Johannesburg - Volkswagen has decided to go it alone with the fourth-generation of its medium commercial van, launched in South Africa this week.

Whereas the previous version was developed in conjunction with Mercedes-Benz, thus sharing much with the Sprinter, the new Crafter that you see here was developed totally in-house. With its clean-sheet design, the newcomer not only follows the very latest VW design trends but also boasts a class-leading drag coefficient of 0.33Cd.

The new Crafter looks and feels like a dyed-in-the-wool Volkswagen product on the inside too, with a smartly finished cabin that bears a resemblance to the company’s T6 and Amarok products.

The big van also places itself at the technological cutting edge. Thanks to its first-in-class use of an electro-mechanical power steering system, VW can now offer a wide range of optional driver assistance systems, such as the Trailer Assist and Park Assist semi-autonomous parking systems. 

We got to try out the Park Assist at the vehicle’s Joburg launch venue and it really does make parallel parking an absolute breeze. Because a reverse camera is part of the system, you have to order Park Assist with VW's optional touchscreen audio system, which altogether adds around R30 000 to the bill. It’s unlikely that many of the Crafter’s commercially-driven target customers are going to invest in this option, but it’s good to know that it's available.

Other optional assistance gadgets are adaptive cruise control with ‘Follow and Stop’ as well as Rear Traffic Alert, VW's Front Assist emergency braking system and LED headlights with cornering function.

Volkswagen’s Side Wind Assistant is standard however, along with the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System and Driver Alert.

All local models are fitted with a revised 2-litre TDI petrol engine, rated at 103kW and 340Nm, and mated to manual gearbox. Volkswagen claims (laboratory attained) fuel consumption figures of between 7.3 and 7.6 litres per 100km, depending on the model.

And there are plenty of available derivatives.

Three lengths, three roof height options

Essentially you get a short wheelbase range with front-wheel-drive and a permissible gross weight of up to 3.55 tonnes, and a long-wheelbase rear-wheel-driven line-up boasting GVMs of up to five tonnes. Those opting for the LWB can choose a longer rear overhang, while depending on the model chosen, the Crafter can be ordered in one of three roof heights.

Although the Crafter is essentially a medium commercial vehicle, there is one light commercial model in the SWB range that allows owners to bypass the code 10 licence requirement and 100km/h speed limiter imposed by the MCV format, although it costs R78 400 extra, something VWSA attributes to taxation differences. 

The Crafter rides on a completely redeveloped chassis, featuring McPherson front suspension and customers can choose from five different types of rigid rear axle.

Knowing that a great number of Crafters will undergo various conversions - be it for funeral homes, emergency services or long-distance passenger transport, VWSA has formulated a list of approved local coach builders who will carry out the necessary work and supply the vehicle with a joint warranty.

In fact, the Crafter was designed from the ground up with such conversions in mind, thus it can be optionally ordered with a universal cargo floor equipped with shelving mounts, as well as a second compressor for refrigeration, a second air conditioner and four different types of supplementary battery.

The Crafter is sold with a two-year/unlimited kilometer warranty and five-year/120 000km service plan, with service intervals pegged at 20 000km.

Crafter 35 (MCV) Panel Van R509 700
Crafter 35 (LCV) Panel Van R588 100
Crafter 50 LWB (Bus Conversion Ready) R625 800
Crafter 50 LWB (Panel Van) R625 800
Crafter 50 LWB with overhang (Bus Conversion ready) R635 800
Crafter 50 LWB with overhang (Panel Van) R635 800

IOL Motoring