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VW Crafter long-term review: the final verdict

  • Parkers Vans long-term test review of VW Crafter
  • We say goodbye after six months and 7,000 miles
  • Flawless reliability, great to drive and very comfortable

Long-term test review of the 2017 VW Crafter on Parkers Vans

Report 18: Goodbye to the VW Crafter

And so, after six months and more than 7,000 miles, it’s time to say goodbye to our Volkswagen Crafter long-term test vehicle.

The most modern large van on the market – at least until the all-new Mercedes Sprinter arrives in 2018 – this big VW has served us proudly, and soundly dealt with every challenge we’ve thrown at it.

You can read the full details of everything it’s been up to below, but starting with its collection from the factory in Poland – which resulted in it immediately being driven 1,800 miles through 12 countries across Europe – and finishing with helping a mate move house the weekend before we finally handed back the keys, the Crafter has performed flawlessly.

VW Crafter long-term test review - final verdict

In fact, the only issues have all been self-inflicted – I stupidly drove it into a height restrictor (which it shrugged off with a bit of polish, gladly), and we’ve put some wear and tear on the load area (by using it in the manner intended), but beyond this we’ve had no problems at all.

Which is frankly quite an achievement for an extremely early-build example of a design so box-fresh even the engines are entirely new.

It’s also hard not to mention (again) that the cab is practical and comfortable, it’s amazingly easy to drive for something so large and, discounting that mad dash across Europe on a tight engine, our overall real-world fuel economy was 33.0mpg (and it’s still nearly 32mpg if you do include that 26.9mpg trip).

VW Crafter long-term test review - saying goodbye

It is a seriously impressive machine, and a worthy winner of the Parkers 2018 Van of the Year Award.

Anything you didn’t like?

There were one of two things that raised the occasional eyebrow. Everyone who drove the Crafter commented on the Crosswind Assist, and the adaptive cruise control took a few people by surprise as well. Personally, I was always glad to have both systems on hand – and would happily put up with their foibles in exchange for the added safety net they provide.

As such, the only improvement I’d want to make is to add some lids to the storage on the top of the dashboard, which would keep the items stored in them out of sight – for better security and to stop them from reflecting in the windscreen.

Having now seen the interior of the next-generation Mercedes Sprinter, I feel this is the only area where Merc has the Crafter beat for practicality – as the Sprinter’s dash-top bins are highly customisable and can be configured with lids.

Overall I still feel like the VW’s design is the more functional, though there’s more time to be spent in the Sprinter when the whole vehicle is revealed in the new year.

If I was speccing a van this big again, I’d definitely make sure it had rear parking sensors at the very least – and preferably a reversing camera. The long-term Crafter had neither, which made it trickier than it could have been to park.

The final verdict on the long-term VW Crafter review

I am going to miss this van. Even as casual business users, rather than full-time trades people, it’s astonishing just how handy it was to have this VW about the place. And while that would broadly be the same for any large load hauler, I think what really makes the Crafter stand out is that driving it was never, ever a chore.

I really can’t emphasise this enough. My commute is a 70-mile round trip. If I didn’t have to be in a different test vehicle for a specific reason, I would take the Crafter – without hesitation, and regardless of whether there were spare cars on offer from the wider Parkers team.

VW Crafter long-term test review - saying goodbye

It is just so easy and comfortable to travel in that I found it left me stress-free versus almost any alternative. I guess it helps that ours had the car-grade Discovery Media infotainment system, yet sheer size aside, nothing about the driving the Crafter punishes you for being in a van.

Ok, so the payload ratings and the fuel economy could be higher – though 33mpg in the real world seems pretty good to me – but as a large van for daily, high-mileage use, this really is an excellent machine.

By CJ Hubbard

VW Crafter L3H3 CR35 140 Trendline long-term test

List price: £29,200 (ex VAT)
Price as tested: £33,460 (ex VAT)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder, 140hp, 340Nm
Transmission: six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive

Total miles: 7,550
Claimed fuel economy: 38.2mpg
Actual fuel economy: 31.8mpg


 

Report 17: What makes the VW Crafter’s interior so good?

VW Crafter long-term test review - dashboard

I’ve mentioned several times how good I think the VW Crafter’s cabin is – and as we approach the end of our time with this excellent new large van, perhaps I should go into a little more detail about this.

I think the main thing about the Crafter’s cab is that VW has concentrated first and foremost on making it practical – but it hasn’t forgotten about quality and (dare I say it) style in the process.

In common with all large vans, the seating position is obviously high, giving great visibility. But thanks to some proper seat design, it’s also supremely comfortable for both driver and passengers. A large amount of adjustment in the seat and the steering wheel adds to the long-distance capability this ensures.

VW Crafter long-term test review - dashboard bins

The controls are sensibly positioned, from the gearlever to the infotainment system, both of which work with satisfying precision. There are power sockets (12v and USB; a three-pin socket is optional) everywhere.

Then of course, we get to the storage.

VW Crafter long-term test review - overhead bins

Starting at the top, there are large overhead bins with a sensible lip to prevent their contents conking you on head during sudden braking manoeuvres (suggest not putting anything too weighty in there, even so). There's a couple of spare DIN slots up here as well.

Below these on the top of the dashboard there are three large bins – not so deep that you lose things in them, but certainly capacious. Shame they don’t have lids, but they’re handy even so.

VW Crafter long-term test review - dashboard close up

Next is the shelf that runs almost the entire width of the dashboard. Ideal for pens and other small items, there is something especially homely about this – like that shelf of knickknacks at your gran’s house.

The glovebox is a glovebox; big, but not huge. The letterbox sort of affair next to this is ideal for wallets – just as the top tray in the door cards is handy for phones. There are three bins in total in the doors, and they store an enormous amount of additional stuff.

VW Crafter long-term test review - door bins

Just don’t put anything you regularly need when driving in the very lowest one, as it’s almost impossible to reach from behind the wheel.

Add to all this an impressive degree of refinement – you can barely hear the engine at motorway speeds, and there’s not much wind or road noise to bother you either – and the Crafter quickly comes to function as a home away from home.

No wonder Volkswagen is considering building a camper van version

By CJ Hubbard


Report 16: Cabin and car-like road manners make the Crafter

Volkswagen Crafter long-term review - Tom moves house

Yes, some have criticised the Parkers Vans long-term Volkswagen Crafter for feeling a little unstable when assaulted by side winds, but it still has to be one of the least intimidating vans to drive.

That’s equally true when empty or loaded up with an assortment of furniture or other cargo. In 140hp form there’s more than enough power to keep with traffic – regardless of what’s in the back. In fact, we found it a more fitting motor for the van than the one in the 177hp Crafter we drove recently, with smoother delivery of power and little difference in acceleration. 

Parkers Crafter takes on removal duties

The latest challenge for the Crafter was lugging several sofas, a hefty sideboard base, disassembled wardrobe, large TV unit, a double mattress and a smattering of other miscellaneous household goods. Absolute space was not an issue, but careful tessellation was needed to fit everything into our version.

