The Caddy light van has become a mainstay of Volkswagen’s commercial vehicle line-up since its emergence in panel van form in 1995 when the second-generation version was launched.
The model originated in North America in 1978 as the Golf-based Rabbit pick-up before migrating to Europe in 1982 under the name it has kept ever since.
The Caddy quickly established a reputation for unimpeachable build quality and dependability, and to date, VW has sold 2.5 million units worldwide.
The manufacturer introduced the current, third-generation Caddy and long-wheelbase Caddy Maxi models in 2003, utilising the platforms brought in for the mk5 Golf and Touran passenger cars.
VW facelifted the third-generation Caddy and Caddy Maxi vans in 2010, and by the end of 2014, UK sales of this vintage of the light commercial vehicle had exceeded 128,000 units.
But last year, the Caddy (including the Maxi) was only the fourth best-selling light van in the UK with 9719 units shifted, according to the SMMT, a sharp drop of more than 25% compared with 2013. It finished behind the Peugeot Partner, Citroen Berlingo and Ford’s new Transit Connect, though ahead of the Fiat Doblo Cargo.
The German brand is now gearing up to unleash the fourth-generation model into a sector where competition has intensified in recent years. The Connect is still in the first flush of youth, the Partner, Berlingo and Doblo Cargo have all been refreshed this year, and, since the Caddy’s last revision, Mercedes has entered the light van segment with its Citan.
The new Caddy range will not arrive in the UK until September - with prices ranging from £13,500 to £21,455.
However, What Van? was granted an early opportunity to appraise the van on the international launch in late May.
The new derivative does not look much different from its predecessor, although it has gained a sharper appearance at the front, with crease lines either side of the bonnet, plus it gets new lights at both the front and back.
It’s all about evolution rather than revolution for VW Commercial Vehicles, and the Caddy delivers none of the radical styling changes that distinguish Ford’s new Transit Connect from its dowdy, functional forerunner.
As VW Commercial’s design chief Albert-Johann Kirzinger says: “We stick to the tried and tested – we are building from a strong base.” Perhaps mishievously, he goes on to suggest Ford drastically changed the look of its van line-up as a matter of necessity.
Under the surface, however, there is a raft of new safety and fuel-saving technology on the new Caddy.
The van will come with a selection of Euro6 and Euro5 diesel engines with power ranging from 75hp to 150hp, although the Euro5 engines will be phased out when the more stringent Euro6 technology becomes mandatory in September 2016.
The four petrol engines, consisting of 1.0, 1.2 and a pair of 1.4 drivetrains that the brand will launch in mainland European markets, will not initially come to the UK but could be introduced later if there is sufficient demand, according to VW. Ford offers its 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol unit on the Connect, but admits it will account for no more than 5% of volume.
All Euro6 diesel engines will be 2.0-litre powertrains already in use on VW’s passenger car range and, aside from the most frugal Bluemotion unit, all will feature Bluemotion Technology with stop/start as standard. The most powerful model will be the 150hp version, which is the only one in the UK scheduled to get the seven-speed DSG semi-automatic twin-clutch transmission.
The Euro5 line-up will continue to feature the 1.6-litre TDI with outputs of 75hp and 102hp as well as the 140hp 2.0 TDI.
VW claims the Euro6 102hp 2.0-litre Bluemotion unit will achieve more than 67mpg with CO2 emissions of 109g/km. This makes the Caddy competitive, but not the most economical light van on the market.
Ford’s official figures for the Econetic version of its Transit Connect are identical to the Bluemotion – 67.3mpg and 109g/km – and Fiat Professional cites economy of 64.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 115g/km for its 1.3-litre Doblo Cargo Ecojet. The greenest Citroen Berlingo achieves fuel consumption of 68.9mpg coupled with CO2 output of 109g/km, as dies PSA sibling Peugeot with its Partner.
The most efficient Caddy available currently is the 1.6 diesel Bluemotion, which has official fuel consumption of 61.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km.
The Euro6 engines will require regular topping up with the urea-based Adblue solution, which is carried in an additional eight-litre tank housed in the engine bay. VW says the vehicles will need Adblue refills at gaps of between 6000 and 10,000km (3700–6200 miles) depending on use and driving style.
There will be a price premium for the Euro6 engines, but the manufacturer says costs associated with Adblue will be compensated by 15% better fuel economy across the range.
As well as the DSG auto transmission, the mk4 Caddy will be up for grabs with five- and six-speed manual gearboxes, depending on the model.
The load dimensions will remain pretty much the same as they are in the current vans. The new Caddy will continue to be offered in two body lengths: the standard van has a wheelbase of 2681mm while the Maxi extends to 3006mm. Load volumes are likely to remain at 3.2m3 and 4.2m3 respectively, but VW claims the top payload for UK derivatives could increase to 832kg, compared with the current maximum of 767kg.
