A practical workhorse has arrived in the What Van? car park, a far cry in several ways from the Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian that it has replaced.
Our new long-term test vehicle is the facelifted Volkswagen Caddy Maxi, and as we wanted a vehicle to double up as a working tool and family transporter, we’ve gone for the Kombi version with sliding rear doors leading to folding three-seat bench.  
The Kombi only comes with the 102hp 1.6 TDI engine, the mid-power version of the three main units in the Caddy range. Though there is the excellent DSG automatic gearbox on offer, we’ve decided to save the £1400 and stick with the five-speed manual ‘box.
Excluding VAT, our Salsa Red Kombi is priced at £14,910, with those rear seats adding £500 to the price of the regular van. Standard equipment can’t be described as generous, with a rubber floor load area covering, remote central locking and ESP anti-skid control pretty much completing the luxuries. We’ve added £1115 of optional extras, consisting of electric windows and mirrors for £280, an audio upgrade for £355, leather multi-functional steering wheel with trip computer for £280 and the dealer-fit £166 media interface with £14 lead and £20 iPod adaptor. Given the summer we had, we’ve gambled and not spent the hefty £785 that would have brought air conditioning. It remains to be seen whether staying true to the van’s frugal roots and sticking with what VW calls the “manually controlled heating system” is a prudent move or sticky mistake.
Obviously the Kombi’s nature as a passenger-carrying vehicle does eat into the load space, which drops from 4.2m3 to a volume of 1.6..
The top-hinged rear tailgate has a heated window complete with wiper, which will help visibility but means we’ll have to get used to all and sundry being able to have a peer at whatever is left in the load area, and the interior doesn’t even have a glove box of note, let alone anywhere to stash an iPod away from prying eyes.
But the 102hp engine seems lively enough for what will be a mainly urban-based existence, and the combined fuel economy figure of 49.6mpg is welcome after spending six months in the company of that significantly less frugal Mitsubishi L200. It remains to be seen how the Caddy’s five-speed gearbox copes with higher-speed runs round the motorway when it gets a chance to stretch its legs, but we’ll find out in the not-too-distant future I’m sure.