With a number of lashing points, wood-topped wheelarches and plywood walls plus a totally flat floor, this didn’t prove too difficult – even if there was a little overflow of more delicate luggage into the cabin.

Tricky to manoeuvre, relaxing on the dual carriageway

The Crafter’s dimensions made it a little tricky to manoeuvre around some of the tighter suburban streets of Milton Keynes’ residential streets, though that’s no fault of VW’s – blame haphazardly parked cars and narrow roads.

Volkswagen Crafter long-term review - mattress in the back

We also faced a challenge at the other end of our trip extricating the Crafter from a particularly tight curve coming out of a supermarket car park – made more difficult by trying to judge how far the long nose stuck out – which saw front left and rear right tyres jammed between respective kerbs.

Thankfully the kerb was low enough to mount without any issues, but it did highlight the need to plan which car parks to tackle before heading in – as CJ found with his Ikea jaunt in Report 8.

As soon as you’re free from car parks and other tight roads, the Crafter is far easier to drive, though. Yes the Crosswind Assist can take a bit of getting used to, but bar the Crafter’s sheer dimensions, it doesn’t require much acclimatisation – even to those more used to driving cars than fully-fledged vans.

The comfy driving position, easy-to-navigate dashboard and car-like controls make it easy to forget the load in the back, while the large side mirrors really help to make the Crafter feel smaller than it is. Throw in reasonable refinement levels, enough muscle from the 140hp engine and comfortable seats and heading down the A421 dual carriageway proved completely stress-free.

Lack of rear parking sensors the biggest negative for VW Crafter

Parking at the other end was a challenge, however, with no rear sensors to rely on and a narrow gap between two hedges that we had to drive through making it practically impossible to clamber out of the cabin and survey how much space was left behind the Crafter in person.

Volkswagen Crafter long-term review - fully loaded

A bit of head-out-of-the-window reversing and careful judgement, though and the Crafter was parked without incident – it just took about five minutes rather than the one you’d expect with bleepers fitted.

[Just adding a note to say parking sensors are available on the Crafter, they're just not fitted on our early-build example. No kidding they'd be handy, though... - cj]

Verdict?

The Crafter is a seriously impressive bit of kit. It’s not the biggest or highest-payload-boasting van, but it’s got to be one of the most satisfying – provided you don’t need to carry 5,000 paving slabs in one go or stuff your van with enormously bulky loads.

The cabin and driving experience are excellent and should take the stress out of rushing between jobs or negotiating long journeys. With our Crafter’s days numbered, we have to say we’re not looking forward to seeing it go.

By Christofer Lloyd


 

Report 15: So, about that Crosswind Assist…     

VW Crafter long-term test review - cross-wind assist

A number of other people who’ve driven the Parkers Vans long-term VW Crafter have commented that it feels unstable in side winds, including when passing trucks on the motorway.

Yet Volkswagen says it’s fitted Crosswind Assist as standard – which, as the name suggests, is specifically designed to counteract the effect of side winds on such a tall, slab-sided vehicle.

So what’s going on?

The system may be too clever for its own good

Unlike rival systems, which use the brakes to achieve a similar end, the Crafter’s Crosswind Assist takes action via the steering – it’s listed as one of the advantages of moving to electromechanical power steering in place of the older hydraulic type of assistance.

VW Crafter long-term test review - electric power steering

(The electric steering enables a number of other clever features, too, including some moderate self-steering capability – where that option is fitted – while also contributing to real-world fuel savings as it demands less power.)

It would seem that as a result of this, the intervention the Crafter makes is much more noticeable to the driver.

So is the Crafter actually unstable in side winds?

Not at all.

In fact, I can’t emphasise this enough.

However, I do believe it’s the van’s own intervention to correct for the side wind that’s raising the alarm among other drivers. For there is also no doubt that when driving on a breezy day or passing a truck at speed, the Crafter does move quite noticeably.

VW Crafter long-term test review - cross-wind assist

It’s just that this movement is the system making a correction, rather than the van actually being unstable.

Does that distinction matter if the driver thinks it’s unstable?

Interesting question. I can certainly understand a bit of initial surprise. However, I’ve covered a lot of miles in this van, and not once has it given me any worry. I notice the movement still, certainly, but think of it as reassurance that it’s sorting itself out.

My sense is that the system has been design to be of particular help to long-distance drivers, as together with the light weighting to the steering, it allows a very relaxed attitude behind the wheel – almost as if VW is trying to get the Crafter to do as much of the driving for you as possible.

VW Crafter long-term test review - side winds

After a long day, when concentration is starting to slip, its vigilance could be the difference between distraction and disaster. Some would argue that making the driving too easy is exactly the problem in that kind of situation, of course.  

The other problem, I suspect, is that most experienced drivers will intuitively self-correct for crosswinds, particularly when passing trucks. Add that self-correction to the action of the van and you’ll end up with a far more dramatic movement, exacerbating any sensation of instability.

Let the Crafter simply get on with the job, and things become much smoother. Though it certainly takes a bit of time to get used to not making any adjustments yourself.

You like it then?

I’m glad that the Crosswind Assist is there, and I’ve gotten used to the way it operates, so sure. Though I would certainly agree that anything on a van that makes it seem unstable to so many other people possibly isn’t working as well as it could do.

Interestingly, I did not notice it activating when driving the newer rear- and four-wheel drive variants on their launch a few weeks ago. Perhaps it just wasn’t a very windy day, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion some further calibration work has been carried out – our Crafter is a very early build example.

I’ve asked VW if they can confirm or deny. More soon.

By CJ Hubbard

UPDATE: VW did get back to me, and claims no re-calibration of the Crosswind Assist system has taken place. But I've subsequently driven a load more examples of the new Crafter, and none of them have been as moved by the wind as this one. So I'm sure there was something slightly unusual going on, and suspect it was related to our van's early-build status. Regardless, I maintain that the system works well and is worth having - cj

>> For a full list of vans fitted with side wind assistance technology click here


Report 14: VW Crafter now dressing as a MAN

MAN TGE - it's a VW Crafter in disguise

Genius launch planning means that MAN decided to hold the UK press event for its TGE large van on the exact same day I was out of the country driving the rear- and four-wheel drive Crafter variants mentioned in the previous update.

Why am I bothering to whinge about this here? Well, quite simply because the MAN TGE is the exact same van as our VW Crafter, albeit with a different grille and badge on the front, and it would have been interesting to drive it.

In the end, big cheese Keith Adams, Parkers’ overall editor, went along – and you can read the full review by clicking here.

What's the MAN TGE like?

The synopsis is simple enough, however, as it seems MAN hasn’t made any alterations under the skin, meaning the TGE drives exactly like the Crafter, and comes similarly equipped.

MAN TGE offers more comprehensive servicing access than VW Crafter

There is one potentially major difference, however. MAN is best known as a truck and bus manufacturer – in fact this is its first proper van – and as such has very comprehensive service network, effectively offering 24/7 coverage.

