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Volkswagen Crafter 2020 review: TDI 410 MWB 4MOTION

Our test vehicle has a 3600mm wheelbase, 5986mm length, 2040mm width and 2355mm height.

Daily driver score

4.5/5

Tradies score

4.5/5

The LD or Light Duty (3501-8000kg GVM) segment of Australia’s heavy commercial vehicle market is highly competitive with numerous brands fighting for market share.

It’s a tough battleground, requiring manufacturers to offer a large number of variants to appeal to buyers with diverse job requirements. And, in many cases, the need for razor-sharp fleet pricing to match.

Volkswagen’s Crafter range, which offers a choice of van or cab-chassis in a multitude of configurations, has recently been expanded to include the long awaited 4MOTION all-wheel drive van variants. This AWD capability obviously opens up new employment opportunities for the Crafter, so we recently put one to the test to see if it’s up to the job.

Price and Features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Our test vehicle is the TDI 410 Crafter 35 MWB (Medium Wheel Base) 4MOTION with standard roof height, 130kW/410Nm 2.0 litre turbo-diesel and eight-speed automatic transmission. Pricing starts at $60,590 for the auto model, which is a $3000 premium over the base six-speed manual version.

Our Crafter, with its 16-inch steel wheels and 235/65 R16 tyres plus full-size spare, has the look and feel of a hard worker with plenty of experience on the job. There’s numerous features designed to make hard work days easier, like the sealed cabin bulkhead/cargo barrier, height-and-reach adjustable steering wheel and individual driver’s seat with fold-down inboard armrest and electronic four-way adjustable lumbar support. There’s also a front bench seat for two crew.

Our Crafter came fitted with 16-inch steel wheels. Our Crafter came fitted with 16-inch steel wheels.

Cabin storage and convenience items are plentiful and there’s a quality four-speaker infotainment system with 8.0-inch colour touchscreen plus steering wheel controls, voice command and multiple connectivity including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, MirrorLink and Bluetooth. Plus there’s numerous VW genuine accessories available, from rubber floor mats to roof racks and other load securing items.

Design – is there anything interesting about its design?

Our test vehicle has a 3600mm wheelbase, 5986mm length, 2040mm width and 2355mm height. The chassis design features MacPherson strut front suspension, leaf-spring rear axle, electrically power-assisted rack and pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes.

The extra traction available from the 4MOTION all-wheel drive system adds useful off-highway capabilities with 195mm ground clearance, 20.9 degrees approach angle, 11.9 degrees ramp-over angle and 12.7mm departure angle. Turning circle is 13.6 metres.

Volkswagen’s Crafter range offers a choice of van or cab-chassis in a multitude of configurations. Volkswagen’s Crafter range offers a choice of van or cab-chassis in a multitude of configurations.

VW’s commercial vehicle experience with fleets has resulted in fixtures such as the Customer-specific Function Control Unit (CFCU). This is a more sophisticated digital version of the previous analogue PSM (Programmable Service Module), which allows a professional vehicle converter to access and program certain electronic functions needed in a conversion without having to tap into the vehicle’s sensitive mainframe network. Ambulances are good examples of converted vehicles that require this type of connectivity.

The Crafter also provides an easily adaptable fleet management interface on top of the CFCU, which can enable fleets to utilise their own management software to gather data such as telematics, service intervals, speed monitoring, vehicle use, vehicle tracking etc.

Our only criticisms are the lack of wall linings in the cargo hold, which smacks of cost-cutting and leaves many exposed cavities where things like keys, pens, phones etc can fall into. And the cluttered view through the rear-view mirror, with the bulkhead window’s thick protective mesh and rear door pillars making it difficult to see what’s directly behind you.

The Crafter is forklift-friendly, thanks to the 180-degree opening rear barn-doors, generous 1311mm side-door opening and 670mm floor height. The Crafter is forklift-friendly, thanks to the 180-degree opening rear barn-doors, generous 1311mm side-door opening and 670mm floor height.

Engine and transmission – What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The common rail, direct injection, twin-turbocharged 2.0 litre four-cylinder diesel engine, which uses AdBlue to achieve its Euro 6 emissions compliance, produces 130kW at 3600rpm. Its healthy 410Nm of torque peaks at 2000rpm, but thanks to the dual turbos there’s ample flexibility and pulling power either side of that figure. The slick-shifting eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission has impressive refinement and the option of sequential manual shifting if required.

The twin-turbo diesel unit makes 130kW/410Nm. The twin-turbo diesel unit makes 130kW/410Nm.

The 4MOTION all-wheel drive transmission delivers only front-wheel drive under normal driving conditions to maximise fuel economy. However, a Haldex coupling seamlessly distributes engine power to the rear wheels whenever a loss of traction is detected, up to a maximum value of 60 per cent rear/40 per cent front. There’s also an electronic diff lock and VW's brake energy recuperation which reduces engine load and increases fuel economy.

Fuel consumption – How much fuel does it consume?

VW does not publish an official average combined figure. However the Crafter’s dash display was showing 7.4L/100km at the end of our 344km test, which included city and highway driving with different loads and with the engine stop/start function switched off.

Although that figure proved to be optimistic, we were still impressed with our 9.4 calculated from actual fuel bowser and trip meter readings. Sub-10L economy is excellent for such a large van, meaning you could expect a realistic driving range of around 780km from its 74-litre tank.

Practicality – How practical is the space inside?

