Volkswagen is looking to entice Australian light-truck buyers into their new-generation Crafter.
Available now in Australia, we got along to the Australian launch of new-gen model and had a drive of the cab chassis and van variants.
A review of the 2019 Volkswagen Crafter van can be found here.
But how does the cab chassis version stack up against the competition? Particularly the big-selling Japanese cab-over trucks?
I’d have to say the answer is very well.
You’re limited to a maximum GVM of up to 5.5 tonnes (a 500kg improvement on the superseded model) so we’re not talking a candidate for particularly large or heavy loads.
The higher capacity versions though do offer dual rear wheels.
But for tradies, couriers and the like there’s a good argument for going with a bonneted alternative.
There are options like the Iveco Daily (reviewed here) also available, however the new Volkswagen offering has a few qualities that might just make it a better bet at this stage.
Yep, if you’re familiar with a Volkswagen Polo or Golf you’ll be right at home in the new Crafter – essentially all the driver controls, infotainment etc. are exactly the same.
Even the steering wheel is identical to what you’d find in a Volkswagen passenger car and that makes it a non-intimidating drive.
The steering is really light, and direct too and the cabin is well soundproofed as well.
Add in features like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and tilt and reach steering wheel adjust and you start to get the picture that the new Volkswagen offering is a very civilized place to spend your day.
There’s three seats, with storage underneath the middle and main passenger seats, along with a driver’s seat that has a huge amount of adjustment available and two fold-down arm rests as well.
The dashboard is packed full of storage spots and the doors too have some well-sized areas to keep your essential gear.
A roof-mounted console also features, and the new Volkswagen Crafter has a very sizeable glove box.
While working on the go is made easy with a clever work area/desk on the back-side of the middle seat back (as seen below).
Simple and easy to read gauges and functional/easy to read driver info screen cap off a near-perfect light-duty truck cabin.
Full marks to the Volkswagen designers for making the Crafter cab an easy proposition to jump into.
There’s a good-sized step and well-positioned A pillar grab handle, when up and ready to swing into the seat there’s plenty of space between dashboard and seat to get your posterior into place.
Just don’t try to get into or out of the driver’s seat with the right-hand arm rest down…this didn’t provide my most graceful exit from the new Volkswagen offering!
On the road
My test vehicle was a front-wheel drive version of the new-gen Crafter, the higher capacity variants feature rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive is an option too with a $4,500 price premium.
There’s a 2.0 litre turbo-diesel under the bonnet of every new Crafter, the standard offering gets 103kW/340Nm.
For those looking to shift heavier loads there’s a bi-turbo version available that gives you a meatier 130kW/410Nm and this was the engine that I road-tested.
Mated to the new ZF eight-speed auto transmission (the van I tested had same engine but with the six-speed manual transmission) and with a half-tonne load on-board the Crafter got along better than expected.
My test route around Auckland included some decent inclines and 100km/h freeway stretches and the Crafter was very enthusiastic.
If pushed though my personal prefence would be for the manual version, however most operators will be happy to hand over gear selection to the smooth auto and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Visibility from the driver’s seat in the Crafter cab chassis is excellent with nicely scuplted A pillars that maximize forward ¾ visibility.
The main mirrors are electrically adjustable and are a good-size, the lower blind-spot mirrors are small, but are handy when parking the VW offering.
When you throw a heavy load in the rear of the Crafter cab chassis, and/or hook up a trailer, you can adjust the headlights easily to ensure they’re pointing where you (and oncoming vehicles) need them to be.
Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) is standard in the new Volkswagen offering, a welcome addition, while front, side and curtain airbags also feature as standard.
While you can option up your Crafter with extra driving aids such as Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist.
And Volkswagen has fitted a module as standard that will make your Crafter telematics ready from day one, just choose your provider and away you go.
Auto headlights would be a nice addition to the new Volkswagen Crafter, along with digital radio.
From what I’ve seen of the new Crafter it looks like Volkswagen is on a winner.
Nicely refined where you want it to be, and yet capable enough too, the Crafter is a great alternative to the often much less refined alternatives in the light-duty truck segment.
I look forward to spending more time in a new-gen Crafter in the future and will bring you more detailed reviews at that time.
The 2019 Volkswagen Crafter cab chassis range is priced from $48,290, double cab chassis from $51,790.