Volkswagen commercial vehicles is targeting the light-duty truck market dominated by the Japanese brands with it’s factory-built seven-seat crafter double cab flat deck truck.
Buyers can create a new Crafter 35 cab/chassis vehicle to suit their needs and requirements from single to double cab, from medium wheelbase to long wheelbase, with the choice of front wheel drive or 4Motion all-wheel-drive, manual or automatic, and the choice of 103kW engine or a more powerful 130kW engine.
Our test vehicle pictured is a front-wheel-drive Crafter 35 double cab medium wheelbase (MWB) fitted with the twin-turbocharged 2-litre 130kW/410Nm turbodiesel engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The base price for the single cab 130kW Crafter 35 MWB automatic is $63,990, adding the seven seat double cab is a further $5500, and the aluminium dropside tray ex-factory is $3500.
Incidentally- if you want a four-wheel-drive Crafter 35 MWB double cab – you can only have six seats for the work crew not seven as found in the front-wheel-drive version.
Our test vehicle was also fitted with the $2000 LED headlamp package which incorporates separate LED daytime running lights, and the $500 acoustic warning system when reverse gear is engaged.
The vehicle was also fitted with the Trendline package as well as the block and control module which is part of the Volkswagen body builder programme, leading to an on the road price of $80,040.
We collected the big blue beast pictured here on a very sunny December day and put the truck straight to work with a load of inorganic waste for delivery to the local tip as well as three trees which had been felled and needed to be dropped off to the green waste depot for mulching.
The aluminium tray is 2700mm long and 2040mm wide, while the drop sides are 400mm tall, which provided more than enough space for our intended load.
Volkswagen uses multilayered marine birch plywood for the flooring which also has four lashing rings on each side of the tray deck to enable the easy securing of any cargo. The tray is also equipped with a fold down step in the tailgate, as well as front and rear mud flaps for the rear wheels, and side marker lamps for extra visibility.
According to Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, the payload capacity of the Crafter MWB double cab is 1686kg ( the weight of a new VW Polo) and the towing capacity with a factory approved tow ball package is 3000kg.
Inside the cabin the Trendline package provides two compartments in the roof shelf with reading lights, comfort seating for the driver, a lockable glove compartment, two 12 Volt sockets in the dashboard, step illumination and enhanced interior acoustic insulation.
The exterior components of the Trendline package include fog lights with integrated static cornering light, and chrome strips on the radiator grille.
Volkswagen’s comfort seat ‘plus’ for the driver offers four-track electrical lumbar support, two armrests, adjustable seat cushion, and height adjustment, which in combination with the height and reach adjustable steering column, means any driver can get comfortable behind the multifunction steering wheel.
It is one of the most comfortable driver’s seats we have yet tested in a light commercial vehicle.
But the Crafter is set up for a long life of hard work, the cab has a rubber floor covering for easy cleaning, and the rear doors have painted hardboard door cards rather than plastic, which are both easily cleaned or replaced should they meet with a steel capped boot.
All four rear passengers have a three point lap and diagonal seat belt, and the rear bench seat also lifts up to provide a huge storage space for personal effects and tools.
As well as Bluetooth telephony, the Crafter is also equipped with Apple Car Play, climatic semi-automatic air conditioning, and there is also preparation for a rear view camera system, as the camera is fitted locally.
The best standard feature and one that should be fitted to all light commercial vehicles is the driver assistance package, which includes forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping system with lane assist, and adaptive cruise control up to 160km/h including a speed limiter function.
Having adaptive cruise in a fully laden commercial vehicle when travelling long distances will hugely improve the driver’s health and wellbeing, as they can simply concentrate on the road head and the traffic around them.
The all-new twin-turbocharged four-cylinder common rail 2-litre turbo diesel punches out 130 kilowatts of engine power and 410 Newton metres of torque, which is smoothly transferred to the front wheels through an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission.
It’s a new Euro 6 compliant engine with a stop start system and also requires urea-based AdBlue additive as part of the emission control system.
At first it’s hard to believe that such a humbly sized engine could produce the power and torque needed to move a fairly sizable vehicle, particularly with seven people and a load on board, but the torque kicks in early, and the spread of the eight forward gears means the Crafter never seems to run out of puff.
For a vehicle that’s just over six metres in length and nearly two and half metres wide, driving and parking the Crafter 35 in narrow urban streets wasn’t a huge problem thanks to the brilliant steering lock, the great visibility ahead afforded from the driver’s seat, and the two side view mirrors with concave and convex lenses giving an almost birds eye view of the world behind.
On the motorway, it just sits so happily cruising at 100km/h with the engine barely turning over 1500 rpm in top gear, and the additional acoustic insulation makes long journeys in the Crafter much more pleasurable.
As for most load carriers, the ride quality of the Crafter 35 certainly improves with a load on the tray giving the rear springs some compression, creating a less jittery ride over bumps and corrugations in the road.
There’s a MacPherson strut-type suspension up front which explains the better than average ride quality and steering response from this light commercial vehicle.
The Crafter 35 double cab flat deck more than meets a buyer’s brief as both a work horse and a people mover. We were impressed by the functionality of the vehicle, the rugged and durable construction, and more importantly the safety and comfort it offers as a fleet vehicle.
|Model||2017 Volkswagen Crafter 35 double cab flat deck||Price||$80,040|
|Engine||1968cc, 4-Cylinder, 130kW/410Nm||Drivetrain||8-speed auto|
|Fuel Use||7.6L/100km||C02 Output||0g/km|
|0-100km/h||0.00 sec||Weight||1814kg kerb weight|
|Service||50,000km intervals, 3 year / 250,000km warranty||Load||5.2m3 volume, 2537m length, 1387m height|
|Vitals||3500kg GVM, 1686kg payload||Vitals||3000kg towing capacity|