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Toyota HiLux


Volkswagen Crafter

Summary

Toyota HiLux

There’s plenty to be said for the new-generation Toyota HiLux, and while a lot of customers will be shopping for the top-of-the-range variants, there’s plenty of value to be found in the work-focused Workmate models.

And that’s what we’re looking at here - a Workmate dual cab, which, while it may look like a 4WD, is actually a high-riding rear-wheel drive dual cab. Or, to be precise, the Workmate 4x2 Double Cab pick-up Hi-Rider.

We spent a bit of time with this updated version of the HiLux ute, and even chucked a bit of load in the back thanks to our mates in the mountains. More on that - and everything else you need to know about the Workmate range - below.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.4L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Volkswagen Crafter

The person who delivers your new golf shoes or stretch denim jeggings isn’t just a nameless delivery driver – they’ve got families and friends to go home to, as well.

Their offices are often exposed to more danger than most, though, so Volkswagen decided to build its all-new Crafter commercial range to offer the same level of safety – and similar levels of comfort – as its passenger car range.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency—L/100km
Seating2 seats

Verdict

Toyota HiLux7/10

It isn’t as polished as some of its rivals, and doesn’t have as much tech or flair to its offering either. But as a workhorse offering with a solid ownership promise and unquestionable resale value, the Toyota HiLux Workmate - no matter the derivative you choose - remains a compelling option for those who use their ute for work more than play.

Thanks to our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies for the sandbag load in the Workmate 4x2 Hi-Rider pick-up.

Thanks to our mates at IWP Training for putting 1000kg in the tray of the Workmate 4x2 cab-chassis low-rider.


Volkswagen Crafter7.6/10

The medium commercial space is set to heat up in the next few years, and Volkswagen’s uncompromising approach to the Crafter should stand it in good stead. It’s a bit hard to get a read on the car after such a brief test, so we’ll add to our knowledge base in the coming months.

There’s a Crafter option for every application, though, and VW claims its service network will stand behind the product right across the country… which it will need to do if it’s to take the fight to arch-rival Mercedes-Benz.

Which Crafter grade would you pick for your business? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Design

Toyota HiLux

The most interesting thing about some versions of the Workmate in terms of design is that they haven’t been changed at all.

For the exterior, the Workmate single-cab variants and the low-riding 4x2 dual-cab pick-up don’t see the visual changes of the 4x2 Hi-Rider and 4x4 extra- and dual-cab variants, which score a slightly more aggressive front fascia.

Toyota Australia says it was more important to address the higher grade models with the new look, and that keeping the same front end on the “narrow body” models would help keep costs lower.

That’s all well and good, but it does seem a little weird to do a “major overhaul” of the ute and keep it looking the same. I guess owners of early examples will be happy, as their utes won’t look as outdated?

But the important thing is that HiLux Workmate buyers have so many body styles available to them, and that’s arguably going to matter more than what the ute looks like for a Workmate customer. 

We’ll run through some of the important elements here, like dimensions and payloads. First up, let’s size up the versions of the HiLux Workmate (note - your dimensions may vary, depending on the tray body fitted).

 

Single cab

Extra cab

Dual cab

Length

5325mm

5325mm

5325-5330mm

Wheelbase

3085mm

Width

1800mm

1855mm

1800mm-1855mm

Height

1690-1795mm

1810mm

1700-1815mm

If you’re buying a pick-up over a cab-chassis, you’ll know that comes with limitations. The flat bed of a tray back cab-chassis model is always going to offer more practicality - and if you buy a 4x2 or 4x4 single cab, or the 4x4 extra cab, you’re getting a tray back. But we’ve covered off the load space dimensions for the dual cab ute/pick-up below - the figures are the same for the 4x2 and 4x4 models.

 

Dual cab ute

Cargo floor length

1569mm

Width

1645mm

Width between wheel arches

1109mm

Depth

470mm

As mentioned, the tub models will always suffer compromises that table-top models won’t, and that includes the inability to fit an Aussie pallet (1165mm x 1165mm) between the wheel arches.

Space is one thing, but payload capacity for the different body styles is another matter altogether. Don’t forget, payload will be affected by the tray body fitted if you’re choosing a cab-chassis. 

