The What Van? Road Test: Volkswagen Caddy

Date: Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Volkswagen has revamped the Caddy and its long-wheelbase variant the Caddy Maxi, with a modest external restyle and a specification boost that focuses on improved safety levels in particular.

The front-end is now reminiscent of the Transporter and the new Amarok pick-up, and there are re-designed light clusters at the back.
New common-rail diesel engines that meet Euro5 have been installed amid promises of up to 13% better fuel consumption plus lower emissions – a particulate filter is standard – while the Caddy Maxi is available with a 4Motion all-wheel drive system for the first time in the UK.
VW marketed the previous Caddy with the ability to run on compressed natural gas as an option, and this facility is available once again under the EcoFuel banner. How popular it will be is a moot point given the limited availability of CNG on UK forecourts; EcoFuel will also run on biomethane.
A better bet for the environmentally and cost-conscious operator may be a second-generation Bluemotion Technology diesel with a stop/start system – which prevents wasteful engine idling in traffic jams – low rolling-resistance tyres and revised gearing. The latest Bluemotion package is said to push fuel usage and harmful exhaust emissions down by up to 11.7% and 10% respectively compared with what was on offer before.
Payloads are up, ranging from 681kg to 766kg on the Caddy and 646kg to 753kg on the Caddy Maxi. The latter is also sold as a five-seater window van and as the seven-seater Maxi Life people carrier.

 

Cab

If you are looking for innovative and exciting interior styling, then forget it. A few minor changes have been implemented with the introduction of a three-spoke steering wheel that looks as though it has been borrowed from the Transporter, plus new controls for the air-conditioning system. Unfortunately, they cannot hide the fact that the interior is rather dull.
It is, however, well-put-together with quality materials – although the toggle on the driver’s door used to adjust the exterior rear-view mirrors electrically felt flimsy – and is eminently practical. Likely to be the best-seller in the range, the 102hp 1.6-litre diesel Caddy we got to grips with boasted a deep, full-width shelf above the windscreen, a large, open-fronted glove box and bins in each of the doors with mouldings for drink cans among other storage facilities.
No complaints about the driving position, or about vision ahead and to either side. And it’s good to see that the driver’s seat is adjustable for height, reach and rake and that the steering column is height- and rake-adjustable too.
Good as well to see clear, easy-to-read instruments, with the red needles on the rev counter and speedometer providing a welcome splash of colour.

Load area

Access to Caddy’s 3.2cu/m cargo area – the Caddy Maxi offers 4.2cu/m – comes courtesy of twin, asymmetric rear doors plus a nearside sliding door. The narrower of the two rear doors is on the offside and both doors are glazed and heated, with a wash/wipe system gracing the wider of the duo.
While rear glazing may aid the driver when reversing it does make loads vulnerable to theft, although at least the glass is sufficiently tinted to make it difficult for the light-fingered to see what’s inside. Opaque doors and reversing sensors are preferable though,
and happily the former can be specified at no extra charge. Sensors will cost £225.
The Caddy comes with half-a-dozen cargo tie-down points plus a full-height bulkhead. The top half is a plastic mesh, the bottom half is solid, and the section behind the driver bulges backwards into the load area to provide a bit more scope for seat adjustment.
Although the doors are protected to half their height with panels, the load area and its floor have no other significant defences against scratches and scrapes and will need timbering out.
Externally, the Caddy is protected by side rubbing strips – although that protection does not extend to the wheel arches – and while the van’s styling may not be inspiring, all those flat, uninterrupted body surfaces should make sign-writing a doddle.

 

Powertrain

A 75hp version of the new 1.6-litre TDI is available for the Caddy – although it’s the only engine derivative not offered in Caddy Maxi – alongside the 102hp variant. Both are married to a five-speed manual gearbox, and the latter can be ordered with the utterly superb semi-automatic seven-speed twin-clutch Direct Shift Gearbox.
Also available is the new 140hp 2.0-litre TDI hooked up to a six-speed manual box with a six-speed DSG offered as
an option. Based on a petrol engine, the CNG/biomethane- powered EcoFuel 2.0-litre pumps out 109hp and takes a five-speed manual.
While there is a limit to the number of variations that can be economically offered by any manufacturer, there were a few occasions when
the 102hp Volkswagen Caddy would have benefited from a sixth gear. To be fair though, those times were restricted to long high-speed motorway slogs – not the sort of work this particular model would be necessarily engaged in on a day-to-day basis.