So if you’re looking for a van with all the strengths of our award-winning Crafter, but with the added bonus of out-of-hours servicing to minimise downtime, the TGE is definitely worth a closer look.

By CJ Hubbard

Read the full MAN TGE review on Parkers Vans


Report 13: The VW Crafter is a winner – whichever wheels are being driven…

VW Crafter wins Best Van in the Parkers New Car Awards 2018

Normal service will be resumed shortly, but on the subject of all things VW Crafter, I just wanted to point out two things that aren’t directly related to the Parkers Vans long-termer but are still definitely worth knowing about.

Van of the Year 2018

First up, following on from the news of its nomination in the last entry here, the Crafter has won the Best Van prize in the Parkers New Car Awards 2018, coming in ahead of the Renault Kangoo ZE 33 (representing small vans) and the Ford Transit Custom (representing medium vans).

The entire Parkers team voted to decide the award winners, and the Crafter came out as top van due to its astonishingly easy-going driving experience, operator-focused design and class-leading level of safety equipment. It’s a proper bit of kit.

Parkers van and pickup award winners 2018

Front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive?

The other piece of news is that we’ve now driven all the drivetrain variants that VW will offer in the Crafter.

VW Crafter 4Motion driven

At launch, only front-wheel drive models were available – of which the Parkers Crafter is a projected best-selling example, being the 140hp engine variant in middle-ranking Trendline trim. But the rear-wheel drive and 4Motion four-wheel drive models are now starting to filter through, and we recently had the opportunity to try them in Vienna.

You can read the details in the Parkers Vans VW Crafter full review, but suffice to say neither of the newcomers left us feeling short-changed. Both offer potential traction advantages in certain situations, but the FWD Crafter is spot on for general duty, offering the lowest kerbweights and greatest fuel economy.

More about our actual van very soon.

>> VW Crafter full review – now including rear-wheel drive and 4Motion – on Parkers Vans

By CJ Hubbard


Report 12: The Crafter gets nominated for an award

Parkers Vans VW Crafter long-term review

With any luck you’ve already noticed, but Parkers will be handing out its first proper New Car Awards this year. And while many of the categories are deliberately cross-sector, to better represent the way people really choose their four-wheeled companions, we do have Best Pickup and Best Van categories.

The new VW Crafter has made the shortlist for the latter as the large van candidate – alongside the Renault Kangoo ZE 33 (representing small vans) and the Ford Transit Custom (representing medium vans).

You’ll be able to find out which of the three is crowned the Parkers overall van of the year 2018 later in September – with a full announcement to follow on Parkers Vans.

To find out more about the awards – and the pickup candidates – click here.

Parkers New Car Awards 2018

By CJ Hubbard


Report 11: Well, oil be damned…

VW Crafter oil stain in the load area

I’ve got a bone to pick with Danny from Practical Classics here. Not only did that last report leave me feeling like I have to defend the ultra-modern Crafter’s honour – his temporary stewardship also left more than I’d bargained for in the back of the van.

Classic cars, and the garages that service them, are apparently rather grubby things, if the oily pools and hand prints (!) that marked their passing are anything to go by.

VW Crafter load area oil stain :(

Perhaps it wouldn’t have hurt quite so much if the ply lining hadn’t been brand new.

But hey, I suppose the Crafter is a van, and I suppose it is going to get dirty in the course of duty. And fortunately, the valeting company that visits the office once a week was able to remove the worst of it.

VW Crafter oil stain in the load area

But what of Danny’s complaints about the Crafter’s more modern features?

Modern life isn’t really rubbish, is it?

I’m going to take absolute umbrage with his criticism of the VW infotainment system. While admittedly more complicated than your average AM/FM radio (remember those?), the touchscreen interface is by far the best you can get in the van world. And among the best, full stop.

VW Crafter infotainment system

The slightly unintuitive postcode entry process for the sat-nav is, I’ll grant you, rather annoying. But everything else about it works very well indeed – including the routing (you get a choice of three every time, plus active traffic responses) and mapping – while the digital radio reception is excellent.

Danny’s objection to the cruise control system I can better understand. Unusually, our early-build Trendline Crafter is fitted with adaptive cruise control – customers at the time would have got better value by simply upgrading to a Highline model, where this is standard – and this means it actively maintains a set distance from the vehicle in front.

You can vary that distance, and to be perfectly frank, whenever I use it – which is most days given my commute from Cambridge to Peterborough involves the A14 – I have that distance set to the minimum. Otherwise the gap to the vehicle in front becomes so large that vehicles behind think you’re holding them up.

Parkers Vans VW Crafter long-term test review - driving

Anyway, if you’re not used to this kind of adaptive cruise function it can be a little irksome at first. And occasionally more than this, as in common with all such systems, the Crafter’s does throw up the odd ‘false positive’ – which is to say it sometimes starts slowing the van down when there’s nothing directly in front of you.

Usually this is cause by a truck in an adjoining lane. I suppose it’s better to be safe than sorry – but if vehicle manufacturers can’t get this relatively simple device to function flawlessly, I’m fairly sure we’re still a long way from fully autonomous cars.

And people still claim they’ll be here before the end of the decade… No way.

What about the Crafter’s electromechanical power steering?

This – and particularly the crosswind compensation function, which Danny is far from the first person to complain about – requires some deeper explanation.

Suffice to say, I trust it, and I am very used to it. But I’ll come back to the way it works in greater detail in a later update.

By CJ Hubbard


Report 10: Is the Crafter a practical(ity) classic?

Practical Classics borrows the Parkers Vans long-term VW Crafter

This week, Practical Classics Magazine's editor Danny Hopkins borrows our big, modern VW van. How will a man more used to wrestling with old metal find driving the newest large van on the market?

As a restorer of older vehicles and a man steeped in the rigours of classic car ownership I often need the assistance of a load carrying vehicle and this, sometimes, doesn’t even involve the AA.

Needing to deliver a dozen Riley panels to a paint shop in Lancashire, the presence of Parkers’ long-term Volkswagen Crafter in the car park could not be ignored and within hours I was engaging with VW’s latest offering.

First impressions: good

Plenty to enjoy initially. Great driving position with many adjustments, I loved the plastic crackle finish dashboard – reminiscent of the MGB in texture if nothing else – and there are plenty of useful orifices into which to secrete your daily stuff. I’m not sure a document holder in front of the steering wheel is a great idea given the heads-up reflection I got from the screen when I dropped a receipt into it.

Danny Hopkins (Practical Classics) and the Parkers Vans long-term VW Crafter

The load area is carefully and quite brilliantly designed. There are few snags and annoying buttresses and wheel covers are kept to minimum. The load bay is clean and capacious and swallowed my delicate and oddly shaped cargo without any one of them touching the sides.

On the road, at town speeds, the big van feels smaller than the sum of its parts with carefully weighted power assistance and decent sight lines immediately making me look like a seasoned pro driver rather than a day-tripper. You feel the van’s size when you need to and then it disappears when you are on the move. Nifty.

