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Volkswagen Crafter 2019 review: TDI410 LWB High Roof

Matt Campbell
Senior Editor

23 Jan 2019 • 15 min read

Daily driver score

3.9/5

Tradies score

3.9/5

If you believe the slogan, the new Volkswagen Crafter is “more than a white box”. In this van’s case that’s undeniably true, not least of which because this one is definitely blue.

But there’s a bit more to it than a smart tagline and inspired colour choices. The new VW Crafter is a serious contender in the large van segment, where it competes against the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter and Renault Master.

Like those rivals, you can have it as a van, a single-cab-chassis or a dual-cab-chassis model. Our test vehicle was a long-wheelbase (LWB) van, which comes with a high roof layout as standard - you can get a cheaper, more manageable mid-wheelbase (MWB) version if you prefer something a touch more city-friendly.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

I have to admit I was shocked when I showed up to collect this VW Crafter and it was finished in Deep Ocean Blue. I mean, I don’t think of vans this size coming in anything other than white or maybe black, which are of course also available. But with other colours available like Cherry Red, Luminous Orange, Reflex Silver or Indium Grey, there’s a Crafter to suit different business needs. These could essentially be billboards on wheels. 

There’s a typically Teutonic approach to the exterior styling of the Crafter. It is boxy, yes, and it probably isn’t as attractive as some of the other big vans out there, even if the subtle chrome trim line across the grille is a welcome flourish. You can option a Trendline Styling Package which adds more chrome inside and out, too, but the large halogen headlights and simple 16-inch steel wheels combine to scream ‘work-focused’. 

Of course, being a commercial van, there are options aplenty in terms of customisation. This tester was almost as it comes from the factory - fitted with one sliding side door only, and the rear barn doors which come as standard, too. 

  • There’s a typically Teutonic approach to the exterior styling of the Crafter. There’s a typically Teutonic approach to the exterior styling of the Crafter.
  • These could essentially be billboards on wheels. These could essentially be billboards on wheels.
  • This tester was almost as it comes from the factory - fitted with one sliding side door only, and the rear barn doors which come as standard, too. This tester was almost as it comes from the factory - fitted with one sliding side door only, and the rear barn doors which come as standard, too.
  • Inside the cabin of the Crafter, things are impressive. Inside the cabin of the Crafter, things are impressive.

If it were me, I’d be considering a second side door, and - if possible - probably some side glazing because it’s a bit hard to see over your shoulder. That said, the split side mirrors with a lower wide-angle lens help to see what’s lurking in your blind spots, and the high-mount reverse camera is very helpful.

The dimensions of our test vehicle are 6836mm long on a 4490mm wheelbase, 2590mm tall (that jumps to 2798mm with the super-high roof), and 2040mm wide (the mirrors are big, though, pushing width to 2427mm). 

Inside the cabin of the Crafter, things are impressive - there’s a nice small steering wheel (the same as you’d get in a base model Golf, if VW sold one without leather wrapping), and the controls are all very logically positioned. It feels like a car from the driver’s seat, and there’s excellent adjustment on offer to find your perfect driving position, which is important to professional drivers.

How practical is the space inside?

If you’ve sat in - or happen to own - any current VW, the cabin of the Crafter will feel familiar to you. That’s a pretty decent accolade for a big work vehicle, but the interior design and materials are what we’ve come to expect from VW.

Admittedly the plastics are a little more ‘hard wearing’ than in a Golf or Passat, but the controls and layout are smart and even a bit stylish.

The media display is an 8.0-inch touchscreen unit with decent usability - there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to sync and mirror your phone, plus Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, AM/FM radio, CD with MP3 playback, two SD card inputs, auxiliary jack, voice control and four speakers. There is no GPS / sat nav as standard, but you can get a system with that tech if you want it. It’s optional, because VW rightly assumes that van drivers might bring their own tracking telematics devices. 

There is storage aplenty, with enormous tiered door pockets, an array of cupholders in and on top of the dash, a couple of dash-top folder holders and overhead storage pockets, too. Plus there’s under-seat storage, and a fold-down table in the backrest of the middle seat.

Yep, the three-seat Crafter has a double bench on the passenger side with armrests for both occupants, plus the driver’s seat has the captain’s chair style to it, too. There are two 12-volt outlets to keep things charged, and the sun visors are huge (with a mirror on the passenger-side only, weirdly). 