 

Single cab-chassis

Extra cab-chassis

Dual cab-chassis

Dual cab ute

Payload capacity

1210-1260kg (2WD)

1275kg (4WD)

1150kg (4WD)

1125kg (4WD)

1025-1160kg (2WD)

980kg-995kg (4WD)

Gross vehicle mass (GVM)

2700-3100kg, depending on model, engine, drivetrain

Gross combination mass (GCM)

4x2 low rider: 5200-5250kg

4x2 Hi-Rider: 5650kg

4x4: 5850kg

Towing capacity

All models: 750kg unbraked

4x2 petrol: 2500kg braked
4x2 diesel: 2800kg braked

4x4 diesel: 3500kg braked

Not everyone goes off-road. Both our test vehicles in Workmate spec were 4x2 rear-wheel drive (RWD) models, but that doesn’t mean you won’t consider things like ground clearance - especially if you’re weighing up between a low-riding version and Hi-Rider 2WD.

Here are the dimensions and figures for 4x2 and 4x4 models.

Ground clearance mm

4x2 petrol: 174mm

All other variants: 216mm

Approach angle

4x2 petrol: 23 degrees

All other variants: 29 degrees

Break over/ramp over angle

Not listed by Toyota

Departure angle

4x2 dual cab petrol: 20 degrees

4x4 single cab diesel: 25 degrees

4x4 dual cab diesel, extra cab-chassis, dual cab-chassis: 26 degrees

4x2 Hi-Rider, Workmate 4x4 manual dual cab ute: 27 degrees

Wading depth

700mm


Volkswagen Crafter8/10

Despite the Crafter looking like the easiest car in the world to design – draw straight lines and join them up – it actually shares a styling language with the sixth generation Transporter van range.

It’s available as a cab-chassis and a van, which comes with a side door on one or both sides, a rear step, rear barn doors and in a high roof version.

VW will also sell the Crafter with an optional Trendline styling package, but it won’t include a body kit, rear spoiler, side skirts or front spoiler. Instead it offers chrome garnishes for the interior, an additional 12-volt socket and hub caps.

Interior dimensions are vast even in the medium-wheelbase version, with familiar controls across the dash and steering wheel plucked from VW’s passenger car range. The van can be ordered with a regular or high roof, as well as with a so-called super high roof version.

The rear barn doors can also be upgraded to versions that open to 270 degrees on the medium- and long-wheelbase versions. They come standard on the biggest version.

Practicality

Toyota HiLux

The practicality you get depends on the body style you choose. That’s an obvious statement, sure, but you might be wondering how many seats are in the HiLux Workmate? Single cab models have two seats, extra cab models have four seats, and dual cab variants have five seats.

And the practicality of the respective body styles is unchanged up front, whether you choose the two-, four- or five-seater. Everything forward of the B-pillar is the same. 

That means that all HiLux Workmate models get the same dash treatment, including a newly redesigned cluster for the driver with a new digital display that incorporates a digital speedometer, which is a huge helper if your licence has seen better days.

Then there’s the new 8.0-inch touchscreen media system, with buttons and volume/tuning knobs that have been designed to work with heavy gloves, according to Toyota. The old screen - with touch-sensitive controls and no knobs - was lambasted by tradies, so it’s great to see Toyota has listened.

Plus the new screen includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can plug your USB cable in and mirror your phone onto the media screen. It really is a big step forward, and because no Workmate model comes with sat nav GPS, even as an option, this is the way to go if you’re frequently 'lost on the way to the job.' But there is only one USB port - many rivals offer two.

The materials and design are otherwise unchanged, meaning hard-wearing vinyl floors and hard plastic finishes everywhere, but excellent practicality - two cup holders between the seats, two pop-out ones in the sides of the dashboard, bottle holders in the doors (single and dual cab), and a dual glove box with other loose item storage caddies, too.

If you get an extra cab you could consider it a two seater with additional secure storage, and many of the newer utes coming out have actually deleted the seats due to apparent safety concerns. But the Toyota still has two extra seats in the back. 

The dual cab Workmate models don’t get the 60/40 split-fold rear seat base, but you can still fold up the entire seat base to allow additional storage - you don’t want to wreck the fabric on the rear seats with dirty tools, or grimy hardware. 

