Volkswagen Crafter van review

Category: Large Van

VW's large van is every inch the accomplished heavyweight mover and volume carrier

VW Crafter front right driving
  • VW Crafter front right driving
  • VW Crafter right driving
  • VW Crafter interior dashboard
  • VW Crafter load bay
  • VW Crafter interior infotainment
  • VW Crafter rear right driving
  • VW Crafter front right static
  • VW Crafter rear right static
  • VW Crafter interior steering wheel
  • VW Crafter interior steering wheel detail
  • VW Crafter front right driving
  • VW Crafter right driving
  • VW Crafter interior dashboard
  • VW Crafter load bay
  • VW Crafter interior infotainment
  • VW Crafter rear right driving
  • VW Crafter front right static
  • VW Crafter rear right static
  • VW Crafter interior steering wheel
  • VW Crafter interior steering wheel detail


What Car? says...

You might think of the Volkswagen Crafter large van as a rebadged version of the Mercedes Sprinter – after all, for years, that was all it was. 

But no longer. When the technology-sharing partnership that spawned the Crafter came to an end, VW threw a vast sum of money at creating a standalone new Crafter model (and a new factory to build it in).

The Crafter is available as a panel van in three lengths and three roof heights, and there are also two chassis-cab models – single or double cab. Gross vehicle weights of three tonnes, 3.5 tonnes and four tonnes are available.

There are then two equipment levels to choose between. Startline is the more basic of the two, but you can upgrade to the Trendline version if you want a few more luxuries and smarter styling.

All VW Crafters are powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine, with four different power outputs on offer: 100bhp, 120bhp, 134bhp and 174bhp.

These engines can be mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, while some models get the option of an eight-speed automatic, too. And if the standard front-wheel-drive Crafter won’t suit your needs, there are also rear- and four-wheel-drive options too.

At the moment, there’s no electric van version on sale new (as there is for the rival Fiat Ducato and Renault Master) but a left-hand-drive battery-powered Crafter was sold in the UK until fairly recently. You can read about that in our VW e-Crafter review.

You can have your Crafter as a campervan – see our VW Grand California review to read about that – but if you’re after a Crafter as a commercial vehicle, read on to find our how we rate it for performance and handling, usability and usefulness, running costs and more.

Read more: How we test vans


The VW Crafter is every inch the accomplished heavyweight mover and volume carrier.

  • Quiet and comfortable
  • Well thought out interior
  • Huge carrying capacity
  • Fairly dull on the inside
  • Confusing size and height names

Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Behind the wheel, similarities between the Crafter large van and the mid-sized VW Transporter are obvious. That’s definitely a good thing, because the Crafter feels every bit as dynamic as the smaller model.

Its steering is fast and responsive, and the ride is smooth and comfortable, feeling even better with a load in the back. We’d recommend the 138bhp engine (available across all configurations), especially as it then allows you to specify the eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The six-speed manual gearbox is slick with a clean action, so it’s pretty sophisticated for a large van and perfectly adequate for the majority of users. The eight-speeder is a superb automatic, though. It’s the only one in a large van we'd consider, other than the Himatic transmission of the Iveco Daily.

Volkswagen Crafter image
Skip the showroom and find out more online

The 138bhp 2.0-litre engine has almost instant power and torque, pulling effortlessly from just a few revs above idle. Braking performance is also impressive, and needs to be given that the Crafter is available in several weights and can tow up to 3.5 tonnes.

The party piece, though, is an electromechanical steering system. It means you can get a range of driver assistance functions, including driver attention monitoring, lane-keeping assistance, and parking and trailer assistance.

VW Crafter right driving


The interior layout, fit and finish

One of Volkswagen’s main aims for the Crafter was to reduce stress on the driver. That means reducing noise, with a more refined engine and improved sound deadening, but also making the interior a better place to spend time.

There’s a much greater emphasis on ergonomics, too, with a particularly comfortable driver’s seat, and there's more usable space. There are three open areas above the dashboard with two cupholders, while the dashboard itself is split horizontally, with cup-sized storage sections for the driver and passenger.

The infotainment screen is crisp and easily readable, even when bright light is shining across it, and the system is logical and easy to use. The door compartment storage is split into three segments, of which the largest, central section is big enough to hold folders or water bottles.

