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Volkswagen Crafter 2021 review: TDI410 RWD single cab chassis GVM test

The Volkswagen Crafter cab-chassis is available in literally hundreds of different configurations.

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Tradies score

4.7/5

There aren’t many vehicles with more versatility than the Volkswagen Crafter. You could brand it multiple different models, that’s that much variation available.

Take the model tested here: the Crafter 50 LWB TDI410 SCC 8 speed auto RWD 4.49t GVM (with tray), or model code SZCD8DT. This van-based light truck is one of 47 variants available in the VW Crafter 2021 cab-chassis line-up. And there are also 32 van options and soon there’ll be four variants of Mini Bus, as well. Yes, there are more than 80 versions of the Crafter to choose from!

We’ve tested the Crafter van before, but this was our first chance to assess the cab-chassis model, which competes both against the likes of the Renault Master and Mercedes Sprinter cab models, but also the Mitsubishi Fuso Canter light truck.

Does it make sense for business buyers? Let’s find out.

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

As mentioned above you can configure your Crafter in more than 80 different ways, so the price range is broad.

The Van range spans from $49,290 to $70,090 (before on-road costs), but if you’re shopping for a van there are really strong driveaway deals being done.

The list prices for the Cab-Chassis line-up start at $49,390 and range through to $65,890 (MSRP). These models are more ‘made to order’ than the in-stock vans that the brand brings in. 

And if you need a bus? The Crafter Minibus range spans $68,690 to $76,190. 

The 50 LWB TDI410 single cab-chassis has a list price of $64,180 plus on-road costs. The 50 LWB TDI410 single cab-chassis has a list price of $64,180 plus on-road costs.

Okay, but let’s narrow the focus a little to the Crafter we have here - the 50 LWB TDI410 single cab-chassis - which has a list price of $64,180 plus on-road costs, and there are a couple of options fitted, too. As tested, our vehicle has an acoustic reversing warning ($450), painted ladder holder with bulkhead ($1305) and heavy duty suspension with heavy duty stabiliser bars ($690) - making for an all-told as tested price of $66,625 plus on-road costs.

That seems like pretty decent value given the capability and capacity this vehicle offers, and the fact there is such a huge number of body types, heights, lengths and drivetrains simply makes this Crafter model a compelling option for those in the market for a specific workplace solution.

There's a 8.0-inch touchscreen media with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Bluetooth phone and audio streaming. There's a 8.0-inch touchscreen media with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.

And as standard it comes pretty well kitted out, with a three-seat (1+2) cabin layout, LED cabin lighting, overhead storage, rubber flooring, USB and 2x 12-volt outlets, 8.0-inch touchscreen media with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, air-conditioning, reach and rake steering adjustment and plenty of storage options.

The exterior has a standard-fit alloy drop-side tray, halogen headlights with halogen daytime running lights (DRLs), 16-inch silver steel wheels, full size spare wheel, side reflectors, an end cross member, and there’s a few safety items fitted standard as well - we’ll cover those off in the safety section below. 

Further, we’ll cover off a number of available options and accessories in the next section, because you can essentially design your Crafter cab-chassis to be precisely what you need.

The exterior has a standard-fit alloy drop-side tray. The exterior has a standard-fit alloy drop-side tray.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the design of the VW Crafter cab-chassis range is that there are so many options available.

You can have it as a single cab in three different lengths - Medium Wheelbase (MWB) spanning 5996mm total, Long Wheelbase (LWB) spanning 6846mm, and Long Wheelbase with Overhang (LWBO) stretching 7211mm.

Plus there are two double cab models available, the MWB and LWB, and both have seating for seven occupants - three up front, four in the rear.

And then there’s the fact you can have the Crafter in FWD, 4Motion all-wheel drive, or rear-wheel drive like our test vehicle. Both the FWD and AWD models have transverse mounted engines, while the RWD model has a north-south longitudinal engine. 

The design of the vehicle varies based on that, with the FWD and AWD models offering better load-in height as they manage to package all the mechanical hardware down lower in the chassis. The RWD is more a heavy-duty option, and indeed is available in up to 5.5-tonne GVM configuration, meaning you need a truck licence to drive it. That’s not the case with our 4.49t GVM version, which is legal to be driven on a regular car licence. 

It’s this availability of options that gives customers with very specific needs more choice to configure the vehicle they really want - and that is certainly an excellent design trait. 

The tray features a flat load-in space at the side, meaning you don’t need to contend with a rim or lip when forklifting items in. The tray features a flat load-in space at the side, meaning you don’t need to contend with a rim or lip when forklifting items in.