If you do happen to have people in the back, the space isn’t as good as some other double cab models out there. Knee room is tight, headroom could be better, and there are those fixed grab handles that eat into the space. You might need to keep your hardhat on, too, as they’re certainly heatbuttable.

The dual cab’s back seat has twin map pockets and bottle holders in the doors, but no fold down armrest, no cup holders and no air vents. 


Volkswagen Crafter7/10

The Crafter comes in two styles, three lengths and three powertrains, and will eventually expand to a range of 59 variants by the time all models come on stream by early 2019.

The van comes in a three-seat single cab chassis style, while the dual cab is only offered in a seven-seat dual cab version.

A variety of roof heights is also offered, and it’s worth noting the higher roofs lower the roof rack load limit of 300kg on the standard height van.

VW is making a lot of the fact that it has worked the Crafter over from the ground up with feedback from real tradies, right down to making sure that there’s enough light in the cargo area for parcel couriers to read labels in the dark.

The interior, too, is festooned with storage compartments small and large right across the dash and through the cabin.

The new FWD version offers a 100mm lower loading area than the AWD and RWD models, too.

Load capacity, of course, varies from model to model. In the medium wheelbase van line, it’s the more powerful TDI410-powered rear-drive model with dual rear wheels that can carry the most across all vans at 2024kg, while the entry level Runner can carry 1384kg.

In the cab-chassis line, single-cab dual-wheel TDI410 takes the overall crown with 2392kg of payload ability.

If you want to add a towbar, the Crafter can tow up to 2500kg.

Overall, the ergonomics are quite good. It goes without saying there is a load of headroom, and there are small storage containers above the driver and passenger area.

The windscreen is massive, though the sealed off driver compartment does restrict visibility through the rear vision mirror. The Crafter also features aids like hill-start assist as well as hill-descent assist.

Crafters also feature a bench seat arrangement in the single row versions that can seat three people. The centre seat back can be folded down to form a tray table with two cupholders as standard. There's also an additional pair of cupholders on the dash, and huge door pockets on either side that can accept large bottles or Thermos flasks.

Other hidey holes for day-to-day gear are scattered through the cabin, including small trays in the doors and on the dash itself.

The steering wheel is polycarbonate, as is the gear shift knob. Don't forget these vehicles are built for hard work, not necessarily for luxury. A higher brake and accelerator pedal placement is quite a common feature of vans, and it places the foot at a slightly unusual angle if you're used to driving a regular car.

It's a more upright seating position, and does take a little bit of finessing to get the best fit. The sealed driver's compartment in our medium van tester allowed the seat to be ratcheted back to suit this 187cm driver, although we wonder if an XL-sized owner would be able to comfortably fit behind the wheel given the restriction of the rear bulkhead.

An 8.0-inch multimedia system has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as standard, and it can be controlled from the steering wheel. You can also have two phones connected at the same time via Bluetooth. If you’re hanging onto the 1990s, unfortunately there’s no CD player any more, nor is there a DVD player… but the DAB radio is pretty good.

VW claims the Crafter’s 'App Connect' is a first for the category. Volkswagen also fits a 'Customer-Specific Functional Control Unit' (CFCU) to each Crafter. For example, the lights and siren on an ambulance can be controlled through the on-board CFCU, or if you have a digger unit on the back, the car can be programmed not to move while the digger arm is in motion.

Price and features

Toyota HiLux

You will find the Workmate badge on the most bodystyles of any HiLux in the line-up. You can get it in single cab-chassis, extra cab-chassis, extra cab ute, and dual cab-chassis and dual cab ute body styles.

And then there’s the choice of petrol or diesel, manual or automatic, and whether you want it in low-riding or high-riding (Hi-Rider, as Toyota calls it) 2WD/4x2/rear-wheel drive versions, or in a more hardcore 4WD (or 4x4). 

The model mix for Workmate versions is as complex as it sounds, so here’s a neat table to make it a bit simpler! Just note, the price list you see below represents the cost of the ute before on-roads costs - that’s known as the MSRP or the RRP, and it’s not a drive-away price.

