It may not have come with all the bells and whistles, but our hardworking light van put in an impressive shift over the past six months. James Dallas bids it farewell.
March saw the What Van? fleet bid farewell to its trusty workhorse, the VW Caddy Maxi Kombi.
The five-seat, long wheelbase version of the Caddy light van proved equally adept as both a family vehicle and working load lugger.
It arrived with 4500 miles on the clock and by the time it left we’d added another 6000-plus. It made several jaunts to the West Country and undertook one epic journey to Scotland for a family Christmas, but most of its time was spent ducking and weaving in the city.
Whatever the driving environment, our Caddy could be relied upon to get on with it without fuss – a testament to the reliability of the 102hp 1.6-litre TDI drivetrain and the manufacturer’s legendary, rock-solid build quality.
With the emphasis on urban driving we struggled to match VW’s official combined cycle fuel consumption of 49.6mpg but did steadily manage to improve our average to about 40mpg. The exception was when vehicle security firm Cobra fitted its speed limiter, set to a maximum of 62mph. This pushed consumption up to 57mpg on the motorway but that has to be balanced against increased journey times and the need to adopt a very different driving style, particularly when negotiating lane changes.
The five-speed manual transmission was satisfyingly crisp and predictable and combined well with the steering, which is steady and precise. On long hikes we occasionally missed having a sixth gear but not as much as we regretted the absence of cruise control. In urban environments the lack of a parking sensor could also lead to a rise in stress levels, so forking out £111 excluding VAT for the Reversing Aid Kit could make sense.
Another bugbear was the lack of efficiency of the temperature controls. In cold weather the heater seemed to take an age to warm up the cabin, which is exposed to a maximum 4.1m³ load space if the back seats are folded away, while on hot summer days the lack of aircon (an option for £785 ) caused occupants to get hot under the collar, especially those in the rear seats where the windows do not open.
VW is to be commended that ESP anti-skid control comes as standard, but, aside from a rubber floor load area covering and remote central locking, not much else does. We added £1115-worth of options (see spec panel, right), including an iPod adaptor. This dangled into the open glove box, making it prudent to remember to remove your iPod when parked, but was nevertheless effective. The van’s audio display is good, enabling you to select by artist, album or song list and telling you how long each track lasts. The six-disc CD changer on the dashboard also helped the time to pass more pleasantly on long journeys.
There is a handy display on the dash between the speedometer and rev counter allowing the driver to check average and real-time fuel consumption, journey time and distance covered as well as how many miles are left in the tank.
Over the past six months we may not have tested our Kombi’s 638kg payload to capacity but we’ve regularly filled its load space with everything from garden waste, household goods for charity and defunct electrical equipment to the kids’ Christmas bounty.
Overall it proved itself to be a thoroughly competent performer with the engine, transmission and build quality particularly impressive. A little more standard kit for the price would make it easily the most compelling choice in the sector.