Volkswagen’s fourth generation Caddy arrived in UK showrooms in September sporting what the manufacturer calls “a striking new look that incorporates the very latest Volkswagen design language”.
But when it comes to style, VW is the most conservative of brands and more accurate is its assertion that the new van “builds on the strengths of its predecessor”.
When parked side by side, it took some time before we could tell the third and fourth generation models apart.
After a while one can discern the restyled headlights, sharper wings and bonnet, new alloy wheels, mouldings and slightly more angular edges to the front doors, but all these changes are subtle to say the least.
Differences at the rear are easier to spot: the tailgate is now unglazed for a start, although windows can be chosen if preferred, there is a modest spoiler on the roof and a high level third brake light.
The cabin remains sober but is smart and even more functional than before with a redesigned dash, centre console and switchgear. Every model now also gets a colour touchscreen as standard.
Initially the fourth generation Caddy is available with three Euro 5 diesel engines, 75 and 102hp versions of the 1.6-litre unit and a 2.0-litre powertrain with 140hp on tap. These are joined by the Euro 6 2.0-litre engine with outputs of 102 and 150hp. The 1.6-litre drivetrain, however, will bow out, along with Euro 5 emissions technology, in September 2016. VW has confirmed that the petrol engines launched in mainland Europe, with drivetrains of 1.0, 1.2 and 1.4-litres will come to the UK early next year.
The brand offers the new Caddy in its familiar three trim levels, Startline, Trendline and Highline but a stand alone Bluemotion derivative is also available.
VW claims the Euro 6 Bluemotion, which gets the 2.0-litre 102hp engine combined with five-speed manual transmission, is the most frugal Caddy ever.
It comes with the four elements making up Bluemotion Technology, cruise control, hill hold assist, start/stop and energy recuperation (battery regeneration when braking), which is optional with Euro 5 but standard on Euro 6 models, and adds a lowered chassis, aero-dynamic covered wheels and more efficient engine management to the mix.
Official fuel economy is 65.7mpg with CO2 output of 114g/km. This drops some way short of the 68.9mpg and 109g/km CO2 Citroen and Peugeot respectively claim for their greenest Berlingo and Partner models.
But the Bluemotion, we can attest, combines its frugality with impressive performance.
A VW spokeswoman explains the Bluemotion is close to the entry-level Startline in specification with options restricted to keep down its weight.
“It squeezes each and every thing out of the engine in consumption-related features, it’s stripped down,” she says.
The Bluemotion has no spare wheel, no tow bar and can only be specced with the smallest alloys.
Caddy product manager Kelly Brown, adds: “To keep the weight down it has to be more or less a Startline.”
There is a slight price premium for Bluemotion, it costs £15,930 compared to £15,470 for the equivalent Bluemotion Technology version, says Kelly.
Perhaps surprisingly, VW expects the Bluemotion to account for only 5% of Caddy sales with the standard Euro 6 102hp fleet favourite Startline derivative emerging as the best seller overall.
Carl Zu Dohna, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle’s brand manager, predicts: “Customers will go for Euro 5 until they are forced to take Euro 6.”
He says this is less to do with any aversions with having to adapt to Ad Blue but more because customers are always inclined to stick with what they know. He adds the brand’s 71 Van Centres have been educated as to how to instruct customers about Ad Blue usage.
Admittedly the Bluemotion we tested had no load in the back but we detected no loss of power from an engine geared to maximize economy. The van more than held its own on motorways and the handling on country B-roads was sprightly and agile with precise steering and the five speed manual ‘box delivering slick changes. In fact for driving performance, we reckon the new Caddy could give the Ford Transit Connect a run for its money.
Our only gripe would be that when pushing the van hard, the upper mesh bulkhead separating the occupants from the load box allows a fair amount of road noise to intrude into the cabin.
A driver’s seat with height, reach and rake adjustment together with a reach and rake adjustable steering column make it easy to find the best driving position and decent storage facilities include four drinks holders, an overhead shelf and lockable glove box. As with most eco-focused models, the Bluemotion does not get air-con but on the plus side, DAB radio is standard.
Six load lashing rings are provided in the cargo bay to secure goods and a pair of door-activated lights make it easy to see what you’re doing.
Volkswagen Caddy Bluemotion EU6 2.0 TDI 102hp
Price (ex VAT) £15,930
Price range (ex VAT) £13.500 – £21.455
Insurance group TBC
Service intervals 18,000mls
Load length 1781mm
Load width (min/max) 1172mm/1340mm
Load bay height 1244mm
Gross payload 549kg
Load volume 3.2m3
Engine size/power 1968cc/102hp
On sale September
Combined fuel economy 65.7mpg
An extremely competent and well put together van that is on a par with the best in the sector, although its styling may be too conservative for some tastes.