Entry-level Startline trim has storage under the passenger seat and a fold-down tray in the backrest for writing or using a laptop on. It also gets you a fully adjustable steering wheel, a 5in infotainment screen and a Bluetooth radio with USB connection.

If you upgrade to Trendline trim, you get a more comfortable driver’s seat with two-way lumbar adjustment, an armrest, cruise control, a multifunction steering wheel and electric heated door mirrors. It also upgrades the infotainment to a 6.5in system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.

VW Crafter interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

When you come to buy a VW Crafter, you’ll notice that the labelled length of the vehicle begins with an L3 model. That’s because the L1 and L2 lengths apply to the VW Transporter.

The short-wheelbase Crafter is the L3, the long-wheelbase is the L4 and the maxi extra-long van, which gets its extra length through an extension to the rear overhang, is known as the L5. Roof height designations work the same. H2 is for low-roof Crafters, H3 is for standard height and H4 is for high-roofs.

All those numbers mean the Crafter can transport volumes ranging from 9.9m3 for an L3H2 right up to 18.4m3 for the very biggest L5H4.  There are three different gross vehicle weights available, with a 3.0-tonne CR30, 3.5-tonne CR35 and a 5.0-tonne CR50 allowing payloads ranging from 784kg to 2621kg. Your run-of-the-mill 3.5-tonne van will transport up to a maximum of 1447kg.

Load lengths range from 3450mm to 4855mm, while standard height vans measure up at 1861mm. There's also the option of a lower roof with a 1726mm height or a super-high roof with 2196mm of head space – the largest of any van on the market.

A sliding side door with an aperture of 1311mm is standard on all models, along with 180-degree opening rear doors on Startline and 270-degree opening doors on Trendline vans.

VW Crafter load bay

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

As one of the latest van designs on the market, the current generation Volkswagen Crafter has a distinct advantage over many of its rivals. The technology is newer and many of the safety features are more advanced than its competitors offer.

The van’s new electromechanical steering is the key to this, and allows it to have extra features such as Trailer Assist, which helps when you're parking with a trailer, and the Park Steering Assist. They make it a much more appealing choice for someone looking to spend big on the best available van.

Other safety systems, including Cross Wind Assist and Lane Assist, use the more efficient steering system, too, while radar sensor systems are used for safety features, including Rear Traffic Assist and Side Assist. Emergency Brake Assist is fitted as standard on all models, providing automatic braking if there's the risk of a collision. As such, the Crafter successfully challenges the Mercedes Sprinter for the unofficial title of safest van on the road.

We’d suggest choosing the 138bhp model to get the majority of these features thrown in, but you can also pay to option them on other versions if they are valuable to you. For example, Park Steering Assist might seem like an unnecessary extra, but if you or other drivers are not used to manoeuvring such a big vehicle, it could save you thousands in repair bills.

For all the latest van reviews, news, advice, and videos visit our dedicated van section here

About the author

George Barrow is one of the leading van and truck reviewers, and is the UK’s only representative on the prestigious International Van of the Year jury. He has written about vans and commercial vehicles for the past 15 years, and can be found in titles including The Sun and What Van?, alongside What Car?.

Barrow is well regarded in the commercial vehicle industry, securing access to the latest models – and the people who made them – long before other titles.


VW Crafter interior infotainment


  • It’s the largest van Volkswagen produces, and is often used as a basis for camper conversions, flat-bed trucks and other emergency vehicles.

  • It should be pretty dependable. There are a few points to watch out for, but for the most part the Crafter has a good reputation for reliability, as do all Volkswagen vans.

  • The Crafter’s battery is located beneath the front passenger-side footwell. To access it, you’ll need to remove the sill trim piece and floor panel, and the battery then sits beneath a metal cover.

  • No, and there are currently no plans to do so. The current Crafter is expected to continue on sale in the UK until the next generation arrives, probably in 2026.

  • The Crafter’s length ranges from six to 7.4 metres, depending on which version you go for. The low-roof Crafter measures 2.3 metres in height, while the tallest version tops out at 2.8 metres. All versions of the Crafter are 2.4 metres wide.

  • Yes, but it's only available as a left-hand-drive vehicle and is no longer sold new in the UK. If you want to read about it, see our VW e-Crafter review.