Volkswagen seems to have a thing about small engines – first the Caddy appeared with a motorcycle – sized petrol engine and now therea Crafter maxi – van with a diesel donk that doesnquite make 2.0 litres.
Just launched in New Zealand with a much improved snout that adopts the current VW ”wide grille, a flasher interior and a few other changes, the facelift Crafterbig news is the little engine.
The company claims that the new engineimproved fuel efficiency along with 40,000km or 24 – month service intervals can save as much as 22% on running costs.
The big Crafter van effectively gets the Amarok ute engine, all twin turbo and 1968cc of it. In the van its mainstream rating is 105kW at 3500rpm and 340Nm from 1575 – 2250rpm.
Therealso a 400Nm version available to order, along with a single turbo model rated at 80kW and 300Nm. The outgoing Crafter sported a 2.5 litre five cylinder diesel with mainstream ratings of lOOkW at 3500rpm and 300Nm at 2000rpm.
The new common rail four cylinder engine is bolted to the Crafteroriginal six – speed manual gearbox and overall gearing has the engine ticking over at a little more than 2000rpm at I lOOkm/h in sixth or about 1200rpm at 50km/h in fifth.
Despite its modest size the Volkswagen engine pulls willingly enough from about 1200rpr and will even lug back a little below that i lightly loaded. Although the power peak hits at 3500rpm the wave of torque below that means itrarely necessary to take the tachometer needle much past the 2000rpm mark.
With around half the Crafterrated payload of 1326kg on board we were unable to hold lOOkm/h up steeper hills, and if baulked by a slower vehicle it could take a while to build up speed again. Nevertheless, trip times were within cooee of those set by much more powerful vehicles.
Volkswagen reckons the new engine can save up to 33% on fuel use compared with the old unit, and itcertainly more economical. The last five cylinder Crafter we tested averaged 10.3 litres/100km (27.5mpg), but it had the economy 80kW and 280Nm ratings. The new van averaged 9.4 litres/100km (30.1mpg) despite being loaded for a slightly larger proportion of the test. Itofficially rated at 8.4-8.7 litres/100km (32.5-33.7mpg).
Although a five cylinder engine might be expected to run more smoothly than a four, the new engine seems, if anything, more refined. For example, we clocked 76dBa at lOOkm/h on coarse chip seal, mostly from tyre roar, and thata couple of points lower than in the old van.
Volkswagen says the four cyinder engine is sufficiently lighter than the five cylinder one that payloads can be as much as 10% higher.
Also new for the Crafter is a gear shift recommendation system that uses an arrow next to the selected gear display on the dash to advise the driver to shift up or down. It often recommended an up – shift at less than 2000rpm on flat ground at part throttle. It suggested shifting down only when the engine was beginning to struggle noticeably, making it clear that Volkswagenengineers reckon the little four cylinder engine should stay in the torque band.
The dash – mounted six – speed shifter is a pleasure to use, with short, precise throws and a creamy action. The clutch is also light.
Our only reservation is that reverse gear seemed a little high. With around half a tonne in the van we had to slip the clutch to reverse up a steep drive without stalling the engine.
As far as shifting loads goes, the only change to the Crafter is that the rear barn doors can now be folded around the sides, where they are retained by magnets. This eliminates the problem of them blowing closed just as the forklift arrives.
The test Crafter was the standard medium wheelbase high roof version with an internal capacity of 10.5 cubic metres. The load floor is around 3300mm long and up to 1750mm wide with 1340mm between the wheel arches. Therea full walk-around 1935mm of headroom.
Although the load compartment is extremely large – and even bigger versions are available – the payload rating is a modest 1326kg. The Crafter is rated to tow a 2000kg trailer and with a combined weight rating of 5500kg the full trailer weight can be towed by the van when fully loaded.
Just a left – side slider is standard, but a right – side one adds only $1400 to the purchase price of $66,000. There are eight load anchorages around the floor.
A wide range of options is available for the bulkhead behind the cab, load area linings and floor coverings and windows.
Inside the cabin therea new dash and new trim materials but the changes are relatively minor. The Crafter cab is still a spacious and well – equipped working environment.
Access is easy with a wide step, although a grab handle on the door pillar would be an improvement. The driverseat and steering wheel offer a generous range of adjustment and with large dual – lens mirrors both sides iteasy to find a driving position that provides an excellent view around the vehicle.
There are enough storage spaces around the interior to lose the cellphone for at least a week. For example, there are shelves above the windscreen, lockers under the passengerseat and in the driverfootwell and a space around 400mm wide and 600mm deep between the seats as well as the usual door pockets, glove box and spots around the dash.
A passenger as well as driver airbag is now standard, along with electric windows and mirrors, remote central locking and climate air-conditioning.
While the latest Volkswagen Crafter is a large van with a small engine, its performance is adequate and its fuel economy very good, but most importantly it remains a comfortable and easy van to drive.