VW’s Impressive New Crafter Panel Van.

The Volkswagen Crafter is the biggest van that VW makes, and the latest model launched in late 2017 is a significant improvement over its predecessor. It has a sharper look than before, bringing it in line with the smaller VW Caddy and mid-size Transporter, while VW has turned to its car range for a raft of new technology in the cabin and under the skin.

The Crafter Mk2 is VW’s fourth generation of large van, and follows in the footsteps of the LT (Mk1 and Mk2), as well as the original Crafter. While the LT Mk2 and Crafter were co-developed with the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter the Crafter Mk2 is an in-house VW production, although it’s also sold by sister brand, MAN Trucks as the TGE. Three body lengths and three roof heights are available, so finding the right Crafter for your business should be easy.

The TGE and Sprinter are the main rivals for the Crafter, but there are other options in the shape of the Ford Transit, Peugeot Boxer, Citroen Relay, Fiat Ducato, Renault Master and Opel Movano. While the Crafter Mk1 didn’t quite achieve sales on a level with some of these rivals, there is no reason why the new model should not be top of the list when it comes to buying a large van.

Power comes from VW’s dedicated 2.0 TDI commercial diesel engine and is designed for durability, low-down pulling power and efficiency. All are Euro 6 compliant common-rail injection engines, with an advanced SCR catalytic convertor system to clean the exhaust gases. A stop-start system is also fitted as standard yielding a 15% improvement in fuel economy over the Mk1, while Volkswagen claims class-leading aerodynamics of 0.33Cd.

The engine comes in 102bhp, 140bhp and 177bhp BiTDI guises in Ireland while some European countries also get a 122bhp version. All are available in the front-wheel drive version, while rear-drive and 4Motion models get the two larger engines only. The engine is mounted transversely in the front and four-wheel-drive versions and lengthways in the RWD. Six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic gearboxes are offered with all drive layouts, the latter being a torque converter gearbox rather than the DSG twin-clutch box found in VW’s cars – it’s designed to cope better with heavier payloads and torque settings. The Crafter is the only vehicle in its class to offer drivers an 8-speed automatic transmission that can be combined with every drive system. This enables a comfortable and fuel-saving driving style, even in congested city traffic.

Where the Crafter nudges ahead of rivals is with its use of technology that is taken from VW’s passenger cars. The cabin has the familiarity of the Caddy and Transporter vans, and in turn it shares much with the VW car range – in terms of its looks and the materials used. Options such as a reversing camera and a suspension drivers’ seat are also designed to make life easier at the wheel.

One useful addition to the Crafter is its electromechanical steering system. This is a first for a van of this size, and it means that VW has been able to fit a variety of safety tech. As standard there are four airbags, stability control, automatic post-collision braking and crosswind assist, while Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Assist and Emergency Front-Assist are all optional.

The new Crafter impresses with the best overall load-ability in its class, featuring sliding doors that open up to 1.311 mm, a load compartment height of up to 2,196 mm and a loading sill lowered by 100 mm. The optional universal floor and factory-equipped preparation for cupboard fittings provide even greater flexibility in the load compartment.

My test van was a new Crafter LWB High Roof (HR), 6-speed manual with 140bhp and finished in Reflex Silver metallic paint. With a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 3,500kg and a towing capacity of 3,000kg, my test van consumed as little as 7.6l/100km on a combined driving cycle and costs €333 for an annual road tax disc. Standard specification is impressive and makes the cabin of the new Crafter an enjoyable and safe place to be.

VW claim that the new Crafter is more practical, economical and innovative than ever before and that, with the new Crafter, they have built a commercial vehicle like no other. As a brand-new development, it offers customer-oriented transport solutions with top cost effectiveness. The new Crafter has been specially designed according to the requirements and demands of its diverse customer groups, making it the best commercial vehicle in its class. The entirely new production site, set up exclusively for the Crafter in Września, Poland, represents state-of-the-art manufacturing.

Available as a panel van, a chassis-cab (single or double cab), or a chassis-cab with drop-side body (single or double cab), the new Crafter panel van is priced from as little as €23,082 + VAT on the road. This is a truly impressive offering from VW and is a wonderful workplace to be.