  • If you’ve sat in - or happen to own - any current VW, the cabin of the Crafter will feel familiar to you. If you’ve sat in - or happen to own - any current VW, the cabin of the Crafter will feel familiar to you.
  • There’s under-seat storage, and a fold-down table in the backrest of the middle seat. There’s under-seat storage, and a fold-down table in the backrest of the middle seat.
  • The media display is an 8.0-inch touchscreen unit with decent usability. The media display is an 8.0-inch touchscreen unit with decent usability.
  • The cargo area measures 4300mm long, 1832mm wide and 1961mm tall. The cargo area measures 4300mm long, 1832mm wide and 1961mm tall.
  • The side doors are good for loading in big boxes, and wide enough for a pallet to be side-loaded too. The side doors are good for loading in big boxes, and wide enough for a pallet to be side-loaded too.
  • In the cargo area there are 12 lashing rings for LWB models (10 for MWB). In the cargo area there are 12 lashing rings for LWB models (10 for MWB).
  • The floor area was scuffed after just 100km of loaded driving. The floor area was scuffed after just 100km of loaded driving.

In the cargo area there are 12 lashing rings for LWB models (10 for MWB), plus a pair of 12-volt sockets, a bulkhead partition with a safety grille over the glass, and there’s a grab handle to help you get in and out. There are two roof lights fitted standard, but you can upgrade to four LEDs as part of the Cargo Area Upgrade Package, which in turn adds grab handles on either D-pillar.

A couple of things about the cargo zone; the plastic around the step area was badly fitted, the paint on the inner walls wasn't very well done (if that matters to you) and a non-slip mat or liner might be a good idea, as the floor area was scuffed after just 100km of loaded driving.

Let’s talk about interior dimensions.

The cargo area measures 4300mm long, 1832mm wide (and 1380mm between the wheel arches, meaning it can easily swallow pallets), and 1961mm tall. VW says that equates to a 14.4m3 cargo capacity (or 14,400L, if that’s how you prefer it).

The side doors are tall enough for a six-foot adult to juuuust walk through without ducking (1822mm) and the width is 1311mm, good for loading in big boxes, and wide enough for a pallet to be side-loaded too. 

The load sill height at the rear is 570mm, or just over knee-height for an average height male. The opening behind the rear barn doors is 1552mm and it’s 1840mm tall. 

For what it’s worth, I stacked up a three-bedroom-house-load of boxes in the back, and I had room to spare.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The VW Crafter range starts at $48,490 plus on-road costs, and ranges up to $71,490 at the top of the range. There are 59 versions available!

In the spec you see here, the list price is $58,990 plus on-road costs. Now, you will probably find better drive away deals if you shop around, and vehicles in stock might already have some of the options from VW’s extensive list ticked for you. 

In terms of competitors, there is no FWD LWB Sprinter, and all the rear-wheel-drive versions are more expensive, plus feature higher cargo floor areas. But there is a long wheelbase front-drive Ford Transit available, with an auto transmission, for $51,990 - a full seven grand cheaper than this spec Crafter.

The VW Crafter range starts at $48,490 plus on-road costs, and ranges up to $71,490 at the top of the range. The VW Crafter range starts at $48,490 plus on-road costs, and ranges up to $71,490 at the top of the range.

Standard equipment offered here includes air conditioning (single-zone), an 8.0-inch media screen with all the connectivity touchpoints covered, rubber floor mats, cruise control, heated electric side mirrors, power lumbar adjustment for the driver, and power windows. 

You don’t get auto headlights (but they are auto-off, so you don’t need to worry about leaving them on) or auto wipers, and LED headlights are available at extra cost. 

Where is the VW Crafter built? Poland. So if you choose to build to order, you can expect a wait time of a few months. 

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Every version of the Crafter currently sold in Australia is fitted with a 2.0-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine - it’s the EA288 Nutz (Nutzfahrzeuge - commercial vehicles) engine, in case you’re wondering.

Power is rated at 130kW (at 3600rpm), and torque is 410Nm (at 2000rpm). Those engine specs are decent, but don’t change the game. The way it drives, however… read more on that below.

There’s the choice of a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic - that’s right, there’s no dual clutch DSG transmission here. And to begin with, all Crafter models were front-wheel drive. But the range is set to expand, and soon.

Every version of the Crafter currently sold in Australia is fitted with a 2.0-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine. Every version of the Crafter currently sold in Australia is fitted with a 2.0-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine.

There will be a couple of rear wheel drive (RWD) models available with single- and dual-wheel layouts at the back, plus VW’s 4Motion all wheel drive (AWD) variants will be sold here, too. It’s Volkswagen Australia’s most complex model line. 

The kerb weight of the LWB High Roof van is stated at 2308 kilograms, with a gross vehicle weight (sometimes called gross vehicle mass, or GVM) listed as 3550kg. That means a payload capacity of 1242kg, but remember, that number has to factor in the driver and any passengers.