Over-active assistance: bad

Driver aids abound, as they do with most modern vehicles, but this van has more than most. The 3,000 new VW employees at the Crafter’s Wrzesnia factory in Poland appear to have gone to town on the tech. Most of it is intuitive and appropriate, some of it less so.

Danny Hopkins (Practical Classics) and the Parkers Vans long-term VW CrafterDanny Hopkins (Practical Classics) and the Parkers Vans long-term VW Crafter

Electromechanical Servotronic steering we are told, ‘provides a speed-sensitive operation with active return’. In practice, at motorway speeds with, a light load, the steering assistance which is meant to help with, among other things, crosswinds made for disconcerting ‘wander’, particularly when overtaking HGVs or being overtaken by other vehicles.

At its worst it felt like the van was in need of new bushes, or developed a soft rear tyre. I would rather have no assistance at all, or be driving a completely autonomous vehicle, rather than have marginal assistance that gets in the way. On a number of occasions I felt the need to over-correct – not good. At my first break stop I searched for, and failed to find, the ‘off’ button.

I lost patience with the van’s cruise control and entertainment centre as well. I am sure I would learn it given time, but as with other modern vehicles, this Luddite fears that there are so many distractions in the cockpit of the Crafter and its modern four-wheeled workmates, the day when it becomes a completely autonomous delivery solution can’t come too soon.

Great van. Compromised by too much clever.

By Danny Hopkins


 

Report 9: VW Crafter is good for the garden

VW Crafter long-term test review - you're going to need a bigger parking space

Plenty of us have undertaken projects in the home where a trip to a certain flat-pack furniture store has been involved [ahem - CJ], or even a trip to the garden centre.

Invariably, you’ll try to shove as much into your car as possible, with the rear end of it dragging along the ground and a poor passenger wedged in back seat next to a new wardrobe you didn’t need or a new tree that'll probably die in three weeks, leaving you wishing you just had a big old van to do the job.

Luckily for me, I do have access to a big van - though not so much of the old, thank you. The Parkers Crafter was just the job for a recent garden project.

Granted, this was no Ground Force escapade, but the need to pick up several wooden sleepers for some raised flowerbeds and A LOT of compost meant the massive Volkswagen was called into proper service for once.

Sizing up in the front...

Spending time in various cars can make driving something the size of the Crafter a daunting experience, especially when you realise how high you have to climb to even get in the thing.

However, a couple of minutes behind the wheel reveals just how easy it is to get used to it.

At the garden centre - VW Crafter long-term test review on Parkers Vans

All the interior trimmings will be familiar to VW car drivers, with the same slick touchscreen infotainment system, clear dials and even the steering wheel. Yes, the cab is enormous, but the mirrors are big and the seats are comfortable so it immediately makes the driver feel at home.

On the move, the Crafter surprised me with how small it felt. Clearly, it’s not a small van, but VW has managed to make it feel much smaller to drive than it really is.

The 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine is refined and punchy, the steering has a nice weight to it and it feels stable at speed, even without gardening paraphernalia loaded in the back weighing it down.

One complaint I have about the Crafter – our one in particular – is the lack of any kind of parking sensor at the back. Yes, it’s a square shape and the door mirrors are enormous, but some extra peace of mind would be welcome if you’re regularly parking in small spaces and you’re not sure how long it is.

Parkers Vans VW Crafter long-term test review - parking requires plenty of space

I had to take the approach of parking really far away from anything else and straddling two spaces where possible. It’s much easier than guessing where the back of it is and finding out the expensive way.

...garden party in the back

I barely stretched our Crafter’s ability to pack 11.3 cubic metres-worth of gubbins in the back, but the sliding side door made it easy to load 21 bags of compost into the middle of the van, as well as the railway sleepers for the beds on another trip.

Parkers Vans VW Crafter long-term review - loaded with compost

I could have done it at the same time with room to spare, but logistics dictated I had to do it in two runs.

Both times the VW just refused to break any kind of sweat, and even with the compost loaded up, the performance of the Crafter didn’t feel particularly blunted. It just carried on, as a van should.

Parkers Vans VW Crafter long-term review - loaded with sleepers

It would have also excelled had I bought all the plants for the garden at the same time, too. There was easily enough space left over to transport it all, but that duty fell to the Parkers Honda Civic the following week. 

Verdict: vans are handy

What this exercise highlighted is how easy it is to get used to driving and using the Crafter. I admit it was overkill for what I was asking of it, but sometimes you do just need a van to make life easier, especially when it comes to home improvements.

Tom Goodlad's garden, before - VW Crafter long-term test review on Parkers Vans

This impression was compounded by the fact that shortly after, I needed a trip back to the garden centre for some small trees and trellis, and only had a three-door Golf GTD available for the job. There was an awful lot more bad language and hassle than there would have been if I were driving the Crafter.

Still, the garden's turned out quite well...

Tom Goodlad's garden, after - VW Crafter long-term test review

By Tom Goodlad


Report 8: VW Crafter in the wars

It’s all headbutts and ply lining in this latest report…

VW Crafter long-term test review on Parkers Vans

Our long-term Volkswagen Crafter is a big van, so I was kind of expecting someone to have an unintended interface with an auxiliary object at some point. Still slightly disappointing when it turned out to be me. Hitting a height restrictor.

This is embarrassing. So I would like to beg your indulgence to explain.

Starting with how I blame Ikea.

Always blame Ikea

The Crafter has been helping me and my wife move house recently, and this inevitably led to the traditional Swedish flat-pack furniture store pilgrimage. Our nearest is in Milton Keynes, and I have been there before. So it wasn’t even unfamiliar territory.

However, I was slightly disgruntled to arrive on a bank holiday weekend morning to find that the nice, un-covered overflow parking area I was expecting to frequent was shut. Which mean braving what looked to be the already rather crowded main car park.

This obviously threw me enough that upon checking the height-restrictor to the left of me said 3.0 metres, I then ploughed straight on through the one directly ahead of me. Which, it soon transpired, was labelled 2.5 metres.

The Parkers Vans long-term Crafter is 2.59 metres tall.

Crash bang wallop, what an idiot

Luckily, the height restrictor in question was suspended from chains rather than fixed, so there was more of a bounce than a crunch. And judging by the amount of paint it was missing I wasn’t its first victim, either. But that didn’t really help matters.

My poor van!

I was absolutely mortified, as you can imagine. But checking the roof (which I practically have to stand on the seat to see) it looked like I’d got away with little more damage than a scuff.

Luckier still, the Crafter was already due to visit VW to get the load area lined, so it wasn’t difficult to arrange for them to check it out.

And for once, that old adage was true – it literally did polish out. Phew.

Ply lining installed in the VW Crafter

We got the Crafter so early in the UK launch cycle that there wasn’t any time for it to be lined.

VW Crafter long-term test review - unlined load area

You do get a nice grippy load floor as standard, but the interior walls were bare and I’d been nervous we’d end up accidentally denting it, so as soon as a lining package was available we were on it like a shot.