 

Chassis and steering

Independent suspension is fitted at the front while a leaf-sprung axle helps support the rear. Anti-roll bars are installed front and back. Steel 15-inch wheels come as standard on most Caddy models – alloys can be specified at extra charge – shod in our case with Hankook Kinergy Eco 195/65 R15 tyres.
Electro-mechanical Servotronic power steering is employed, and designed to vary the feel depending on whether the vehicle is travelling at speed, being pushed hard through country lanes, or wriggling into a parking space. Wall-to-wall turning circle? 11.1m.

Performance

While What Van? prefers the response offered by hydraulically assisted steering, there is no denying that Servotronic works, and works well. Said to use less fuel, it offers ample feedback through the steering and undoubtedly benefits the Caddy’s precise, roll-free handling.
Point VW’s newcomer in the direction you want it to go in and it goes there, nor does the 102hp lump fall short on performance, allowing the Caddy to accelerate rapidly away from rest and pull strongly though the gears, with a smooth gear change helping the driver make the most of the power that is available.
Unfortunately, the driver will be doing so to the accompaniment of excessive amounts of wind and road roar. A lot of racket emanates from the rear of the vehicle, making the argument for a full load-area lining kit and a bulkhead solid to its full height a strong one.
If you like a firm, but not uncomfortable, ride, then you’ll like the Caddy, which copes well with rough road surfaces.

Equipment

The Caddy’s standard level of in-cab equipment is quite basic. There’s a driver’s airbag, an MP3-compatible radio/single CD player with two speakers, an aux-in socket and a 12V power point.
You pay extra for electric windows and electrically heated and adjustable exterior mirrors, which seems a bit mean. They come in a £280 plus VAT pack. However, there is a passenger airbag, priced at £775, which should be specified if you regularly despatch a driver plus a driver’s mate to jobs.
Looking elsewhere, it’s pleasing to see that this Caddy has a full-size spare wheel rather than the inflator/sealer provided in some models. While the extra weight of the former admittedly reduces payload capacity, the kit is of zero use if you slash a tyre wall while bouncing over a rubble-strewn construction side.

Buying and running

One of the big advantages of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in the UK is the strength of its dealer network. It has 67 outlets spread nationwide plus 29 authorised repairers. The former figure is scheduled to rise to 78 by 2015, the latter to 38.
The Caddy is protected by a three-year/100,000-mile warranty, including UK and European roadside assistance for the duration, a three-year paint warranty and a 12-year anti-corrosion perforation bodywork guarantee.
Fuel economy looks like being one of the vehicle’s strong suits. We averaged 48mpg, possibly as a consequence of taking notice of the gear shift indicator that now comes as standard.
The Caddy is on offer with a LongLife Service maintenance regime using synthetic lubricant, with no fixed oil-drain intervals. Instead, a light illuminates on the dashboard at anywhere between 9000 miles/one year and 18,000 miles/two years depending on the use to which the vehicle is put.
If you specify traditional lubricant instead then the interval is set at 10,000 miles/one year.

Safety

Safety is a pretty strong suit.
Electronic Stability Programme has become standard in a package that includes ABS, an electronic diff lock, traction control and engine braking control. EBD – Electronic Brakeforce Distribution – is a feature too, and disc brakes are fitted all round.
The hazard lights illuminate automatically if you have to brake heavily in an emergency, while the Caddy now comes with daytime running lights. Adaptive cornering lights are among the options.
Remote central locking with deadlocks is included in the deal – you can use a button on the driver’s door to lock the doors too – and an engine immobiliser is fitted. Finally, one advantage of the full-height bulkhead is that if somebody breaks into the cab they cannot get into the cargo area, and vice versa.

 

History – from the former Yugoslavia to Australia

 Volkswagen’s Caddy first broke cover in 1982, not as a van, but as a Golf-based pick-up assembled in the former Yugoslavia. Back in those days there was a strong and long-established market for small pick-ups – does anybody out there remember the open-backed versions of the original Mini and the Morris Minor? – but it was eclipsed by a steady switch to the big one-tonne capacity models we see today.
A Caddy Van did not debut until 1995 and was not sold solely by VW. Seat marketed it in re-badged guise as the Inca and used it to replace its own Terra van, which was rather like a chicken coop on wheels.
Built at Poznan in Poland, and not offered by Seat, the Caddy in its current shape was unveiled in September 2003 and went on sale in the UK in March 2004. The bigger Caddy Maxi joined the range in October 2007, going on sale on this side of the Channel in February 2008.
The outgoing models have been among VW’s top-selling commercial vehicles in the UK and are highly popular in markets as far apart as Germany and Australia.
The latest, revamped, Caddy and Caddy Maxi were launched at the IAA Hanover Commercial Vehicle Show in Germany last September and first appeared in Britain last November.
 

Verdict

Improved and appealing van with the advantage of badge-appeal to back it up.
The What Van? Road Test Rating: 78%



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