The What Van? Road Test: Volkswagen Crafter Tipper

Date: Monday, April 28, 2014   |   Author: Steve Banner

Volkswagen’s rear-wheel drive Crafter has always been a little in the shadow of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

Both have the same design ethic and occupy roughly the same area of the light commercial market. They also share some components thanks to cooperation between the two manufacturers – although that relationship is now drawing to a close – and both vehicles are solidly constructed.

What is more, they are supported by highly proficient dealer networks.

However, the Sprinter has the allure of the three-pointed star on its bonnet while the Crafter is, well, a Volkswagen.

Of course, that is not the only reason why the Sprinter outsells the Crafter by around four to one in Britain. Mercedes can, for example, offer big fleet customers an entire range of vans and trucks going all the way up to 44t while Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles cannot (although it does boast MaN and Scania as sister companies).

Not that Volkswagen – now number two on the UK van market sales league ladder – is giving up, and one angle of attack it is adopting in order to overcome brand prejudice is to renew its attempts to promote its ready-bodied Engineered to Go range, with Crafter tippers and dropsides readily available.

We opted for one of the former, which was equipped with Telford-based ingimex’s Titan body on a medium- wheelbase chassis. it had 109hp under its bonnet, although there is also a 136hp model if you need something that packs a bit more punch. it was in single-cab guise, but double-cab models are available, too, on the long- wheelbase chassis.

Cab

Spacious and with plenty of headroom, the three-seater cab offers lots of oddment stowage

space. There is a bin in each door with a moulding to accommodate a flask and a lidded compartment underneath, shelves above the windscreen – one for the driver, one for the outboard passenger – plus three shelves on top of the fascia. The one in the middle is big enough to accommodate an a4 clipboard.

A lidded, but not lockable, glove box is provided and the dashboard plays host to two shelves: one beneath the radio and one at the bottom. There’s a clip to hold paperwork too.

Fold down the centre of the back of the middle passenger’s seat and it turns into a useful desk with a pen clip and a couple of cup-holders. You will find two more cup-holders on top of the dashboard.

Vision ahead and to either side is good, but although the driver’s seat is height-adjustable, the steering column is not.

The main criticism of the cab’s interior concerns the styling. it is depressingly dull and unadventurous, and one can only hope that Volkswagen will come up with something a little more exciting when the Crafter is eventually replaced.

Load area

Featuring a steel floor, alloy sides and a hefty steel tailgate with a cataphoretic coating, ingimex’s beautifully put-together Titan tipper body looks more than capable of handling a hard day’s work then coming back for more. it meets the requirements of European Community Whole Vehicle Type approval.

Sturdy rope hooks underneath the double-skinned rave on either side should make it easy to secure a load. Complete with a ladder rack, the beefy bulkhead won’t take any nonsense, and features more tie-down opportunities.

There are no load lashing rings in the floor because with a tipper there is always the risk that they will end up clogged with sand, gravel and cement.

Secured by simple-to-use and smoothly operating catches, the drop-down sides and tailgate are easy to release. The latter can be top or bottom-hung depending on your requirements – you can switch between the two quite easily – or secured in the horizontal position by stout steel cables.

A control box on a wander lead attached to the base of the driver’s seat enables you to operate the under-floor tipping gear in order to raise and lower the body. That is, of course, assuming that you have first turned the isolation switch on the chassis to the ‘on’ position.

Raising the body reveals the stout sub-frame – attached to the chassis to stop it twisting when
a laden body is being raised – as well as the electro-hydraulic power pack and the body prop. For the sake of safety, the prop should be deployed before attempting to access anything on the chassis with the body elevated.

The maximum load length is 3119mm. Maximum load width is 2026mm, the maximum height of the sides is 400mm – the tailgate is 600mm high – while the maximum rear loading height is 1041mm. That’s steep, and the body could probably do with a fold- down step to aid access; ingimex offers one as an option.

 

The gross payload is a surprisingly generous 1253kg – we expected it to be no more than 1100kg – and our Crafter was capable of hauling a braked trailer grossing at 2000kg.