It’s just a simple ply finish, but it certainly adds extra peace of mind. And for £275 fully fitted (including VAT) I reckon it’s a bargain given the square footage it covers.

VW Crafter long-term test review - ply lined load area

The lining also came just in time to prevent all the interior crevices getting filled with hay… (the bales were temporary seating for a party, then recycled as chicken bedding; vans are handy).

By CJ Hubbard


Report 7: VW Crafter makes light work north of the border 

VW Crafter L3H3 heads north to Scotland

Time again to put our long term Crafter to work, this time with a 1,337-mile round trip to Scotland. We loaded up the van with about 70kg of hardware as this needed dropping off on the way.

Starting from Barnwell, Peterborough, we made tracks north on the A1 ready for an overnight stay in Wark, Northumberland. The Crafter made very light work of the Bank Holiday Friday run - although the traffic was the obligatory crawl for some of the journey.

VW Crafter L3H3 heads north to Scotland

Feeling refreshed

What was apparent is how refreshed the driver feels even after quite a few hours in command. The Crafter frequently reminds you to ‘Take-a-Break’ after you’ve done a couple of hours of travelling - the built-in Fatigue Detection system doing its bit to keep you safe.

While it’s good advice, the driving position, handling and overall ride quality meant that a rest period wasn’t really necessary.

We reached our destination in a little over five-and-a-half hours with the only stop being a quick five-minute break for the boys (and girls’) room at Wetherby Services.

VW Crafter L3H3 heads north to Scotland

Long and winding roads

Wark provided a good overnight stop as our next destination was Glasgow the following morning. We headed out via Kielder, which is not the obvious main road route, but it did take us on a variety of differing road surfaces, which the Crafter coped with extremely well.

On winding B-roads the ride was firm but without any banging or rattling of the hardware we had on board. The suspension soaked up the bumps and potholes with ease and we entered the suburbs of Glasgow at around 3.00pm.

We were now free until the following morning so took the opportunity to gas-up and grab some leisure time.

Haggis and oatcakes for breakfast

After an early and hearty Scottish breakfast we were soon back on the road heading north via the M74 and onto the A9 towards Perth.

The Crafter coped well with the varying road conditions but as we headed further north and the terrain became more rugged and mountainous, we noticed that you needed a cool head when tackling the severe blustery crosswinds.

A stop-off in Aviemore gave us opportunity to buy our fellow Parkers team some Scotch pies, plus some Scotch rock for the wife.

VW Crafter L3H3 heads north to Scotland

We arrived into Inverness early in the afternoon so it was decided that we’d take the route north to Wick and John ‘O Groats rather than sit chilling out.

The road north on the A9/A99 was good but quite variable. Some stretches were flat, others windy with steep gradients and drop-offs. The Crafter churned through the miles with ease and we reached the top of the country just after 5.00pm to be greeted by 50mph crosswinds.

Looking to the north, the Orkney Islands were drenched in late-afternoon spring sunshine as the Crafter looked none the worse for its inaugural run north of the border, apart from a spattering of bugs on the windscreen..

VW Crafter L3H3 heads north to Scotland

No tea John! – a major concern

As the café at John O’Groats had just closed we took a brief respite in the car park. The mutterings of discontent from my wife were clearly audible. We did the required tourist thing, took a few photos of the Crafter and decided on our route back - hopefully grabbing a cuppa on the way!

If we had more time, then a detour taking in the North Coast 500 would have been another worthy route (although I’m pretty sure I would have been out-voted straight away) but in any case we settled on a brief detour to Thurso, then back via the A9 using the same route to Inverness, where we had pre-booked an overnight stay.

Overall on that day, we’d covered 431 miles over varying terrain and again the Crafter would cruise easily on the flats and make light work of inclines and gradients.

Fridge magnets

It was another early start as we departed Inverness, this time taking the A82 route south via Loch Ness down to Fort William.

A stop-off at Urquhart Castle was agreed upon as we were keen to get some much needed monster photos; however this proved a rather fruitless exercise. The ‘wee beastie’ never showed so we settled for a Nessie fridge magnet instead.

VW Crafter L3H3 heads north to Scotland

Onwards we travelled and continued down to Fort William with the heights and snowy tops of Ben Nevis and the Grampian mountain range visible in the distance.

From Fort William we headed onto the very scenic A828 down to Oban and took a loop back on the A85 via Stronmilchan. The route south took us over the tops on the A819 (via Inveraray Castle) on to Tarbet on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. 

VW Crafter L3H3 heads north to Scotland

Two hours saved by intelligent on-board VW navigation system

At Loch Lomond the on-board VW sat-nav came into its own, alerting us to a blocked route about 10 miles south of our current location on the A82.

The navigation system gave us three optional routes, which is pretty good since it seemed there was only one way out! We selected an alternative route via Garelochhead and Helensburgh which saved us about two hours.

We subsequently found out that a major incident had occurred blocking the road in both directions.

As we still had quite a few miles to cover, we limited our last stopovers to 15 minutes or so. On the M74 and M6 I engaged the cruise control and the Crafter happily settled at the required speed.

We covered the remaining run over the Erskine Bridge running M74, M6, A66 and A1 back to Peterborough in just under seven hours. During the final day we had spent 16 hours on the road but it never felt like it, which is testament to the Crafter's spacious, user-friendly, comfortable interior.

Verdict

In summary, the VW Crafter is a worthy and very capable companion for people who travel long distances and need a good, solid commercial workhorse. It’s extremely comfortable, actually being more car-like than some other vans, so is ideal if you’re likely to be in the cab for a few hours.

As with most higher-sided vehicles care must be taken when driving in strong or gusty crosswinds, although at no time did the Crafter get really out of shape.

VW Crafter L3H3 heads north to Scotland

Route summary

The three-and-a-half-day trip took us via Peterborough, Wark (Kielder forest), High Blantyre (Glasgow), Stirling, Perth, Inverness, Wick, John O’ Groats, Thurso, Inverness, Fort William, Oban, Loch Lomond, Glasgow, Carlisle, Scotch Corner and back to Peterborough.

A full link to our route is here

Total miles covered: 1,337 which included a few incidental miles during the journey.

By Steve 'Percy' Lawman


Report 6: The VW Crafter’s first oil change

VW Crafter long-term review - at the dealer for a service

Now. A van that’s done less than 3,000 miles is unlikely to need a visit to the dealer – and certainly our VW Crafter long-termer wasn’t showing any signs of distress.

But since we’d picked it up with only 300 miles on the clock and immediately driven it across Europe – including a lengthy stint on Germany’s autobahns, dicing with the fastest rush hour traffic in the world – I thought a quick oil change would probably be kind.

So it was duly booked into the local VW Commercial Vehicles (VWCV) dealership in Peterborough, run by Robinsons Motor Group. Or so I thought…

Has anyone ever successfully booked a service online?

