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Volkswagen Caddy (2003-2015) van review

The VW Caddy is one of the best small vans on the market, with a choice of three bodystyles, plus a range of low-emission models

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.5 out of 5

  • Drives well, solid build quality, impressive load capacity
  • Higher price than many rivals, steel bulkhead not standard on regular Caddy, trails Fiat Doblo Cargo on payload

The Volkswagen Caddy was first unveiled way back in 2003, and it’s since been joined by the Caddy Maxi in 2007, and was facelifted in 2010. The line-up is one of the most comprehensive in this market, comprising the short-wheelbase Caddy and long-wheelbase Caddy Maxi panel vans, plus the five-seater Caddy Maxi Kombi crew van. There’s also the Caddy Maxi Life people carrier, as well as the Caddy Maxi Camper. All models sit on the same basic architecture, which is shared with the Volkswagen Touran compact MPV, and build on the brand’s impressive van heritage.

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Buyers get a choice of 4MOTION four-wheel-drive models, as well as low-emission BlueMotion Technology versions, and while there are no petrol options, the diesel engine range is derived from the Touran, where it’s well proven. Inside, build quality is superior to most rivals, as you expect from a Volkswagen, and the Caddy makes good use of its dimensions to provide plenty of space. Plus, in addition to the standard C20 model, the regular Caddy is available with a C20+ package, which adds a full-height steel bulkhead. Volkswagen no longer offers the popular Sportline model – which was the GTI of vans – although higher-spec Trendline and Highline versions are available in Caddy and Caddy Maxi bodystyles. The excellent automated twin-clutch DSG transmission is an option across the range, adding £1,400 to the price.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

Under the bonnet, the Volkswagen Caddy is available with 1.6-litre or 2.0-litre diesel engines, offering a choice of outputs. The 1.6 TDI comes with 75bhp or 102bhp, while 110bhp and 140bhp versions of the 2.0 TDI are offered. All engines are available with VW’s BlueMotion Technology package, which adds stop-start, an energy recovery system and cruise control to boost mpg and slash emissions. Also included is hill-hold assist, and the BlueMotion Technology tweaks improve fuel consumption on the 102bhp 1.6 TDI Caddy van from 49.6mpg to 55.4mpg, and cut CO2 emissions by 15g/km to 134g/km – all for just £400 extra. Insurance groups are higher than for rivals: the Caddy line-up ranges from group 5E to 7E, compared to groups 1E to 3E for the Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner, for example. Service intervals are set at a competitive 18,000 miles or 24 months. The Ford Transit Connect needs a check-up every 15,000 miles or 12 months, although Renault offers service intervals of up to 25,000 miles/24 months on its Kangoo van.

Load Space and Practicality

Load space in the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi is among the biggest in the small van market, with only the high-roofed Fiat Doblo XL offering more. And the VW can obviously access places with restricted height that the Fiat may not be able to. Curiously, while the Caddy Maxi is equipped with a full-height steel bulkhead – like its Fiat Doblo Cargo, Mercedes Citan, Renault Kangoo and Vauxhall Combo rivals – the regular Caddy has to make do with a solid half-height bulkhead. There’a a plastic mesh upper section, but the arrangement obviously doesn't provide driver and passenger with the same level of protection from a shifting load. A solid bulkhead also helps to reduce road noise and keep the cab warmer in winter, and while Caddy buyers can specify the £100 C20+ option pack to get a solid bulkhead, it’s strange that it’s not standard. In terms of payload, the Caddy trails most other vans in its class: it can carry a maximum of 750kg, while competitors like the Fiat Doblo Cargo and Vauxhall Combo have payloads of up to 1,000kg. The Caddy further shows its age with the shape of its load area. Owners can only accommodate a standard Europallet lengthways, as there’s just 1,172mm between the wheelarches. All rivals offer more than the 1,200mm needed to take a Europallet widthways. Incidentally, the side door is also too narrow to load the same 800mm-deep pallet from the side, as it has an opening of 701mm – although this is no disgrace, as the Ford Transit Connect, Renault Kangoo and Mercedes Citan are the only models that can do this. Still, the result of all this is that the Caddy and Caddy Maxi can only carry one Europallet, even though the Caddy Maxi has one of the largest load spaces on the small van market. VW has attempted to compensate by fitting six lashing rings for securing a load, plus trimming the load bay with a hardboard roof liner and half-height painted liners along the sides.

Reliability and Safety

The Caddy has a good reputation for reliability. Models made before 2010 used a 1.9-litre TDI diesel engine, which was proven across the VW Group range and could take very high mileages in its stride. This has since been replaced by the more modern 1.6 TDI, which again is tried and tested in other VW products. The Caddy is also a very safe van, with ESC electronic stability control standard across the range – the only small van to match this is the Mercedes Citan. Other safety kit includes a driver’s airbag, while the Maxi Kombi gets a passenger airbag, too – on other versions, this is a £190 option. Side and curtain airbags are included in a package with the passenger airbag for £500, or £310 for the Kombi. Entry-level versions of the Caddy come with manually adjusting door mirrors – if you want heated mirrors with electric adjustment, they’re a £290 extra. Or you can upgrade to a Caddy Trendline or Highline and get them as standard.

Driving and Performance

These days, 75bhp doesn’t seem a lot for a van of this size, but the less powerful 1.6 TDI engine – not available in the Caddy Maxi – is surprisingly lively, thanks to its 225Nm of torque. The 102bhp version of the same diesel delivers only 25Nm more torque. Still, the higher-powered 1.6 TDI will offer a better compromise between performance and economy for most buyers. Not surprisingly, the 2.0 TDI would be the driver’s choice: not only does it have more power, it comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while 1.6 TDI versions make do with a five-speed. VW’s excellent seven-speed DSG automated gearbox is a rather expensive £1,400 option across the range. Yet no matter which engine and transmission combination you choose, the Caddy handles well – chassis parts are borrowed from the Touran and Golf, and make it arguably the best van to drive in its class.

Cab and Interior

All the controls are clear and well laid out in the Caddy, even though they’re taken from an earlier generation of VW cars. Also impressive is the driving position, with height adjustment on the driver’s seat and reach and rake adjustment on the steering wheel. Standard models have to manage without a lid for the glovebox and storage under the front seats – these are standard features on the higher-spec Trendline and Highline. Still, all models get drinks holders and a storage compartment in the centre console. Just bear in mind that, without a full-height solid bulkhead, the standard Caddy can be noisy to drive.Van dimensions

Body styleHeightWidthLength
SWB van1,823mm1,794mm4,406mm
SWB 4Motion van1,873mm1,794mm4,406mm
LWB Maxi van1,836mm1,794mm4,876mm
LWB Maxi 4Motion van1,886mm1,794mm4,876mm
LWB Maxi kombi1,822mm1,794mm4,876mm

(Width excludes mirrors. Width including mirrors: 2,062mm)

Load area dimensions

Body styleHeightWidthLengthVolume
SWB van1,244mm1,552mm1,781mm3.2m3
SWB 4Motion van1,244mm1,552mm1,781mm3.2m3
LWB Maxi van1,262mm1,552mm2,250mm4.2m3
LWB Maxi 4Motion van1,262mm1,552mm2,250mm4.2m3
LWB Maxi kombi1,233mm1,306mm1,824mm1.6 – 4.1m3
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