But one thing to consider is that all Crafter cab-chassis variants come with an Alloy Tray standard, and it’s fitted at the factory, rather than at the dealership. 

The tray features a flat load-in space at the side, meaning you don’t need to contend with a rim or lip when forklifting items in, plus there are 10 recessed lashing eyes for tying down, and there’s an integrated rear step on the tailboard. The tray itself features a wooden floor (multi-layered birch plywood) which varies between vehicle types - you get the 15mm thickness for single rear tyre models, while dual-rear tyre versions get 21mm thickness.

The surface is designed to be non-slip via VW’s ‘screen-printed’ development, and on test we noted a little bit of slippage, so beware that items need to be well secured. 

The tray’s sides are light and offer about 400mm of depth for storage, and there’s a side underride guard to stop other vehicles from pitching under the tray - and that also doubles as a handy step if the sides are up, but is not usable if the sides are dropped.

While the plastic latches are easy to operate I fear the forgetful apprentice may one day leave one unlocked, which could easily lead to it being smashed off in narrow confines. We also had some issues tying down to the front lashing eye with a ratchet strap because the ladder rack got in the way, and the recessed tie-downs collect leaf litter and worksite debris very easily. 

And if you want the figures: the load area is 8.8 square metres, measuring 4300mm long, 2040mm wide and 400mm deep, with a load sill height of 1035mm. 

The exterior cabin styling is Teutonic and fuss free, and it’s easy to determine this is a Crafter at a glance. One thing I wasn’t so taken by was the body-paint-coloured chassis rails, which had a number of rather messy looking welds that - if I was buying one for my business - I would prefer were black.

As standard, the driver’s seat is a Comfort Seat Plus. As standard, the driver’s seat is a Comfort Seat Plus.

And if customising your vehicle to suit exactly your needs is important to you, here are some of the things you could add to your Crafter, if you want it: black steel wheels instead of silver; heated seats; a heated steering wheel with leather trim; a suspension seat for the driver and/or passenger (replacing the three-seat bench with a two-seat layout); a second battery setup; second alternator setup; sat nav media; tyre pressure monitoring; mechanical differential lock and hill descent control (4Motion models); active lane keeping assist; adaptive cruise control and more. More on the safety specs in the safety section below.

As you can probably tell from the interior images, there’s a bit to cover off for cabin practicality and design in the next section.

How practical is the space inside?

Very. If you use your vehicle as a mobile office, the Crafter’s cabin could be a very handy space for you.

There are storage caddies above the driver and passenger head areas, as well as a trio of folder holders on top of the dashboard, and multi-level door pockets with the lowest, largest ones offering bottle storage. There are also two cup holders each for the outboard passengers, the larger of which can fit a 600mL fizzy. 

There are other storage sections, including spaces under the bench seat (individually openable by pulling the tab at the back of the seat base), as well as a glovebox and a shelf above it for smaller items. 

There are storage caddies above the driver and passenger head areas. There are storage caddies above the driver and passenger head areas.

One interesting thing to note is the placement of the USB port, which is up on top of the dash - clever if you plan to fit a phone older accessory as you could just leave the cable in at all times. There are also two 12-volt sockets for additional charging.

In terms of media there is an 8.0-inch touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but no sat nav. It has USB/auxiliary/SD card inputs, and is teamed to a sound system with four speakers and also has Bluetooth phone and audio streaming. It’s a really simple and quick system to use, making living with it super easy. There are audio controls on the steering wheel, too, so you need not lean over and reach for the buttons or knobs.

There are two cup holders each for the outboard passengers, the larger of which can fit a 600mL fizzy. There are two cup holders each for the outboard passengers, the larger of which can fit a 600mL fizzy.

All the controls are simple, in fact. There are easily learnable positions for all the main functional components, including the manual air conditioning dials and - in our test vehicle - a switchable reversing alarm, which is great if you start work early and don’t want to annoy the neighbours.

Oddly, though, the vehicle we had didn’t include a reversing camera, though it is possible to have one fitted (ours missed out due to COVID-19 delays). It’s hard to see out directly behind you; I had to rely on a bystander when reverse-parking in a spot and it was a game of inches. 

If you use your vehicle as a mobile office, the Crafter’s cabin could be a very handy space. If you use your vehicle as a mobile office, the Crafter’s cabin could be a very handy space.

Those who want a comfier drive experience may wish to option the ErgoActive Suspension Seat, and I would probably do so if I was buying this vehicle for myself, as the ride can be tedious on country roads - more on that below. As standard, the driver’s seat is a Comfort Seat Plus, and it comprises height and slide adjust, four-way electric lumbar adjustment, and it has two adjustable armrests as well. 