I made the first service booking online using VW’s dedicated commercial vehicle website. It seemed to go just fine, offering me a choice of dates and the promise of contact from the dealer to confirm everything was in place.

When I didn’t hear anything, I began to wonder. And sure enough, when I rang the dealership to check there was no record of my request.

It was easy enough to make another booking while on the phone – and I guess I should have just done that in the first place – but if these new-fangled systems don’t work, why offer them?

To be fair, VWCV is hardly alone with this issue. I’ve had the same problem with a Mazda MX-5 long-termer last year, and my wife’s Fiat 500. So really, I probably should have learned by now.

VW Crafter long-term review - at the dealer for a service

Smooth service experience on the day

This little niggle aside, the service went without a hitch. Everyone at Robinsons was a delight to deal with, and ours was the first new Crafter most of them had seen – the van still wasn’t officially on sale in the UK at the time.

Apparently the technicians did express some incredulity that we were having the oil changed so soon – which I suspect is testament to the kind of abuse VW’s vans are expected to endure – but the job was done without fuss. The Crafter even got a clean.

How much does a VW Crafter service cost?

We only went for an interim service – an oil and filter change, basically – and it worked out at a reasonable £145 plus VAT (so £174 all in).

Almost half that cost was the Mobil oil alone, incidentally (VW doesn’t mess about with cheap stuff, it seems), and we got a free visual health check as part of the process. No problems there…

By CJ Hubbard

 


 

Report 5: co-driver's report on the jaunt through Europe

Gareth Evans in the VW Crafter in Poland

I feel pretty well-versed in all things #ParkersCrafter now. Our somewhat circuitous route around most of Europe was more than enough time to really get under the skin of the Polish-built brute – from inner-city crawling to high-speed autobahn-bashing, this van did absolutely everything we could have asked of it.

Of particular appeal to me were the seats. When you spend that long in a vehicle they become among the most important features in any vehicle, and in the Crafter’s case they’re supporting and easily adjustable to find a decent driving position.

It’s a long way up to clamber into those seats, however, and I kept trapping my leg between the seat and the door when getting into the passenger side. User error, most likely.

The sheer amount of glass in front of the cockpit was useful too, and along with the large split door mirrors the driver has great visibility.

Piloting the Crafter for the first time I was impressed with the cabin refinement, but thought the engine could have been a little punchier at low speeds. It isn’t slow, but I came away thinking I wouldn’t want to drive it fully laden. That diminutive 2.0-litre diesel feels like it might start to struggle.

Motorway speeds were no problem, though – overtaking it simple enough. Winding along mountainous roads at these speeds you’d expect the wind to take a high-sided van like this, but its body control under these circumstances was exemplary. A confidence-inspiring thing.

Its turning circle isn’t the smallest in its class but it’s easy enough to park – again thanks to the commanding driving position – and while the lazy part of me wished it our one had rear parking sensors, slotting into an ordinary car park bay isn’t too problematic.

Overall I’m impressed by this van. So much so that I’m still looking for excuses to nick the keys and have another go.

One final footnote: the idea to spot as many Crafters as we could on the way home was a bad idea. I’ve subsequently been unable to stop. Most motoring enthusiasts can spot a Ferrari at 10,000 paces, but now all I see are Crafters on every corner. 

By Gareth Evans, Reviews Editor

 


Report 4: Europe by the numbers

Just a quick update to follow up our European collection adventure in the new VW Crafter – quite simply the trip by numbers:

  • Miles covered: 1,870
  • Number of countries visited: 14
  • Journey time: circa 48 hours
  • Number of fuel stops: 6
  • Average fuel economy: 26.9mpg
  • Total fuel cost: £345.72
  • Toll stickers collected: three
  • Number of other (older) Crafters spotted: 240
  • Number of sweets eaten: <∞

As you can see, that’s basically double the distance of the direct route from Poland to the UK, and it took us basically double the time. No surprises there.

VW Crafter long-term review - Trabant

You might be wondering about the fuel economy, however, which doesn’t look too impressive compared to the official 38.2mpg – especially, considering the van was only really tasked with hauling two blokes, two suitcases and an (increasing) amount of tourist tat…

Well, it’s certainly a handy reminder that you shouldn’t expect to get the economy the manufacturer quotes. On top of which, it’s only fair to point out that the van was just 305 miles old when we started the trip, suggesting there’s a little loosening up to come from VW’s new 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel.

VW Crafter long-term review - with lots of older Crafters

To explain spotting older Crafters, you’ve got to play games when you’re on a long journey, right?

Underlining the UK’s position as the most prolific van-buying nation in Europe, by far the largest number of Crafter spots came on the final day, and of those the majority occurred once we were back in Blighty.

This despite the day before accounting for by far the greatest mileage of the trip.

VW Crafter long-term review - magnets

As for the tat. Not only did we take advantage of the Crafter’s metal bulkhead as a magnet storage device – managing to collect one from nearly every country we visiting (the Czech Republic and Slovakia aren’t keen magnet fans, it seems) – we also bought all manner of random chocolates, sweets, model vans and, er, hats.

I blame Gareth for the hats. The rest was for the office. Honest.

More soon.

By CJ Hubbard

VW Crafter long-term review - tourist tat

VW Crafter L3H3 CR35 140 Trendline long-term test review

List price: £29,200 (ex VAT)
Price as tested: £33,460 (ex VAT)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder, 140hp, 340Nm
Transmission: six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive
Claimed fuel economy: 38.2mpg
Actual fuel economy: 26.9mpg

 


Report 3: 1,800 miles across Europe

VW Crafter long-term review - refueling in Germany

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Large vans typically cover lots of miles, and since VW’s all-new Crafter is being built in an all-new factory in Poland, we figured why not collect our new long-term test Crafter direct from the production line and drive it back.

What’s really remarkable is that is still seemed like a good idea when we arrived back…

The new Crafter is properly good at long distances.

Baptism of fire

Taking the most direct route from Wrzesnia in Poland to Parkers’ home at the Bauer Media offices in Peterborough would be a 930-mile journey, with a travel time of just under 15 hours. In theory, Gareth and I could have covered that in a day.

But what would have been the fun in that?

Instead, we planned to take in 14 countries in the space of about 48 hours. Fair to say it wasn’t the most direct route, but we figured we know quite a bit about the van by the time we stopped-off back at Stansted Airport to collect the car we’d left there on the way out.

First impressions

VW had kindly put 300 miles on the van for us, to ensure we wouldn’t be leaning on it entirely box fresh. Even so, it was no surprise to find the engine a little tight and noisy – verifying initial impressions from the Crafter launch event at the end of 2016.

Still, it was quickly apparent that this 140hp version of VW’s new 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel is well up to the task of making decent progress. At no point did we find ourselves pining for the 177hp twin-turbo version. And as the miles piled on, we only found the motor getting quieter, too.

