Eddie Cunningham: 'I take my woolly hat off 'to the people who drive vans for a living... people don't give you an inch'
Focus on VW Crafter
I only needed a van, not an apartment on wheels. Honestly, there was more room in the Volkswagen Crafter van I had for two bits of days to shift a few things than some of the one-bed apartments for sale or rent.
Yes, I needed a fair bit of room, but what I loaded was dwarfed by the interior capacity.
Secondly, I take my woolly hat off (it was cold on one of the days) to the people who drive vans (or large vehicles of any kind for that matter) for a living. Especially within the thick traffic confines of towns and cities (where some equally thick people occupy our roads).
Now, I'll drive anything and have chanced my arm at most vehicles over the years at home and abroad, but it's a different world out there in the real world.
So many people in other non-commercial vehicles don't give you an inch, as if they had priority. With a long wheelbase Crafter, for example, you need to swing a little wider than with a car so as not to hop off the corner of the footpath or skim a car parked close to a junction. Does anyone else care? Well, yes to be fair. Other van and truck drivers do, but men in their saloons and ladies in their SUVs didn't.
It opened my eyes. I probably hadn't given van drivers a second thought, up to now anyway. Now I'm watching for all the different shapes and sizes and reminding myself of the challenges they face daily.
I also should point out that their numbers and activity more accurately reflect the real, active economy and how it is faring than anything else on four wheels.
Even though my new 181-reg Crafter had long wheelbase and high roof (HR), giving the voluminous capacity, it wasn't hard to manoeuvre at all (when given half a chance by others).
It's long, for sure, but the double wing mirrors gave me great rear perspective (especially at how close some car drivers were tailgating).The lower segments of the mirrors were excellent whenever I was reversing in a gateway.
The driving position was exceptional (there are adjoining seats for two passengers/helpers too) and let me safely keep in lane on narrow roads. The seats were really as good as you'd get in a mainstream car, maybe better than some.
The dash was simple, straightforward and uncluttered, and spec even stretched to voice control.
There are lots of nooks and crannies, including overhead slots, in the cabin, and I lost count of lashing points in the cargo area.
But I have to repeat, the high driving position was something else. Even Range Rovers looked like dinky toys from my vantage point.
The sliding side door was handy for offloading, meaning I could pull up directly outside a drop zone. I used the two-piece rear doors - right to the roof - for loading. A simple step made lifting stuff a lot less of a huff-and-puff affair than I anticipated.
Speaking of puff, I did notice crosswinds on the motorway, though they have a side-wind compensation system.
I'm not going to go all technical because those who drive and own these vehicles know far more than I.
But I will say that if this Polish-built Crafter is a measure of what a van currently constitutes, then we have come a long way.
If only some of the other drivers had come as far. Please, give some thought to those making their living in commercials and trucks. The roads are not just reserved for cars and SUVs, you know.
* Volkswagen Crafter, 2litre diesel
* My long wheelbase, high roof: 6,836mm; MWB high roof 5,986mm long
* Range starts €28,345 incl VAT. Price of 6spd manual model driven, €38,340. Road tax: €333; 7.6l/100km, 198g/kwrm.
* LWB HR 3,500kg; payload 1,344Kg
* Towing capacity 3,000kg
* 75-litre fuel tank
* composition media- touchscreen; mobile phone interface, 12v sockets, lashing rings for load restraint, hill start assist, sliding door, dual passenger seat. Options: Composition media with 8ins touchscreen, four 12-V outlets, full-width rear step, front fogs/cornering light