Vans of the Year

Date: Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Volkswagen Caddy

Volkswagen’s Caddy is a versatile light van with an enviable build quality for its market sector. Available as a short- and long-wheelbase (Maxi) van, the latter can also be had as a five-seater Window Van and a seven-seater MPV, the Life. Load space ranges from 0.5m3 (Life) up to 4.2m3 for the Maxi Van and gross payloads go from 618kg to 800kg.

Diesel is the only fuel option, but there’s a choice of three engines. The least powerful is a normally aspirated 69hp 2.0-litre (SDI) and the highest power is produced by a 140hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel. Sitting neatly in between these two is a 1.9-litre turbo capable of 104hp. The SDI is reserved solely for the Caddy Van while the other two can be specified in any derivation.

Caddy is front-wheel drive and comes with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard on all models bar those with the 2.0TDI engine; they get a six-speeder. There is, however, a way of having a six-speed ’box mated to the 1.9TDI engine. It’s something that comes with the What Van? seal of approval and is one of the reasons Caddy has picked up the Editor’s Choice Award for 2010, making it two in a row. We’re talking about VW’s semi-automatic Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG).

It can be used either as a manual or as an automatic and it employs two wet clutches, in effect turning it into two gearboxes rolled into one. One clutch takes care of all the even-numbered gears while its stablemate looks after those with odd numbers, plus reverse. What this means is that there’s no loss of traction when the ’box changes gear. In effect the next gear is always pre-selected.

The floor-mounted gearlever looks like a conventional automatic transmission shift, with ‘D’ for Drive supplemented by ‘S’ for Sport. Switch to that setting and changes will occur at higher engine speeds. Flick the lever to the left at any speed you like and you can use the ’box in the way you would a manual. Shove the stick forwards and you go up the gears, pull it back and you come back down again.

Nor do you risk stalling when you are in manual mode. If you are approaching a roundabout, for example, and forget to change down, DSG will do it for you. A dashboard display tells you which position you’ve selected when you’re in automatic mode and which gear you are in if you switch to manual. Manual or auto, there’s a small amount of ‘creep’ built into the system to make parking and low-speed manoeuvring a doddle.

DSG combined with Caddy’s excellent steering and handling make it a pleasure to drive. The 104hp on tap is more than adequate in combination with the six forward gear ratios and gets our recommendation ahead of the 140hp 2.0-litre and it’s manual six gears, even in body-kitted, low profile tyred Sportline trim.

The only real downside is the £1,000 that DSG adds to the bill, but take it from What Van?; it’s worth every penny. Now all we’re waiting for is a 2.0TDI Caddy fitted with the seven-speed DSG from the revised Transporter due to reach these shores in January.




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