VW Crafter long-term review - somewhere in eastern Europe

Better yet, this is a friendly van. The steering is light, but accurate enough to precisely judge your inputs, and manoeuvrability is high for something so large – handy at service stations. The big, split-view mirrors give as much rear visibility as you could possibly expect, and the Crafter is stable at speed.

The ride comfort soon proves marvellous, too – especially considering the only things we had in the back were a couple of small suitcases. The seats, it’s swiftly obvious, are excellent.

On top of which, the cab layout is clean, the controls easy to use, and there are plenty of places to put things like phone chargers, pens, snacks and paperwork. I particularly like the shelf that runs all across the leading edge of the dashboard, and the triple-decker door bins.

Highway to Hungary

The first leg of our journey was a straight shot south from Wrzesnia, crossing half of Poland (which is a big country, btw), the width of the Czech Republic and then on into Slovakia, where we would spend the night in Bratislava – following a quick trip over the boarder into Hungary.

Poland is a placed packed with curiosities. Poznan, where we’d stayed the previous night, features one of the most beautiful town squares I’ve ever seen, with row-upon-row of colourful houses in the centre – marred only slightly by the seedy-looking gentleman’s establishments around the edges.

VW Crafter long-term review - Bob the goat

Poznan’s mascot is apparently the goat. So we bought a wooden one on a spring and attached it to the Crafter’s sunvisor. Gareth then christened him Bob, in tribute to the judgments passed on both the quality of the various road surfaces and our driving – through the velocity Bob would occasionally headbutt the windscreen.

The large, multi-carriageway roads and bleak scenery had us feeling the same way. But when we stopped for fuel at one of the odd traffic light controlled junctions that punctuate these pseudo-motorways, we found someone had parked a large airliner in a restaurant garden as some kind of tourist attraction. Which rather broke up the monotony.

Not that the Crafter wasn’t attracting its own share of attention. Though whether that was down to its newness, its shining silver paint or the UK number plates so far from home we couldn’t tell. After throwing in some fuel and purchasing a model of a classic (…) Polish van as a souvenir we rolled on.

VW Crafter long-term review - aircraft roadside attraction in Poland

After the expanse of Poland, the Czech Republic was practically a blur – although one birghtened by the word ‘Watt’, which was prolifically and enigmatically graffitied on seemingly every spare area of concrete we passed. A mystery made all the more intriguing by the artist’s adoption of different styles for every execution, rather than repeat a conventional tag.

In Slovakia we bought chocolate with Skodas and Trabants on it, which might possibly be some kind of statement on capitalism versus communism, I’m not sure.

Either way, it was looking like an easy cruise to the hotel until Gareth started calculating the miles we’d need to do tomorrow if we really wanted to tick Hungary off the visit list. So we decided we’d just nip over the boarder before returning to Bratislava for the night.

VW Crafter long-term review - Hungarian tourist shop

Can’t tell you much about what Hungary looks like, because we only saw it in the dark. But the difference in road quality was made pretty plain, as Bob started pogoing like crazy and the wide highways of Slovakia filtered down into a single Hungarian lane.

The Crafter took it all in its stride, though, and after getting lost in a vast service area we eventually found a shop that was a) open and b) selling – surprisingly high quality – tourist tat. So we bought some, and hightailed it back to Brat.

Autobahn expert

The plan for day two was to make it from Bratislava to Luxembourg City, where we’d foolishly already arranged a hotel. This probably looks fine in an atlas, but our route involved visiting Liechtenstein and Switzerland along the way, rather than just storming through Austria and Germany – a detour that made for a total of something like 900 miles.

Frankly, when we got to Liechtenstein, we weren’t really sure why we’d bothered. Supposedly a land of fairy tale castles, it seemed more like a crowded town centre that was awkward to get to. Still, we enjoyed the chocolate in Switzerland; I drew the line at letting Gareth attach a cowbell to the Crafter’s towing eye, however.

VW Crafter long-term review - scenic

We elected to dive back into Germany to reach Luxembourg, rather than head up through France, on the basis that German motorways encourage swift progress.

So of course we immediately drove into standstill traffic. At which point Google Maps and the VW sat-nav got into an argument about whether we should take a diversion; have to confess we stuck with Google, stayed on the route and soon cleared the jam.

VW Crafter long-term review - Trabant

Dicing in the dark with rush-hour traffic that can literally go as fast as it likes at times certainly focuses the mind. But the Crafter is a German van, and it was apparently built for this stuff. Unfazed by speed, and nimble enough to keep pace with the shifting tides of all the other keen to get home vehicles.

As such it was probably for the best that the odometer had ticked over 1,000 miles by the time we began seriously hitting the autobahns – suffice to say that while 2.0 litres might look like too little for a large van on paper, given opportunity this VW will rev its nuts off making sure it doesn’t get in anyone else’s is way.

We drove it like this for hours.

The home stretch

Luxembourg City, it turns out, is best seen at night. We won’t be rushing back. Sorry.

VW Crafter long-term review - tunnel

Belgium and France served us breakfast and lunch, and then we were at the Eurotunnel, where we somehow blagged ourselves into the Flexiplus lounge, despite the facility not quite being open to light commercial vehicles yet (the new building that will allow it is under-construction).

Weirdly, just as we were leaving we bumped into a British bloke who asked us about exactly that. And then proceeded not only recognise we were in a brand new Crafter – about a month ahead of its official UK launch – but reveal that he had several on order. The world can be a strange place sometimes. We reassured him he’d made a good choice.

Truth is, we really think he has, too. All told the Crafter shrugged-off 1,800 miles of fast continental cruising without breaking sweat.

Perhaps even more significantly, it did so without demanding any kind of penalty from its occupants. The ergonomics and in-cab accommodation is so good that we’d have happily turned round and driven it back again if we had to. This is shaping up to be an excellent high-mileage van.

VW Crafter long-term review - church

Now it’s just time to count the cost of the trip and – after Germany – possibly book it in for a cautionary oil change.

By CJ Hubbard

 


Report 2: max factory - touring the VW Crafter plant in Poland

The new VW Crafter is a big van. Among the 69 basic variants available, there are versions nearly 2.2m tall and 7.4m long – while gross vehicle weights go as high as 5.5-tonnes, way beyond what you can legally drive on a car licence.

Obviously, the Iveco Daily still makes the Crafter look like an amateur in this respect – we drove one of those recently which was over 7.6m long, and you can get 7.2-tonne variants – but I am slowly lurching towards a point here.

A big van requires a big factory, and since the new Crafter is VW’s first self-built large van since the original LT went out of production in 1995, in this instance it also requires a brand new factory.

VW Crafter factory Poland - Parkers Vans long-term test review

Freshly commissioned in Wrzesnia, Poland, this is where Gareth Evans and I find ourselves on a bright but brisk Monday morning, ready to collect the Parkers Vans long-term test Crafter.

We’re here to drive our new van back to the UK, but it would be rude to turn down the invitation to look around inside while we’re at the new factory.

So how big is the VW Crafter factory?

Pretty massive. The whole site is 220 hectares – or 2.2 kilometres square. That, VW’s literature helpfully tells us, is equivalent to around 300 football pitches. It is big.

