A van full of virtues

GAVIN MYERS recently put the all-new Volkswagen (VW) Crafter to work and came away very impressed

I will forever be grateful for some of the perks associated with my job. At the beginning of August, VW South Africa offered FOCUS one of its new Crafters to test (you may have read our launch report in Issue 7) and, as luck would have it, that same month I was due to move house.

With all the relevant dates arranged, a Crafter 35 medium-wheelbase high-roof panel van was delivered, and I promptly set about preparing it for a couple of days of serious road-test work.

The second of six basic panel vans in the range, which get progressively longer and taller, this is the biggest front-wheel drive, single-rear-wheel model. It offers a 3,55-t permissible gross weight, however, it is the Crafter’s load dimensions that were truly appreciated during my time with it. All Crafters have a width of 2 427 mm, while the 35 models are 5 986 mm long with a 3 640 mm wheelbase and 1 346 mm rear overhang. This high-roof model measures 2 590 mm in height, while the load sill is a mere 670 mm off the ground.

This translates to internal dimensions of 3 450 mm maximum load length, 1 861 mm load height and 1 832 mm load width (1 380 mm between the wheel arches). The large single side sliding door (dual side doors are optional) and 180° rear doors (270° optional) allowed for flexibility when loading and unloading. Handy attributes for a bunch of DIY movers…

While it offers ten lashing eyes and full-metal partition, the load compartment of this specific Crafter was also equipped with an optional rear air-conditioner evaporator, which is controlled from within the cab.

Speaking of which, the cab is a study in design simplicity. Everything is situated exactly where it’s needed and there are many storage options. Seriously, they can be found overhead, on- and in-dash, under the passenger bench and three separate compartments in each door, which means the cab can be kept neat and orderly when on the road. Typical of VW, everything feels sturdy and of a high quality.

It’s also very comfortable. The fixed bench isn’t too bad and the driver’s seat can be optionally spec’d as a Comfort variant, which I would recommend because it truly is comfortable.

The driving position is perfect and, thanks to the wide side windows, visibility is among the best I’ve experienced in such a vehicle. It’s very easy to manoeuvre, and, on its rear parabolic leaf springs, stable on the road.

Powering the Crafter range is a new 2,0-litre turbodiesel motor allied to a slick-shifting, but robust-feeling, six-speed manual gearbox. With 103 kW and 340 Nm on tap, this smooth and quiet powertrain offers just enough grunt for the requirements.

Although the torque band is narrow on paper (1 600 to 2 250 r/min), the Crafter easily gains and maintains momentum in all situations. Top speed is limited to 100 km/h and VW claims fuel consumption of 7,6 l/100 km.

While up to ten advanced safety and driver-assistance systems can be fitted to the Crafter, standard equipment includes Automatic Post-Collision Braking, side-wind assistant and driver-alert system, as well as driver and passenger airbags and the usual stability and braking systems.

As is the case with this class of vehicle, the features list is left wide open for operators to spec their vehicles as they wish. However, the base price of this specific vehicle is R509 700, plus R25 250 for the high-roof option.

All Crafters are sold with a two-year/unlimited kilometre manufacturer warranty, 12-year anti-corrosion warranty and five-year/120 000 km service plan. Service intervals are 20 000 km.

All things considered, the new Crafter is certainly one of the best large vans one can currently buy in South Africa. It’s comfortable, easy to drive, practical and well designed. 

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is one of the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publications in southern Africa.
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