Crafter is a de­light to live with, states Damien O’car­roll.

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - CONTENTS -

When it orig­i­nally ap­peared back in 2006, the Volk­swa­gen Crafter re­placed the long-run­ning LT van and was (whis­per it) a re­badged Mercedes-benz Sprinter. Col­lab­o­rat­ing on vans is noth­ing un­usual is the seg­ment, par­tic­u­larly in Europe, where the van is king. After all, the Sprinter is also sold as a Frieght­liner and a Dodge, while the Re­nault Mas­ter is also sold as a Vaux­hall, an Opel and a Nis­san and the Fiat Du­cato is sold as a Citroen, a Peu­geot and a Ram. But this time around Volk­swa­gen has gone out on its own with the new Crafter (al­though it does also sell it as a MAN, but VW owns MAN, so that makes sense) and now the all­new Crafter has landed in New Zea­land. While the old Crafter was a good look­ing thing – as far as vans go – the strik­ingly hand­some new looks give the new Crafter a sleek, mod­ern ap­pear­ance that sets it apart in the van seg­ment. The new looks also bring it nicely into line with the Volk­swa­gen pas­sen­ger car range, which is not al­ways some­thing that works, but it does so here. The ver­sion of the new Crafter we test here is the en­try level Run­ner model, a new ad­di­tion to the Crafter range. It is a medium wheel­base, high roof vari­ant as stan­dard (al­though low or su­per-high roofs can be op­tioned) and it comes with VW’S 103kw/340nm 2.0-litre four-cylin­der turbo diesel en­gine, hooked up to a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion driv­ing the front wheels (RWD and AWD ver­sions are also avail­able higher up the range). The Run­ner kicks off the Crafter van range at just $59,990 with the man­ual trans­mis­sion (an eight-speed au­to­matic ver­sion is also avail­able for $63,990) and comes stan­dard with a cargo area par­ti­tion, twin slid­ing doors, rear dou­ble-hinged barn doors, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing, tow bar prepa­ra­tion (in­clud­ing a trailer sta­bil­i­sa­tion sys­tem), power ad­justable and heated door mir­rors, cruise con­trol with a speed lim­iter, hill start as­sist, a rear view cam­era, front and rear park­ing sen­sors and a side wind com­pen­sa­tion sys­tem. On the in­side, the bold and bluff dash is al­most retro (which is ei­ther cool or ap­palling, de­pend­ing on you view of such things), while the in­cred­i­bly use­ful shelf that runs the width of the dash is a neat touch. There is plenty of stor­age space around the cabin, while the seats are im­pres­sively com­fort­able. Ac­cess is ex­tremely easy into the Crafter’s cabin, al­though the right edge of the dash is per­fectly placed to smash your knee on when get­ting out. The 103kw/340nm 2.0-litre diesel en­gine is su­perbly smooth and flex­i­ble and will hap­pily lug around in low gears with­out com­plaint. The six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion is typ­i­cally slick and re­mark­ably easy to use, with a light clutch ac­tion and nicely smooth shift ac­tion. On the road the Crafter is ut­terly ef­fort­less to drive, even in slow, heavy traf­fic. The steer­ing is nicely weighted and re­spon­sive and the whole pack­age is in­cred­i­bly user-friendly for some­thing so large and pur­pose­ful. In fact, the biggest down­side to how the Crafter drives is that it is so easy that you do tend to for­get just how big it ac­tu­ally is... And it IS big, with a 969kg pay­load and a cargo area of 11.3 cu­bic me­tres in the back of the MWB Run­ner. The first all-volk­swa­gen Crafter is a truly im­pres­sive ma­chine in its ba­sic form. Hand­some, rugged and ca­pa­cious, the Crafter is also ridicu­lously easy to drive and a de­light to live with on a daily ba­sis.

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