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

As is the case with pretty much all the elements of the Crafter, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to engine and transmission choices.

I pointed out in the design section that you can have front-, all- or rear-wheel drive, depending on your circumstances, and all three versions are also available with the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The TDI410 runs a 2.0-litre bi-turbo producing 130kW (at 3600rpm) and 410Nm (at 2000rpm).  The TDI410 runs a 2.0-litre bi-turbo producing 130kW (at 3600rpm) and 410Nm (at 2000rpm). 

As for engines, there’s two tunes to choose from: the entry-level 2.0-litre TDI340 turbo, which has 103kW of power (at 3500rpm) and 340Nm of torque (at 2000rpm); or the motor tested in this vehicle, the TDI410 which runs a 2.0-litre bi-turbo producing 130kW (at 3600rpm) and 410Nm (at 2000rpm). 

There is no petrol model, no petrol-electric hybrid, no plug-in hybrid, no electric and no LPG version. So maybe there isn’t that much choice, really - well, not in Australia. There is an e-Crafter in Europe, though. Maybe we’ll see it here one day, too.

Towing capacity for the Crafter cab-chassis models is pegged at 750kg for an unbraked trailer and 3500kg for a braked trailer, but only if you buy the “50/55” RWD model - and take note, the download for the towball is not great, at 150kg. Crafter “35” FWD and AWD versions can tow 750kg/2500kg, again with a 150kg downball limit.

The gross vehicle mass for cab-chassis Crafter models depends on the drivetrain, too. The 35 models have GVM ratings of 3550kg, while the 50 and 55 models are rated at 4490kg and 5500kg respectively.

Gross combination mass (GCM) isn’t quite as straightforward - it depends on the model and configuration. But for the model tested here, the GCM was 7077kg, with an unladen weight of 2539kg and a maximum payload of 1951kg (hence the 4490kg GVM). 

How much fuel does it consume?

Because of the class of vehicle, it doesn’t have a claimed fuel consumption rating. And while I have been impressed with the fuel consumption in prior Crafter FWD high-roof van loans (10.9L/100km), the RWD cab-chassis was considerably more thirsty on test.

The only option in Australia is diesel. The only option in Australia is diesel.

I covered more than 1200km in the vehicle, some of those kays with a pallet load on board and then with light-but-not-aerodynamic outdoor furniture set stacked up, while other driving was done as highway stints unladen. Over the entirety of that drive, I saw an at-the-pump return of 12.5L/100km. 

One thing I noted was that the fuel tank capacity of 75 litres is quite small for a vehicle of this size and intent - and there’s no long range fuel tank option, either.

Plus buyers need to be aware that the Crafter runs Adblue after treatment tech, which is another consumable cost to keep in mind.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The VW Crafter has not been crash tested for an ANCAP rating, nor has it been scored by Euro NCAP.

But there are some decent standard safety inclusions, such as “Front Assist with City Emergency Brake” which is VW speak for auto emergency braking (AEB) that works up to 30km/h, as well as driver fatigue detection, multi-collision brake (which stops a loaded vehicle careening into other road users post accident), hill hold assist, adaptive stability control, anti-lock braking and brake assist.

The VW Crafter has not been crash tested for an ANCAP rating, nor has it been scored by Euro NCAP. The VW Crafter has not been crash tested for an ANCAP rating, nor has it been scored by Euro NCAP.

There are six airbags in all models, with dual front, front side and curtain airbags, but the dual cab models don’t get curtain airbag protection at the rear, so keep that in mind. 

Optional safety tech includes adaptive cruise control with lane keeping assist, active lane keeping assist and a reversing camera. There is no blind spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alert, which would be handy in a vehicle of this size. Thankfully, though, the mirrors are dual-pane units and offer a good view of the road behind.

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

The VW Crafter comes with a pretty good promising ownership experience, and it’s not as expensive as you might be thinking for a Euro vehicle, too.

The company offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan as standard - none of those promotional offers like some rivals.

Then there’s the choice of either pay-as-you-go servicing, with intervals pegged every 12 months/20,000km, whatever occurs first, or you can prepay you servicing and roll it into your finance payments with VW’s Care Plan choices.

VW offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan as standard. VW offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan as standard.

There are two pre-paid Care Plan options: three years/60,000km, which costs $1450 and makes for a saving of between $250 and $649, depending on the model; or the five-year/100,000km offer which is $2300 (meaning your first service is free), and saves you between $898 and $1428 compared to PAYG servicing. VW Australia states “all items in scheduled service, such as labour, parts and fluids” are covered.

