contender in its sector.