2019 Volkswagen Crafter Van Launch Review

2019 volkswagen crafter van

Volkswagen has a new large van to offer Aussie operators with the arrival of the new-generation Crafter.

Available now in Australia, we got along to the Australian launch of new-gen model and had a drive of both the cab chassis and van variants.

A review of the 2019 Volkswagen Crafter cab chassis can be found here.

For the uninitiated, Crafter sits a size up from the Volkswagen Transporter (reviewed here).

2019 Volkswagen Crafter cabinIf you’ve followed any of my light-commercial vehicle reviews you would know that I’m a big fan of bonneted vehicles over the traditional cab-over design for vans and light-duty trucks.

And that’s exactly the layout in the impressive new Volkswagen offering.

A bonneted van is generally quieter, safer and rides along better than alternatives that have you sitting literally on top of the engine.

Oh, and there’s big advantages (including safety advantages) in having a hefty bulkhead between you and the cargo – as features in the Volkswagen.

2019 volkswagen crafter gear shiftFeels a lot like a car

Yep, if you’re familiar with a Volkswagen passenger car you’ll be right at home in the new Crafter – essentially all the driver controls, infotainment etc. are exactly the same.

Even the steering wheel is identical to what you’d find in a Volkswagen passenger car and that makes it a non-intimidating drive.

The steering is really light, and direct too and the cabin is well soundproofed as well.

Add in features like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and tilt and reach steering wheel adjust and you start to get the picture that the new Volkswagen offering is a very civilized place to spend your day.

There’s three seats, with storage underneath the middle and main passenger seats, along with a driver’s seat that has a huge amount of adjustment available and two fold-down armrests.

The dashboard is packed full of storage spots and the doors too have some well-sized areas to keep your essential gear.

A roof-mounted console also features, and the new Volkswagen Crafter has a very sizeable glove box.

While working on the go is made easy with a clever work area/desk on the back-side of the middle seat back.

Simple and easy to read gauges and functional/easy to read driver info screen cap off a near-perfect van cabin.

2019 volkswagen crafter reverse cameraEasy Access

Full marks to the Volkswagen designers for making the Crafter cab an easy proposition to jump into.

There’s a good-sized step and well-positioned A pillar grab handle, when up and ready to swing into the seat there’s plenty of space between dashboard and seat to get your posterior into place.

Just don’t try to get into or out of the driver’s seat with the right-hand arm rest down…this didn’t provide my most graceful exit from the new Volkswagen offering!

On the Road

My test vehicle was a front-wheel drive version of the new-gen Crafter, the higher capacity variants feature rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive is an option too with a $4,500 price premium.

There’s a 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel under the bonnet of every new Crafter, the standard offering getting 103kW/340Nm.

For those looking to shift heavier loads there’s a bi-turbo version available that gives you a meatier 130kW/410Nm and this was the engine that I road-tested.

My test vehicle had the standard six-speed manual transmission, an auto transmission though is now available too.

The ZF eight-speed auto transmission provides a smooth drive with plenty of assistance for the engine (the cab chassis I tested had the auto transmission).

However, my personal pick would be the manual.

My test route around Auckland included some decent inclines and 100km/h freeway stretches and the Crafter was very enthusiastic.

Visibility from the driver’s seat in the Crafter is excellent with nicely sculpted A pillars that maximize forward ¾ visibility.

The main mirrors are electrically adjustable and are a good-size, the lower blindspot mirrors are small, but are handy when parking the VW offering.

When you throw a heavy load in the rear of the Crafter van, and/or hook up a trailer, you can adjust the headlights easily to ensure they’re pointing where you (and oncoming vehicles) need them to be.  

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) is standard in the new Volkswagen offering, a welcome addition, while front, side and curtain airbags also feature as standard.

volkswagen crafter 2019 rear barn doorsWhile you can option up your Crafter with extra driving aids such as Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist.

And Volkswagen has fitted a module as standard that will make your Crafter telematics ready from day one, just choose your provider and away you go.

Auto headlights would be a nice addition to the new Volkswagen Crafter, along with digital radio.

While the Crafter vans rear barn doors don’t open fully to the sides of the van (like the Iveco Daily does).

Instead you can open them to 90 or 180 degrees, then the closest position to the sides of the van still leave the doors jutting out a bit (as seen in the photo above).

2019 volkswagen crafter vanThe Summary

From what I’ve seen of the new Crafter it looks like Volkswagen is on a winner.

Nicely refined where you want it to be, and yet capable enough too, the Crafter is a great alternative, especially to the often much less refined alternatives in the light-duty truck segment.

I look forward to spending more time in a new-gen Crafter in the future and will bring you more detailed reviews at that time.

The 2019 Volkswagen Crafter van range is priced from $48,490.

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