This means the new van will not attempt to match the 1.0-tonne payloads offered by the Transit Connect, Fiat Doblo Cargo or Vauxhall Combo, or offer a derivative with the 5.0m3 load space available with the Doblo Cargo XL.
The loadspace is accessed by either two rear doors, which can swing through from 90° to 180° or, if preferred, by a windowless tailgate. A nearside sliding door is standard, and one on the offside can be added as an option.
Another option to help accommodate long items is a ladder flap at the rear of the roof, while a ‘Flexi seat’ can be specified for the front passenger side. This enables the seat to fold down and partially sink into the floor to facilitate the loading of longer items.
In terms of safety equipment, VW has worked hard to ensure the new Caddy matches the standards set by its German rival Mercedes. The Caddy will be available with side and curtain airbags as standard on all trims.
A ‘front assist’ surround monitoring system to shorten stopping distances and Emergency Braking to reduce the risk of rear-end shunts at low speeds will be available as options, but impressively,
Post-Collision Braking, which reduces the severity of secondary crashes by automatically applying the brakes if the driver is no longer able to do so is a standard fit on all vans. According to VW, 22% of accidents involving injuries are the result of collisions with more than one obstacle.
Park Pilot rear reversing sensors come on board when you step up to Trendline specification.
The manufacturer has committed to installing cruise control with a driver-operated speed limiter as a standard fit, but has also confirmed that Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) will be optional. This can be activated at speeds of up to 100mph and automatically slows down the van if it gets too close to the vehicle in front. In combination with the DSG transmission, ACC can slow the van to a complete stop, which can be useful in heavy traffic. Light Assist is another extra-cost item – it automatically dims the headlamps when an oncoming vehicle approaches.
VW is bringing the optional Park Assist system over from its passenger car range. It can be activated at speeds of up to 24mph by pressing a button on the dash. The driver indicates which side of the road they wish to park, and once ultrasound sensors have detected a big enough space, the manoeuvre begins once reverse gear is selected. The driver operates the accelerator and brake while Park Assist takes care of the steering and slows the speed to a maximum 5mph.
The first van we drove was a 150hp 2.0-litre Caddy Maxi with the seven-speed DSG transmission, which came loaded with all the driver aids and safety kit listed above. Taut suspension contributes to a reassuringly firm but supportive ride and the handling is impressively sharp.
The gear change is extremely slick with no lurching or delays during rapid acceleration, and there is more than enough power on tap to cope with long motorway stretches or overtaking on A and B roads. The steering is also precise and responsive and imparted confidence when negotiating a series of tight hairpinw bends during a drive through a hilly coastal route. Ford is renowned for producing vans that are good to drive, but the new Transit Connect may have met its match in this derivative at least of VW’s latest light van contender.
The agility of the Caddy Maxi belies its size and you have to remind yourself that you are behind the wheel of an LCV rather than a hatchback. The manufacturer claims the 150hp engine has a top speed of 125mph, meaning it can comfortably handle long-haul assignments involving lengthy motorway stretches travelling at the national speed limit, and can accelerate from 0–62mph in little more than nine seconds. And the van is so refined and well bolted together that the cabin’s occupants are hardly ever bothered by the intrusion of wind or road noise.
The 150hp powertrain provides 340Nm of torque at 1750rpm, but once back in an urban environment the Caddy Maxi keeps its muscle under wraps and exhibits excellent road manners, with the stop/start system operating seamlessly at junctions and traffic lights.
While the cockpit is less overtly stylish than others, particularly that of the Connect, and a little staid by comparison, everything is where you want it to be. The steering column is adjustable for rake and reach and the driver’s seat is comfortbale and includes lumbar support. The infotainment system is intuitive and comes with Bluetooth, USB and auxilliary connectivity, and our van was fitted with satellite navigation with a 6.3-inch touchscreen.
The display works with proximity sensors, which means when you place your finger near the touchscreen it automatically switches from display to input mode. In display mode, the screen is discreetly uncluttered so as not to distract the driver.
The cab contains 17 storage spaces, according to VW, including an overhead shelf and two cup holders in the centre console, and there is a 12V socket on top of the dash.
We also tried out the Bluemotion Caddy, which gets the Euro6 2.0-litre 102hp engine linked to the five-speed manual transmission with a modified spread of gears to further reduce fuel consumption.
Other fuel-saving aids are low-rolling resistance tyres, battery regeneration, more efficient engine control and a ride height lowered by 27mm.
While obviously less suited to long journeys with heavy loads than the 150hp unit, the engine is refined with no noticeable lack of power, and the transmission operates smoothly in all driving condition
Not radically restyled but the new Caddy/Caddy Maxi leads the class in terms of safety technology and refinement and is a match for the best when it comes to drivability.