DrivetrainBody typeEngine and Transmission List pricing (Before on-road costs)
4x2Single cab-chassis- low rider2.7L petrol, five-speed manual$23,590
2.7L petrol, six-speed auto$25,590
Single cab shassis Hi-Rider2.4L turbo diesel, six-speed manual$28,830
Dual cab ute low-rider2.7L petrol, five-speed manual$33,070
2.7L petrol, six-speed auto$35,070
Dual cab ute Hi-Rider2.4L turbo diesel six-speed manual$40,160
2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$42,160
4x4Single cab-chassis2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$39,520
Extra cab-chassis2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$45,220
Dual cab-chassis 2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$47,290
Dual cab ute2.4L turbo diesel six-speed manual$46,790
2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$48,790

You get the same general level of specification on all the Workmate models, with standard equipment incorporating standard steel wheels - black 16-inch diameter for 4x2 models, while 4x4 single cab versions get silver 17-inch rims, and there are black 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tyres on 4x4 extra cab and dual cab variants. 

All Workmate models have standard auto halogen headlights, vinyl flooring and all-weather floor mats, cloth seat trim, a 4.2-inch digital display with digital speedo readout, and a new 8.0-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. 

And while you get the choice of petrol or diesel, the latter models - across all trim lines - score a new variable-flow control power-steering pump. More on that in the driving section.

There are other accessories available from the Toyota parts catalogue as you’d expect, including: bull bar, tow bar, nudge bar, ladder rack, side steps, bonnet protector, tub liner, canopy, and more. 

You might be curious about safety technology - and it's great to see Toyota doesn’t pick and choose between the variants as to which model gets what. There’s a decent array of safety technology fitted for the most part, and we’ll cover that off in the safety section below.

What about colours? Workmate models can be had in white (no cost), while the premium paint choices are silver, grey, black or blue (all $600).


Volkswagen Crafter8/10

Sitting above the Transporter in size, the Crafter will actually become the single most complex range in VW’s local line-up, with up to 59 variants set to go on sale by January 2019… so there’s a lot to look at.

In basic terms, it’ll come in three main chassis types, comprising medium, long, and long-with-rear-overhang (basically, there’s more van behind the rear axle). That’s then divided into unibody vans and cab-chassis variants, while the latter is divided further into single- and dual-cab models.

The price list starts at $48,490 for a six-speed manual-equipped medium wheelbase van, and covers 36 price points all the way through to a long-with-overhang high roof van with dual rear wheels, a twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel and eight-speed ZF auto, as well as range-topping 5.5-tonne GVM (gross vehicle mass, or maximum weight of Crafter and cargo) limit, at $71,490.

Of those 36 price points, seven are offered with a single-turbo EA288 Nutz (VW’s designation for commercial engines) 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel, while the rest feature a twin-turbo version of the same engine. Seven are also offered in six-speed manual guise.

All models are equipped with single-zone climate control, tilt- and reach-adjustable steering column, daytime running lights, an 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, voice control, a four-speaker sound system and Bluetooth.

There is also lots of USB and auxiliary connectivity, rubber floor mats, cruise control, heated and powered external mirrors, power lumbar support for the driver seat, and front power windows.

There are also a host of options for the driver’s compartment, including upgraded multimedia, automatic wipers, better seats and more driver aids, while LED headlights, GPS sat nav, wooden floor coverings and plywood panelling for vans are also on the long options list.

If you’re looking for accessories like a nudge bar, bullbar, awning or a light bar, you’ll need to source them yourself, and the same goes for leather seats.

When it comes to colours, there’s a surprisingly wide variety on offer, including black, blue, white, orange, silver, red and grey.

Engine & trans

Toyota HiLux

While there has been a lot of noise around the HiLux finally getting a big power bump - that up-spec 2.8-litre engine isn’t available in the Workmate models.

Instead, Workmate variants get a choice of a petrol motor or a smaller capacity diesel unit.

The engine in the range-opening Workmate 4x2 models is the 2.7-litre petrol four-cylinder, known as the 2TR-FE. It has outputs of 122kW of power (at 5200rpm) and 245Nm of torque (at 4000rpm), and is available with a five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission.

The diesel option in the Workmate 4x2 and 4x4 models is a 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine known as 2GD-FTV. Power is rated at 110kW (at 3400rpm) and torque is 400Nm (from 1600-2000rpm).

There is the choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox in 4x2 and 4x4 applications in the Workmate range.

