Vans of the Year

Date: Monday, December 8, 2008


Volkswagen Caddy

Launched just over a year ago, Volkswagen’s solidly constructed Caddy Maxi Van offers fans of the standard Caddy who need a bit more cargo space exactly what they are looking for. It boasts a 4.2m3 load box as opposed to its little brother’s 3.2m3 thanks to a longer wheelbase and a slightly greater rear overhang.

There’s good news on the engine front; one sound reason for gifting Caddy Maxi What Van?’s Editor’s Choice award for 2008. Maxi is up for grabs with a 2.0-litre diesel pumping out a healthy 140hp plus maximum torque of 320Nm. It comes with a six-speed gearbox plus a particulate trap as standard.

If you don’t fancy that — and we can’t for the life of us think why you wouldn’t — then you can always opt for a 105hp 1.9-litre diesel instead. Thinking about it there’s a sound reason why you might choose the less-powerful of the two units and that’s because it can be ordered with the optional and utterly superb six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox.

DSG can be used either as a manual or as an automatic but unfortunately it cannot for the moment be combined with the 2.0-litre engine. In passing it’s worth noting that while the 1.9-litre doesn’t come with a particulate trap as standard, it does if you decide to marry it to the DSG box.

Caddy Maxi’s top payload is 800kg, which means it can compete with quite a few of the smaller full-sized panel vans when it comes to weight shifting. It can even haul a braked trailer with a gross weight of up to 1,500kg.

Access to the cargo bay is via a sliding door on each side plus twin asymmetric rear doors with the narrower of the two on the right-hand side. Both can be swung through 170° if you release the stays. Eight load tie-down points are provided and it’s good to see a full-height bulkhead.

We’ve no quarrel whatsoever with the driving position. There’s plenty of head, leg and shoulder room, and both the steering wheel and the seat are height-adjustable.

Out on the road the 2.0-litre Caddy in particular packs plenty of punch, but whichever engine you pick you’ll get a van with VW’s usual precise gearchange. You’ll be in charge of a van that rides well too, and is manoeuvrable enough to allow you to wriggle into some surprisingly tight parking spaces.

Caddy and Caddy Maxi are being developed along two, slightly contradictory, fronts. On the one hand VW is busy promoting the low environmental impact BlueMotion Caddy as well as one that will run on environmentally friendly compressed natural gas, while on the other it’s busy promoting a fun-to-drive Sportline variant.

While anything that cuts harmful exhaust emissions and reduces a firm’s carbon footprint has to be welcomed, we’ll leave you to guess which of the three What Van?’s leaden-footed editor will pick if he gets the chance. However he might just fancy the 4x4 Caddy that’s also on its way; just what you want if you need something that will allow you to cope with some typical British slush and ice.


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