If you need towing capacity, the Crafter offers 750kg un-braked or 2500kg braked trailer capacity. The Crafter has a gross combined mass (GCM) of 5550kg, so you can run a load and a trailer if you need to.

How much fuel does it consume?

Fuel tank capacity is 75 litres. Fuel tank capacity is 75 litres.

The Crafter plays in a segment of the market where manufacturers don’t need to provide claimed fuel use figures. But we can tell you that over our week of testing - which involved about 600km of driving between the Blue Mountains and inner-west Sydney, with and without loads, in traffic and in free-flow driving, we saw a return of 10.9L/100km, which is commendable.

Fuel tank capacity is 75 litres - there is no long range fuel tank option, either. It’s worth noting that the engine doesn’t just need fuel, it also takes AdBlue and has a diesel particulate filter to meet Euro6 emissions compliance levels.

What's it like to drive?

It’s hard to make something this big feel like it shrinks around you when you’re driving it, but the Crafter is surprisingly simple to drive and easier to pilot than you might expect.

You have to be aware that its as long as one-and-a-half VW Golfs, but it turns with such ease thanks to the accurate and nicely weighted steering that you could forget the size of it… provided you can handle that it has a huge 16.2-metre turning circle, which makes urban driving, and particularly reversing, a bit of a task.

The sheer size of this box on wheels is something you need to consider, because underpasses might be out of the question, garages almost always are, and branches that look oh so high up in the air from human height are likely to give the paint a hard time if you’re not careful. But you know that if you’re considering a van this large.

The suspension does a spectacular job of things. Admittedly the enormous wheelbase helps keep the body under control quite well, but there’s less of a top heavy feel to the Crafter than you might expect. There are anti-roll bars front and rear to help reduce twist, and even exiting steep offset driveways it handle its size really well. 

the Crafter is surprisingly simple to drive and easier to pilot than you might expect. the Crafter is surprisingly simple to drive and easier to pilot than you might expect.

Over speed humps and rough sections of city streets you might notice some thumping from the rear suspension (leaf spring rigid axle with load adaptive dampers) when unladen, but the front suspension (MacPherson strut double wishbone) is really well sorted in all situations.

The engine mightn’t have the biggest grunt numbers, but the way its power and torque are used by the eight-speed auto is excellent. It isn’t fast, but its strong enough in its response, and it never felt short of torque in any situation - even with about a tonne of household goods packed into the back. 

The only thing that could deter you is that the front wheels can spin or scramble for traction under hard acceleration, particularly in the wet. 

My only other issue was the hill-start assist system - from my time behind the wheel, it seemed to only work in forward gears; when I reversed up a hill it didn’t hold and started to roll away on me, which was somewhat disconcerting. 

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The standard safety equipment list for the Crafter van is impressive, and verging on class-leading, but there’s no ANCAP crash test rating or Euro NCAP score, either.

Airbags are fitted for the driver and outboard passenger - consisting of head, side and curtain coverage (side/curtain not available for Crafter models with the super-high roof) - and the Crafter has city-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) fitted, along with a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors as standard. You can’t switch that rear-view camera on to take a glance at what’s behind you without selecting reverse, which is a bit of a shame.

The stability control system includes load adaptive sensitivity and crosswind assist, and there’s a multi-collision braking system that will pull the vehicle up if it detects there has been an accident. And there’s driver fatigue detection, too. 

There are optional extras such as a semi-automated parking system, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring (‘Side Protection’), and active lane keeping assistance. Get them in a bundle for $3690, and you won’t regret it - you even get folding side mirrors.

There are no ISOFIX child-seat anchor points in the Crafter.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Volkswagen now offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty on all of its models, which pushes it to the front of the pack alongside Ford. The warranty is a class standard-setter, with Mercedes offering a shorter three-year/200,000km plan, while Renault offers three years/unlimited mileage.

There’s a capped-price servicing campaign for the Crafter, with maintenance due every 12 months or 20,000km, whichever occurs first. That cover extends to five years/100,000km, though if you’re a courier / delivery driver you might exceed that level a bit sooner. A Sprinter can do with maintenance every 24 months or 40,000km - but would you really want to let it go that long?

The servicing costs are on the high side, though. Volkswagen’s public site doesn’t stipulate exact pricing for this model, but you can bank on needing to budget (on average) $700 per visit.

If you’re in the market for a large van, the VW Crafter is well and truly worthy of your consideration. The new model is a big improvement on its predecessor, and there are multiple options available to choose from. And there’s only more to come, with RWD and AWD models on the horizon for 2019. 

Is the VW Crafter your large van pick? Tell us in the comments below.

$62,680

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.9/5

Tradies score

3.9/5
Price Guide

$62,680

Based on new car retail price