VW Crafter factory Poland - Parkers Vans long-term test review

It’s also only half-filled with factory buildings at the moment, although no-one at VW is yet saying what they’re planning to do with the rest of the land. Judging by the planned production numbers, ‘park Crafters on it’ could be a legitimate usage scenario.

What’s the output then?

Eventually, with three full shifts in action, Wrzesnia will be pumping out 100,000 vehicles a year – that’s approximately 380 a day, or 17 an hour.

Not all of them will be Crafters, though, as the MAN TGE will also be built in this factory (in fact, we saw one parked up inside). Hardly a shocker, that, as MAN is part of the VW Group, and the TGE is a Crafter with a different set of clothes on. Clothes that quite obviously come from the same tailor.

VW Crafter factory Poland - Parkers Vans long-term test review

With three full shifts, the factory will have more than 3,000 employees, around 2,400 of them on the production line.

However, since it was only finished in October 2016 – just 23 months after ground was broken in November 2014 – the plant is still in its running-up process and has only just added a second shift.

MAN van - TGE unveiled at the 2016 IAA show

What’s it like inside the VW Crafter factory?

Modern and spacious, which immediately makes it quite a contrast to the last van factory I had a good nose about in, the Vauxhall Vivaro plant in Luton.

VW Crafter factory Poland - Parkers Vans long-term test review

That’s not to say the Vauxhall factory is out of date, rather that it has the clear ambience of an old site that’s been updated to accommodate an ever more complex product, whereas the purpose-built feel to the Crafter’s home is evident in the sheer scale of the buildings.

This is not only in terms of the height of the ceilings and size of the production lines, but also the indoor road ways between them. But then, you need a lot of space when the body panels you’re moving around inside the plant are bigger than some entire cars. The stacks of these panels strategically dotted around the place have an almost monolithic quality.

VW Crafter factory Poland - Parkers Vans long-term test review

The factory also has what’s described as the most modern welding facilities in the whole automotive world, with frickin’ lasers used for precision and efficiency in critical areas. Robots do almost all of the major assembly work – and VW Wrzesnia has no less than 437 of them, eerie in their inhuman precision and strength.

Inside Britain's last remaining van factory - on Parkers Vans

Where do the people come in?

While robots are good for the big, heavy metal components, the fiddly job of laying wires and fitting trim is still best left to human beings.

Consider all the specification options involved in this, and the basic 69 Crafter derivatives grows to over 3,000 Crafter variants, all put together on the same production line.

VW Crafter factory Poland - Parkers Vans long-term test review

People also remain essential for the smooth ‘marriage’ between drivetrain and body. We watch as a group of personnel tackles the process with what is apparently one of the very first all-wheel drive Crafters – a right-hand drive model no less, likely destined for the UK demo fleet it’s so early.

Up until this point, VW has been focused on correctly assembling front-wheel drive Crafters, though eventually rear-wheel drive as well as four-wheel drive models will all come down the same line.

VW Crafter factory Poland - Parkers Vans long-term test review

One of the biggest surprises of all, however, was just how much hand-finishing takes place on these vans. Volkswagen is clearly keen to make sure every surface is perfect before paint, for example, and that final assembly includes correctly aligned doors.

And are you going to drive this van at some point…?

Ah, yes. To Europe – lots of it – next time.

By CJ Hubbard

VW Crafter L3H3 CR35 140 Trendline long-term test review

List price: £29,200 (ex VAT)
Price as tested: £33,460 (ex VAT)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder, 140hp, 340Nm
Transmission: six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive
Claimed fuel economy: 38.2mpg
Actual fuel economy: tbc

 


Report 1: The brand new VW Crafter joins the Parkers Vans long-term test fleet

Parkers Vans long-term test review of the 2017 VW Crafter

Meet Parkers’ new long-term test van – a brand new Volkswagen Crafter CR35 Trendline with 140hp.

So new, in fact, that it doesn’t technically makes its UK debut until the 2017 CV Show in April, and isn’t due in dealerships until May. Yet it’s parked outside our building in Peterborough right now. Don’t ever say that Parkers Vans isn’t occasionally ahead of the curve…

Read the full VW Crafter (2017) review on Parkers Vans

How has Parkers got a long-term test van that isn’t even out yet?

Well, we know the right people of course – but we also agreed to collect it direct from the factory. Which is in Poland.

Full details of that particular adventure – including a tour of what’s billed as the most modern factory in the entire automotive industry – will follow in later reports.

Though if you do want a brief account of our journey already, check out the special social media page we’ve set up for our new van. We’ll continue to populate this for the entire time the Crafter is with us.

Social media: Adventures in a VW Crafter on Parkers Vans

More details on the Parkers Vans new VW Crafter

So, about the new van, then. As with the model it replaces – which was based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – the 2017 Crafter is a large van, competing against the like of the Ford Transit, Renault Master and Citroen Relay.

Parkers Vans long-term test review of the 2017 VW Crafter

The CR35 in its designation makes this particular example a 3.5-tonne gross vehicle weight van (the heaviest you can drive on a regular car licence), while Trendline specification sits between entry-level Startline and range-topping Highline.

As a medium wheelbase, high roof van (L3H3) with the 140hp version of the Crafter’s new 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel engine, at the time of writing it has a basic ex-VAT price of £29,200 – before options.

Standard equipment is decent, with Bluetooth, DAB radio, heated door mirrors, wooden load floor and 270-degree opening rear doors included (and all except the Bluetooth are upgrades over the Startline). You also get a better ‘Comfort’ driver’s seat – which we can already tell you is well worth it.

Safety kit and optional extras

But what makes the new Crafter particularly interesting are the safety items that go above and beyond the norm for this class of van.

Automatic post-collision braking, Crosswind Assist and driver alert system are standard on all new Crafters, while Trendline adds autonomous emergency braking. You don’t get a passenger airbag as standard until you hit Highline, however – ditto for parking sensors.

Parkers Vans long-term test review of the 2017 VW Crafter

In terms of options, beyond the fetching Reflex Silver Metallic paint (all £1,070 of it – though we suppose it is a lot of paint…), our van is kitted out with VW’s Discover Media sat-nav system (£700), Climatic air conditioning in the cab (£1,375), adaptive cruise control (£845) and some additional overhead storage (£270 in total).

Add that all up and it comes to £4,260 in options (excluding the VAT), for a total basic van price of £33,460.

VW announces 2017 Crafter prices and spec

With us for the next six months

We’ll be running the new Crafter for six months, and are hoping to get as much use out of it as possible. Suggestions more than welcome via the Parkers Twitter and Facebook pages...

By CJ Hubbard

VW Crafter L3H3 CR35 140 Trendline long-term test

List price: £29,200 (ex VAT)
Price as tested: £33,460 (ex VAT)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder, 140hp, 340Nm
Transmission: six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive
Claimed fuel economy: 38.2mpg
Actual fuel economy: tbc