So, no 2.8L, no hybrid, no electric… no nonsense, I guess?


Volkswagen Crafter8/10

Two specs of the same engine size are offered in the Crafter. The (EA288 Nutz) 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel comes in both single and twin-turbo configurations; the single spinner is known as the TDI340, puts out 103kW/340Nm, and the TDI410 twin huffer grunts out 130kW/410Nm.

It’s best to check your manual for oil type and capacity, while injector problems haven’t been noted as an issue in the Nutz (commercial) version of the EA288. It uses a timing chain rather than a timing belt for longevity. VW has fitted the driveline with an AdBlue system, along with a diesel particulate filter.

No petrol version of the Crafter is available. There are no reports of injector problems.

The AWD version uses a Haldex system, a mechanical diff lock and hill descent assist, and offers a 4000kg GVM as well. It’ll cost $4500 more than the FWD system, which VW claims is a quarter of the cost of similar systems from its key competitors.

A six-speed manual gearbox has been the only option up to this point, but VW believes the market for vehicles like the Crafter will swing from 90 per cent manual to 80 per cent automatic within a couple of years.

The ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission is a key upgrade to the Crafter, and it dates back to 2008. A derivative of the unit used in the Amarok (and the Bentley Continental GT, as it happens), it’s available on all three drivelines. Automatic gearbox problems aren’t an issue with the ZF.

A second battery and/or alternator is also available from the factory, to help power any and all devices you might want to mount.

Fuel consumption

Toyota HiLux

Fuel consumption varies depending on the powertrain you choose. 

The fuel economy king isn’t the petrol, which has claimed fuel consumption of: 11.1L/100km (4x2 cab-chassis manual); 10.9L/100km (4x2 cab-chassis auto); 10.7L/100km (4x2 dual cab manual); and 10.4L/100km (4x2 dual cab auto).

On test in the 4x2 manual single cab-chassis, with a load, and without, we averaged 11.4L/100km. And it was only a short loaded drive test.

The diesel versions of the Workmate offer better promise of lower fuel consumption, with fuel use in the 4x2 diesel Workmate models pegged at 7.8L/100km for the single cab-chassis manual, while the 4x2 dual cab pick-up claims 6.9L/100km and 7.5L/100km for the manual and auto respectively.  

The 4x4 Workmate models claim: 7.4L/100km (single cab-chassis manual); 8.0L/100km (extra cab-chassis and dual cab-chassis auto); 7.1L/100km (dual cab pick-up manual) and 7.8L/100km (dual cab pick-up auto). 

When we tested the diesel auto 4x2 Hi-Rider dual cab, we saw a return of 8.4L/100km across loaded (600kg of sand bags) and unloaded testing.


Volkswagen Crafter7/10

Our drive program was far too brief to comment meaningfully on fuel economy figures, but we noted a figure of 10.2 litres per 100km after a 65km test period around the streets of Auckland aboard an auto TDI410-equipped van.

Volkswagen doesn’t supply fuel consumption figures because of the sheer variance in size and spec across the range. None of its competitors do, either.

All Crafters have a fuel tank capacity which measures 75 litres in size.

Driving

Toyota HiLux

I first sampled the 4x2 Workmate Hi-Rider 2.4-litre diesel auto, and it came across as a really solid proposition for those who don’t need the bells and whistles or a 4x4 system.

In fact, I bet that this sort of ute would be as well suited to the majority of buyers who spend up big on an SR5 dual cab 4x4 but never actually go off-road.

Indeed, that’s the great thing about the HiLux Workmate range - if you know you don’t need 4x4, there are plenty of 4x2 options available.

And the Hi-Rider diesel model has the advantage that it is rated to tow the maximum 3500kg capacity, but the disadvantage for hard-working tradies - especially those shorter in stature - is that it’s a step up into the cab (no side steps), and a running jump into the tub - unless you option the new rear Tub Step accessory, which is mounted to the rear corner of the chassis and allows easier tub access.

And while this isn’t strictly a driving impression, the strangest thing about the HiLux is that you’re getting some really advanced features for a work ready ute.