That makes a lot of sense, and if your vehicle is an essential tool of trade, the brand also offers roadside assistance for the life of your Care Plan prepay servicing option, while you can also book “60 Minute Service Express” maintenance.  

What's it like as a daily driver?

This big unit isn’t the sort of vehicle I’d aim for as a ‘wish list driveway occupant’, and not only because I don't have a large enough driveway.

It is eminently practical, hugely helpful and surprisingly easy to drive, though.

I mean, something that’s 7004mm long and runs a 4490mm wheelbase is always going to suffer some compromise in terms of the turning circle, and at 16.2m you’re going to have to do more five- and seven-point turns than three-point rotations.

But the steering wheel is compact and easy to manipulate, and the steering action is direct and accurate, easy to judge for a vehicle of this magnitude. 

Something that’s 7004mm long and runs a 4490mm wheelbase is always going to suffer some compromise in terms of the turning circle. Something that’s 7004mm long and runs a 4490mm wheelbase is always going to suffer some compromise in terms of the turning circle.

The heavy duty suspension is tiresome on country roads without weight, but if the surface is smooth, so is the sailing. Over B- and C-roads in the NSW central west and southern tablelands, the front and rear suspension jostled and jittered considerably - in fact, it was the front suspension that felt most uneasy (possibly because the cabin is soooooo far from the rear axle!).

The engine is smooth and builds pace well - in fact, it's quite rapid from a standing start, with the bi-turbo motor ensuring strong response through the rev range. The traction control is overly sensitive at lower speeds when taking off, or when negotiating tight corners. That’s probably a good thing, to be honest.

Over my 1200km of driving about 600km was unladen, and the thrust of the engine was good enough when empty. It’s hardly speedy, and it’s not quiet about doing its thing, either - but the transmission harnesses the available torque well, and shifts cleverly to maintain pace.

The upright and non-adjustable backrest did cause some issues after hours of driving. The upright and non-adjustable backrest did cause some issues after hours of driving.

However, if you encounter a long-distance hill ascent, you will notice the transmission and engine can be a little busy, shifting between the higher gears to ensure smooth (but, again, not tranquil) progress.

Yep, it’s a noisy old unit, with lots of wind rush around the top of the cab and some around the mirrors, too. But as mentioned in the safety specs section, the mirrors are big and offer good vision to the sides, while the bulkhead of the ladder rack did eat into the rearview mirror vision of our test vehicle. And I reiterate - the reversing camera would be a must for me and any other driver who cares about what’s behind them.

For what it’s worth, my partner and our two small dogs were able to fit in the cabin with me. The dogs had no complaints, but the upright and non-adjustable backrest of the bench seat did cause some issues for my partner after hours of driving.

Now, let’s consider what it’s like with a load on board.

What’s it like for tradie use?

Drop the sides, load it up - that’s what this thing is made for.

With the heavy duty suspension making for a more than capable work vehicle - I mean, the payload for this spec, at 1951kg, is exceptional! - I felt a little bit of a fraud only putting a few hundred kilograms in the tray. And it managed that much mass without even raising a sweat. 

Drop the sides, load it up - that’s what this thing is made for. Drop the sides, load it up - that’s what this thing is made for.

The load-in was easy enough for the forklift driver at Hornsby Bee Supplies, where I was collecting some goodies for my brother-in-law’s beekeeping business. With a pallet half-stacked with heavy wooden beehive building supplies loaded in close the cab, the weight distribution wasn’t as good as it could have been in terms of taming the suspension. 

Indeed the ride did settle down to a degree, while there was little to no effect on the braking performance. Of course, with a bigger load we know it could be a different story.

The engine and transmission were again adept at working to keep the engine in its sweet spot, especially at higher speed. And there were no major shortfalls in terms of pulling power with this much weight on board, I do feel that payload-capacity driving would limit your ability to make the best of the powertrain, as at times it was starting to feel a little breathless.

There were no major shortfalls in terms of pulling power with this much weight on board. There were no major shortfalls in terms of pulling power with this much weight on board.

But for a load-in, load-out operative, the Crafter cab-chassis really is clever. The drop-side tray with its flat load-on space makes for easy access, and if you're moving large items that you need to slide off - Gyprock or steel sheeting, for instance - you can do so without having to contend with a load lip on the outer edges of the tray.

If you need space and size, but don’t want a van, then the VW Crafter cab-chassis could be a terrific option for your business. With so many variants and derivatives to choose from, there’s one for just about every user case. 

It is missing a few technology items for safety spec, but as a work vehicle there really is no other offering out there that offers the personalisation and customisation the VW Crafter cab-chassis range does.

$64,780

Based on new car retail price

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Tradies score

4.7/5
Price Guide

$64,780

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data
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