Volkswagen NZ has partnered with auto transform NZ to offer a range of new factory-backed crafter minibus models with seating for 12 to 20 people.
The full Volkswagen factory warranty applies to the locally-finished Crafter Minibus and the first certificate of fitness (COF) is covered by Auto Transform.
We spent a week shuttle driving with the baby of the range, the medium wheelbase (MWB) Crafter 35 pictured here, which was equipped with the same 130kW/410Nm 2-litre TDi engine and eight-speed transmission as the Crafter 35 MWB panel van reviewed recently.
The market for such vehicles in New Zealand is small and highly specialised so the reason you’d choose a Crafter Minibus over its competitors from Ford, Fiat , or Mercedes-Benz is that the big VW offers a much higher level of driver assistance features as standard, combined with the flexibility and affordability of a local interior fit-out that matches if not betters a factory installation.
There’s not a lot of difference in the driving characteristics between the 12-seat Crafter 35 Minibus and the panel van we drove earlier, with the exception of having full glazing which makes visibility even better.
On the road most of the noise generated comes from the tall A pillars surrounding the enormous windshield of the Crafter, and even when fully laden with passengers and luggage, the 2-litre engine never felt as if it was struggling under load, as the eight-speed auto seems to pick the best gear for the occasion.
Such a big unit still requires care from the driver when parking in tight spaces but the front and rear park distance control and reversing camera make parking the nearly six-metre long and 2.5 metre wide Crafter Minibus so much easier as does the 13.6 m turning circle.
here are two levels of specification on offer for the Crafter Minibus range, being a premium package with cloth upholstery for the occupants and a luxury package with leather upholstery throughout the vehicle.
The premium package has a starting price of $14,000 and the luxury package has a starting price of $25,000 in addition to the base vehicle.
Our test vehicle was fitted with the premium package, and at first glance anyone would be hard pressed to recognise the interior fit out of this Minibus was done locally rather than in the factory in Germany, such is the high quality of the installation by South Auckland-based Auto Transform.
The vans arrive here semi-completed from Germany with factory-supplied window glazing and the ducted air-conditioning system for the rear passengers, as well as the rear roof lining already installed.
The Crafter Minibus doesn’t come with a bulkhead partition, side marker lamps or lashing rings as found in the panel van.
Not having a bulkhead creates a walk through and thus makes it easier for the driver or front passenger to access the rear cabin when necessary.
Auto Transform add the bonded rear flooring mounting system, cloth-upholstered rear seats with lap and diagonal belts, side wall lining, emergency exit signage, hammer-buzzer, and fire extinguisher.
For tourism and transport shuttle operators it will also add a locally manufactured and COF approved cargo barrier to keep occupants and luggage safe from harm.
Volkswagen New Zealand is unique in offering such a Minibus programme but it says the market response has so far been positive and it expects to see more of these vehicles hit the road soon.
|Model||2017 Volkswagen Crafter 35 MWB Minibus||Price||$71,490 plus fit out|
|Engine||1998cc, 4-Cylinder, 130kW/410Nm||Drivetrain||8-speed audo|
|Fuel Use||7.8L/100km||C02 Output||0g/km|
|0-100km/h||0.00 sec||Weight||2040kg kerb weight|
|Service||50,000km intervals, 3 year / 100,000km warranty||Load||5.2m3 volume, 2537m length, 1387m height|
|Vitals||3500kg GVM, 1460kg payload||Vitals||3000kg towing capacity|