It’s becoming the norm, but it does seem weird when you sit inside and see your digital speedometer, with the knowledge that there’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a lane departure system - yet you’re gripping a polyurethane steering wheel, sitting on cloth seats and your feet are placed on rubber floors - there’s not even height adjustment for the driver’s seat, and the sound system only has four speakers.

Anyway, the diesel dual cab is pretty impressive. There’s nothing wrong with the 2.4-litre’s engine tune, and in some instances it actually feels almost as peppy as the 2.8L I sampled in the SR5+.

But it does have some noticeable engine noise, and just like the other powertrain there is some noticeable shuffling between gears - the six-speed auto seems to aim to keep things in the best torque band, which is no bad thing, but you can hear it doing so. It gets along pretty well, and I had no trouble keeping pace with traffic.

The transmission doesn’t seem to exhibit the same grade logic downhill downshifting as the SR5 does. And there's some turbo lag noticeable with 600kg of weight on board (from our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies). 

With that weight on board the brakes have a slightly soft feel to them, but they are progressive and easy to predict whether loaded or not. 

The steering is light but still has a bit of feel to it at lower pace, while at speeds above 80km/h there is a level of vagueness, which is  exacerbated when there's weight over the rear axle. 

The suspension is reasonable without a load on board. Not as good as Ranger or Amarok, but better than the last HiLux. And while you can still feel small inconsistencies and it gets the jitters at low speeds, the ride becomes spongier with weight on board. In fact it's very comfortable at higher speed with that much mass in the back.

Next up we drove the petrol cab-chassis, and it offered up a few surprises.

First, let’s consider the loaded up driving impressions - thanks to a load of 1000kg in the tray courtesy of our mates at IWP Training. 

The engine pulls harder than expected, and while it has a torque deficit compared to the diesels, there’s a decent drivability and rev-happiness that the petrol offers.

The smooth and short gearshift is a nice surprise, too (we also had a D-Max SX on site, and it had a longer, notchier throw). The gearing is pretty well suited to this type of hard work driving. 

It's surprising how urgent the engine response is. It's super easy to drive with that much weight on board, but I did keep going for a sixth gear that doesn’t exist in the manual Workmate petrol. 

It sounds like it’s working harder than it is - the engine is quite audible, and at times it can sound more asthmatic than its actual response.

In fact, if you were gonna be running around with this much weight in the back of your work ute you could be doing a lot worse than a 4x2 petrol Workmate cab chassis. It offers enough poke, and also has good quality  – both in terms of ride and comfort and control and general drivability. It is well and truly made for this job.

The lower centre of gravity assists in making the HiLux feel more planted and deal with the weight better than a high riding two-wheel drive, with less pitching fore and aft and nice feel on the road. 

The steering - which hasn’t seen the addition of that new variable control system, as it’s only fitted to diesel models - is quite good, and even the breaking performance is commendable with that much mass in the tray. 

But without weight in the back it’s still punishingly firm in terms of the suspension. The rear-end bucks and jumps over bumps, never feeling as though it’s as surefooted as it could be.

The D-Max we had with us showed up the HiLux hugely in that respect. If you don’t hit any bumpy sections, it’s smooth to drive in. But as soon as you hit a sharp edge or any sort of inconsistency in the surface below it can be quite violent in its response.


Volkswagen Crafter7/10

If you've driven any fairly recent Volkswagen product, or indeed a regular sedan or hatch, you'll be familiar with the operation of the Crafter.

There is nothing aboard that makes it difficult for the average operator to jump in and use it. It's really just like a regular car to drive, except for its sheer size.

Ease of use is vital for a van that's often used on the road for 12 hours a day, or more. And the Crafter has been designed from the ground up to make life as easy for its driver as possible.

Climbing abroad, the ability to adjust the steering wheel for reach, and height instantly gives you the impression the Crafter is going to be a very user-friendly device.

Volkswagen has worked hard to make the standard seats as comfortable as possible, and there is the ability to option them to an even higher level.

The medium wheelbase automatic we tested also featured automatic parking, which, for a large van in an urban environment, is an absolute bonus. And it works amazingly well. There's nothing like a five metre-plus van reverse-parking itself as the driver holds his hands in the air to make passers-by gawk in amazement.

Throttle response is linear and easy to manage, as is the electrically assisted steering, though you have to wind on a bit of lock to get around a corner. Disc brakes all round give the Crafter a good middle pedal feel, too. A brief drive in a manual reveals a light clutch and shift action.