Powertrain

A four-cylinder 2.0-litre common-rail direct-injection diesel engine pumping out maximum power at 3500rpm is under the bonnet. it comes with a variable turbine geometry (VTG) turbocharger and an intercooler.

Top torque of 300Nm makes its presence felt across a 1500rpm-2250rpm plateau while the engine works with a six- speed gearbox.

Our Crafter met the Euro5 European exhaust emission standards, but Volkswagen
is introducing optional Euro6 models in advance of the standard becoming mandatory on light commercials in 2016. They will cost you roughly £1000 more than the Euro5 option.

Chassis and steering

Independent suspension is fitted at the front along with a transverse leaf spring and an anti-roll bar, while a rigid axle plus double leaf springs help support the rear. Our demonstrator’s 16-inch steel wheels were covered with 235/65 r16C Continental Vanco 2 tyres. power-assisted steering offers a 13.5m wall-to-wall turning circle.

Performance

While the 109hp engine is fine when running lightly laden in flat terrain, if you are tackling a few hills with a heavy load then it’s a different story; it is then that you start thinking that another 20-30hp might not go amiss. That said, a surprisingly precise gear change enabled us to make
the most of the power that was on tap, so by working hard with the gearbox we made decent progress when hauling 25kg sandbags around the waterlogged roads of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire.

While no tipper will ride smoothly on patched-up B-roads, the Crafter did better than most, soaking up most of the impacts without too much fuss and only juddering noticeably when it hit a puddle that masked a deep pot-hole. Throughout all this, the tipper body, like the rest of the vehicle, didn’t emit a rattle or squeak, even when empty, and empty tipper bodies can rattle alarmingly. That has to be a tribute to the high quality of ingimex’s workmanship and to the way the body has been mounted on the chassis.

The steering is impressively precise, enabling us to address corners with plenty of confidence. As for criticisms, Volkswagen might want to think about spending a little bit more on sound-deadening material given the level of engine and transmission noise we experienced. It was a touch too high for a modern 3.5-tonner.

Equipment

Tippers tend to be deployed on local work – running from a builder’s yard to a nearby building site, for instance – rather than on long motorway runs, which probably helps to explain this Crafter’s basic specifications. if you’re not spending lots of time in the cab then you don’t need lots of goodies, so the argument goes. as a consequence, our demonstrator came with a radio/CD player and electric windows, and that was it. No air-conditioning or other frills, and the mirrors – which feature a wide-angle lower section – had to be adjusted manually, but at least there is remote central locking.

However, by the time potential buyers get around to purchasing a Crafter tipper, they will find that the entry-level trim has improved a touch compared to our vehicle, with the addition of electric heated door mirrors.

Buying and running

The Crafter is covered by a three-year unlimited-mileage warranty – the body is covered for three years – with a roadside assistance package provided for the duration. The paint is protected for three years as well, and further protection is provided by a 12-year anti-corrosion perforation package.

Service intervals are set at 25,000 miles/two years while the official combined fuel economy figure is 31mpg, which is about what we got. CO2 emissions are quoted at 239g/km.

Safety

German manufacturers tend to be safety-oriented and the VW is no exception. as a consequence the vehicles comes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Electronic Stability programme, Electronic Brake assist, and Hill Hold assist, to stop it from rolling backwards when you need to move away on an incline. The package additionally includes an electronic diff lock. aBS, of course, is fitted too, as is a driver’s airbag. Thieves will hopefully be deterred by the optional Thatcham Category 1 alarm complete with tow-away protection, which is an optional extra for £280 plus VAT.

 

Verdict

Not cheap but well made and does exactly what it says on the tin.

Not cheap, but well made and does exactly what it says on the tin.

Not cheap, but well made and does exactly what it says on the tin.

 

Not cheap, but well made and does exactly what it says on the tin.

 

 

 

Not cheap, but well made and does exactly what it says on the tin.

 

 

 

Not cheap, but well made and does exactly what it says on the tin.

 

 

 

Not cheap, but well made and does exactly what it says on the tin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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