A kerb weight of 2345kg and 3550kg GVM results in a 1203kg payload - and up to 300kg of that can be carried on the roof. Our test vehicle is also rated to tow up to 2500kg of braked trailer and with its 5891kg GCM (or how much it can legally carry and tow at the same time) the 1203kg peak payload would only need to be reduced by 157kg to avoid exceeding the GCM. Needless to say, being able to carry more than one tonne while towing 2.5 tonnes makes this a very capable commercial.

Access to the cargo hold is through one LHS sliding door and twin rear barn-doors with 180-degree opening. However, optional door configurations are available including one RHS sliding door or twin sliding doors plus 270-degree opening for the barn doors. There’s also a high roof option for those needing standing room and/or more cargo space.

The cargo hold has a total load volume of 9.3 cubic metres, with internal dimensions of 3450mm length, 1832mm width and 1626mm height. With 1380mm between the rear wheel housings, the Crafter can easily take two standard 1165mm-square Aussie pallets with almost enough room for a third.

It’s also forklift-friendly, thanks to the 180-degree opening rear barn-doors, generous 1311mm side-door opening and 670mm floor height. There’s a total of 10 load anchorage points, positioned at floor level where you want them, plus lighting front and rear.

Access to the cargo hold is through one LHS sliding door and twin rear barn-doors with 180-degree opening. Access to the cargo hold is through one LHS sliding door and twin rear barn-doors with 180-degree opening.

In the cabin, each front door has three levels of storage bins, with the largest at mid-level including a big bottle holder. There’s smaller bottle/cup holders at either end of the dash-pad, which also incorporates open storage bins plus USB/AUX and 12-volt accessory plugs.

There’s more bottle/cup holders, open shelves, 12-volt sockets and cubbies for small items on the lower dash, along with a good-sized glovebox. Even more storage can be found in two large overhead shelves with integrated grab handles.

Inside, the Crafter offers plenty of storage options including two large overhead shelves and cubbies for small items on the lower dash. Inside, the Crafter offers plenty of storage options including two large overhead shelves and cubbies for small items on the lower dash.

Open space beneath the driver’s seat is useful for stowing away soft items, plus the centre passenger and outer passenger seat bases pivot forward through 90 degrees to expose a huge hidden storage area beneath. Overall this is excellent use of cabin space.

What’s it like as a daily driver?

For a van that’s almost six metres in length and more than two metres wide, it’s surprisingly agile and energetic in city and suburban driving. The rear suspension is surprisingly compliant and smooth-riding when empty or with only light loads on board.

It gets away smartly from standing starts, with ample torque on tap ensuring instant throttle response in the commonly used 40-80km/h speed range. The driving position is comfortable with good forward vision and clear eye-lines to the big Kenworth-grade door mirrors. Combined with the reversing camera, there’s good all-round vision except for the cluttered central rear view mentioned earlier.

The cabin with its sealed bulkhead is impressively quiet with low engine, tyre and wind noise helping to reduce driver and crew fatigue. The speed-sensitive steering is also great for work duties, being light at parking speeds and firmer and more direct on the highway.

The eight-speed automatic has shift protocols well-tailored to the engine’s characteristics. We never found the need to use manual shifting, even under heavy load, as this refined transmission does its best work when left in auto mode. Economical highway gearing results in only 1900rpm at 100km/h and 2100rpm at 110km/h.

We didn’t get a chance to test its AWD capabilities on unsealed roads. However, we did encounter wet bitumen on a notoriously steep mountain climb on our test route, with numerous hairpin bends that have caused other front-wheel drive vans to spin their front tyres with big loads in the rear. However, there wasn’t a hint of wheelspin even under hard acceleration, which we can only attribute to the increased all-wheel grip of the 4-MOTION drivetrain.

What’s it like for tradie use?

We loaded 1095kg into the cargo hold, which combined with our 100kg driver resulted in a payload of 1195kg, just 10kg under its GVM rating.

The rear leaf springs displayed minimal compression with a substantial 65mm of bump stop clearance remaining. It rode superbly with this payload and its engine performance, handling and braking were hardly affected by such a substantial weight increase.

We loaded 1095kg into the cargo hold, which combined with our 100kg driver resulted in a payload of 1195kg. We loaded 1095kg into the cargo hold, which combined with our 100kg driver resulted in a payload of 1195kg.

It easily powered up our 13 per cent gradient 2.0km set climb, maintaining the posted 60km/h limit in fourth gear at 2400rpm. Minimal engine braking on the way down, though, is what we’ve come to expect from relatively small displacement turbo-diesels trying to restrain big payloads. Great at climbing, not so great at descending.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

There’s no ANCAP rating for heavy commercials but the Crafter is loaded with standard safety features including front, side and curtain airbags for driver and passenger, plus a suite of active functions well suited to commercial vehicle operation.

These include front assist with city emergency brake (aka AEB), multi-collision brake, hill-hold and crosswind assist and front/rear park distance control with rear-view camera to name a few. Various driver assistance packages with extra safety features are available at extra cost.

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

The Crafter 4-MOTION is a consummate load carrier with commendable driver comfort and convenience. The addition of all-wheel drive means it should appeal to potential buyers for whom increased traction is a key requirement. From boggy construction sites and forestry tracks, to snow and ice-covered winter roads, to search and rescue and ambulance operations, the possibilities are many. This van is worthy of serious consideration.

$60,590

Based on new car retail price

Daily driver score

4.5/5

Tradies score

4.5/5
Price Guide

$60,590

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data
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