The ride is well controlled even when it’s unladen, if verging on a little stiff – but it’s possible to uprate the suspension to suit loads of up to 2.4 tonnes, depending on variant, so a spin around Auckland’s CBD aboard a Crafter with 500kg of low-slung weight isn’t going to tell us too much.

We can tell you that if you’re looking for a 4x4 with air suspension and off road-ready all-terrain tyres that’s begging for a lift kit, this is not the place. The Crafter only comes with steel wheels, and its 0-100km/h acceleration speed isn’t especially important.

Safety

Toyota HiLux

Toyota was at the front of the pack for safety tech in utes - for a couple of months. But it’s still impressive that the entire HiLux line-up has the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as per 2019 criteria. And there’s a good reason for that.

All HiLux models come with standard fit auto emergency braking (AEB) that works at speeds from 50km/h-180km/h, as well as pedestrian and cyclist detection operational from 10km/h-80km/h. 

The HiLux gets a lane departure warning system with lane keeping assist that works by braking the wheels it needs to, in order to pull you into line - but it still runs hydraulic steering, so it can’t do full-scale lane keeping assistance.

Also standard is speed sign recognition and warning, and adaptive cruise control on manual and auto models. You can even just hit ‘set’ on the cruise control to raise or lower your speed to whatever the speed sign says.

While the spec is pretty good, there’s no blind spot monitoring or rear cross traffic alert, and - in a very disappointing continuation of the theme - Toyota still doesn’t offer a reversing camera on cab-chassis models. You get a rear-view camera standard on all pick-up models, though.

There are dual front, front side, driver’s knee and full-length curtain, for a total of seven airbags no matter the body style.

The dual cab versions have two ISOFIX outboard attachments and two loop-style top-tethers for baby seats.


Volkswagen Crafter9/10

VW has taken standard safety for a commercial vehicle to a new high. Front, side and curtain airbags for front-row passengers, 'Front Assist' with AEB, post-crash multi-collision braking, crosswind assist, front and rear parking sensors and reversing camera are all standard. It would be great to be able to turn on the rear view camera just to check what is behind the Crafter without reverse engaged, but that's a minor quibble.

Optional systems include park assist, adaptive cruise control, rear traffic alert, active lane keep assist and sensor-based side assist. You’ll have to leave the youngest tradies at home, though – there are no ISOFIX points in the Crafter.

Ownership

Toyota HiLux

Toyota has one of the strongest reputations in the Australian new car market when it comes to ownership and reliability. 

However, with the HiLux, there have been a few issues over its head, specifically around the diesel particulate filter (DPF). You can read more about it at our Toyota HiLux problems page, as well as any other Toyota HiLux complaints, concerns, reliability issues or recalls.

Suffice it to say, the brand says it has your back no matter what. And it has a strong ownership promise on paper, too.

All models have a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which can carry on to seven years/unlimited km if you maintain logbook servicing - it doesn’t even need to have been at a Toyota dealer, either. So long as you maintain it on schedule, the brand will back it for that extended period. 

The bad news is that you need to service the HiLux more regularly than most of its competitors. The brand says it has no plans to increase service intervals to meet the current standard of 12 months/15,000km.

Instead, HiLux owners have to take their ute in to get serviced twice a year, with maintenance intervals set every six months or 10,000km, whichever happens soonest. 

Diesel services are $250 a pop. That means you’ve got an annual $500 bill for maintenance for diesel models, which is higher than many rivals (Triton: $299/year). Petrol versions cost $220 per visit, so $440 a year.

Further, Toyota doesn’t include no-cost roadside assistance, either. You’ll have to sign up for it, at about $100 a year.

Strong on warranty cover, yes, but you may have to pay over the odds in order to sustain it.


Volkswagen Crafter7/10

Given the Crafter is a brand new build, it’s far too early to look for common faults or problems, but the ZF eight-speed auto, for example, has a proven record of reliability.

Service intervals of 20,000km or 12 months are recommended, and Volkswagen’s fixed service program applies. The first five services to 100,000km will cost $3279 in total; just keep the owner’s manual up to date.

A three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty is offered, along with three year’s free roadside service.