Volkswagen Caddy van review
Volkswagen’s latest Caddy compact van is a great all-rounder with few weak points
The Caddy has served as VW’s small van since 1978 and only clocked up four generations over that time. The original Mk1 Caddy was sold all the way up to 2003 but since then the pace of change has increased and this Mk4 version builds on the solid platform laid down by the 2003 Mk3, which sold 1.5 million units worldwide.
The fourth-generation Caddy looks like a facelift of its predecessor but while the styling is evolutionary the crucial bits beneath are thoroughly overhauled. The platform remains but the engines and technology now come from the Volkswagen passenger car drawer, while suspension and interior updates also enhance the package.
The Caddy van is offered in standard and long-wheelbase guises with window van and Combi 5-seater versions supplementing the line-up. The Caddy Life is a more salubrious MPV version that takes its place in the passenger car range. Load volumes are 3.2m3 in the standard model and 4.2m3 in the Maxi.
In the engine bay a range of Euro5 and Euro6 diesel engines do the donkeywork, although a TSI turbocharged petrol engine will also arrive in the UK. The diesel power outputs range from 74bhp to a meaty 148bhp - but it’s the middle-ranking 101bhp unit that’s expected to account for up to 80% of sales. This unit forms the basis of the efficiency-focused Caddy BlueMotion that returns around 70mpg.
The Caddy goes head-to-head with the likes of Ford’s Transit Connect, the Fiat Doblo Cargo and the Mercedes Citan in the compact van sector and VW is hoping that the technology count on the latest model will give it van an edge. Higher spec versions get the latest VW infotainment system, while the options list harbours advanced driver aids including City Emergency Braking and Adaptive Cruise Control.
MPG and Running Costs
The Caddy van engine range is split between Euro5 and Euro6 units with the Euro6 contingent set to go it alone when the emissions standards become mandatory in September 2016.
It’s Volkswagen’s SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) technology that gets the Caddy over the line for Euro6 NOx emissions by injecting AdBlue urea solution into the exhaust gasses. If you want to go even greener, the BlueMotion derivative uses aerodynamic tweaks, revised gear ratios, low rolling resistance tyres and an ECU remap to deliver combined cycle CO2 emissions of 104g/km and over 70mpg.
Load Space and Practicality
Two wheelbase options (2,681mm in the standard van and 3,006mm in the Maxi) produce load volumes of 3.2m3 or 4.2m3 in the Caddy. There’s no high roof option so the van can’t quite match the biggest cargo spaces in the compact van class but a maximum payload of 857kg is competitive.
The load length is 1,779mm and access at the rear is via either asymmetrically split side hinged rear doors or a lifting tailgate. A sliding side door with a 700mm opening is also standard and a second can be added on the opposite flank as an option.
The side-hinged rear doors open to 90 degrees, but flick the latches and they’ll swing out to 180 degrees for better access. Objects of up to 1,172mm can then be slid in between the wheelarches. Further options include a ladder flap in the roof and a ‘Flex Seat’ on the passenger side that folds down and drops into the floor to increase the potential load length to 3,000mm on the standard van.
The Caddy seems reassuringly sturdy around the loading bay, with chunky door handles, half height interior panelling and wide sill protectors made of tough plastic. The load floor has six lashing eyes and you get another two on the longer Maxi model.
Reliability and Safety
Standard safety equipment on the Caddy is generous and the options list harbours an impressive package of driver aids.
Side and curtain airbags are available in addition to the driver and passenger airbags that come as standard. Then there’s the Front Assist technology that monitors the distance to obstacles at the front of the vehicle and sounds an audible warning if they become ‘critical’. The system also primes the brakes for an emergency stop if it thinks a collision could be imminent. Emergency City Braking will actually apply the brakes at low speeds to prevent, or lessen the impact of, a collision.
In addition to this, Caddy customers can specify Adaptive Cruise Control, which maintains a set speed and a set distance to the car in front, Light Assist, which dips the main beam to avoid dazzling drivers of oncoming traffic, and Driver Alert, which detects changes in driving style that could indicate tiredness and sounds a warning.
Driving and Performance
While the 74bhp and 101bhp engines in Caddy’s Euro5 diesel range have a 1.6-litre capacity the new Euro6 units are all 2.0-litre items. That means 74bhp, 101bhp and 148bhp options delivering 225Nm, 250Nm and 340Nm maximum torque outputs respectively.
The entry-level 74bhp option takes a laborious 16.5s to reach 62mph and that’s without any cargo on board. This might be an explanation as to why 80% of Caddy buyers take the mid-spec 101bhp unit. This engine does the 0-62mph blast in a reasonable 12s and felt usefully lively in the unlaiden vans we tested. Throttle response is particularly sharp and although engine noise is prevalent at low speeds, it settles down nicely on the motorway.
For most there will be no real need to step up to the 148bhp range topper but rest assured, it’s a serious hunk of engine to fit to a compact van. The difference over the 101bhp unit isn’t really felt at low speeds but in the middle and upper parts of the rev range there’s some serious muscle. It makes the Caddy one of the few vans in this class to dip under the 10s barrier for the 0-62mph sprint. Its time of 9.2s is rapid for a commercial vehicle.
The Caddy van achieves a composed, planted feel on the road with direct steering, a decent gear change and well judged pedal weights. It doesn’t feel as light on its feet as a Fiat Doblo or a Ford Transit Connect but it’s a classier proposition than either in terms of its all round driving experience.
The suspension deals with rough road surfaces very well, smoothing out the bumps and achieving a stable feel at speed even without a load on board. The rear end copes less competently with larger bumps, dropping off speed humps and into potholes a little too harshly but some cargo weight on that rear axle should help this. Volkswagen offers its impressive DSG twin clutch automatic on some models and it's a good option for buyers spending most of their time in urban traffic.
Cab and Interior
You won’t find a better interior in a compact van than the Volkswagen Caddy’s. Build quality is hard to fault and Volkswagen’s usual clear, fuss free design is in evidence. The latest Caddy doesn’t move the game on dramatically from the Mk3 version but the touchscreen infotainment system now fitted to higher end models looks great and couldn’t be much easier to use.
The driving position is good with a firm, comfortable seat and loads of adjustment on the steering column. On the passenger side things feel a little more cramped with the thick door insert limiting elbow room on the right and the centre console interfering with your left knee.
Storage is very good, with an array of locations to stow items including a large dash top holder for A4 paperwork, wide door pockets, a covered glovebox and a large overhead shelf. Additional storage under the seats is available as an option.
Load area dimensions
(Width between wheel arches: 1,172mm)