See vans in a new light

VW’s com­mer­cials look snappy, go more smartly and have op­tions ga­lore

Herald Sun - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - PETER BARN­WELL peter.barn­well@news.com.au

GIVEN its 60 years in the de­liv­ery ve­hi­cle game, Volk­swa­gen has a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence. A new gen­er­a­tion of VW light com­mer­cials has just ar­rived in the form of the fourth gen­er­a­tion of the Caddy small van and the larger T6 van.

Each has two wheel­base op­tions and nu­mer­ous de­riv­a­tives and, in the lat­ter, dif­fer­ent roof heights.

There are so many op­tion packs that you could vir­tu­ally tai­lor a be­spoke van.

It might take some time to roll down the as­sem­bly line — and cost a bit, too.

The Caddy starts from $28,990 and has a firm foothold in Aus­tralia. With two-seat, five-seat crew and seven-seat Maxi lay­outs, it’s at the top of the tree in small van land — and ac­counts for healthy peo­ple­mover sales in Caddy Maxi-van guise.

The badge has been a loyal and re­li­able ser­vant to thou­sands of work­ing peo­ple over the years.

The lat­est gen­er­a­tion is built on a new shared VW plat­form. It comes with a much more stylish ex­te­rior ap­pear­ance and a bet­ter in­te­rior with ac­cess to an as­ton­ish­ing ar­ray of com­fort, safety and prac­ti­cal­ity fea­tures.

Diesel power be­comes avail­able next year but the big news is the Blue­mo­tion 1.4-litre four-cylin­der turbo (92kW/220Nm) with en­gine stop-start and re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing.

Most im­por­tant to de­liv­ery driv­ers dash­ing and darting in city driv­ing is the torque on tap from a low 1500rpm. It also uses a lot less fuel than the pre­vi­ous, less pow­er­ful 1.2-litre, claim­ing as lit­tle as 6.0L/100km for the base model man­ual.

That thirst in­creases only slightly in the larger five and seven-seaters, in which the seven-speed DSG trans­mis­sion helps keep the fig­ure down to about 6.5L.

Load ca­pac­ity in the work­ing van varies — 773kg-841kg de­pend­ing on the model and the wheel­base.

Stan­dard items of ad­vanced safety kit in­clude Multi Col­li­sion Brak­ing, which au­tonomously brakes the ve­hi­cle af­ter you’ve had a prang. Dif­fi­cult con­cept to grasp but VW says it’s bet­ter to have the car com­pletely stopped in a mul­ti­ple col­li­sion.

Fatigue de­tec­tion mon­i­tors how you drive and warns if it thinks you are on the blink.

As it’s based on VW’s new small car plat­form, the lat­est Caddy gets im­proved steer­ing and brak­ing .

Thanks to the in­de­pen­dent front and rigid axle with leaf spring rear sus­pen­sion, there is also su­pe­rior ride. Cruise con­trol is stan­dard but a re­verse cam­era is op­tional on the work­ing vans, stan­dard on the peo­ple-movers. What about the work­ers?

The up­graded in­te­rior in­cludes some pas­sen­ger car style and func­tion el­e­ments but is still cheap look­ing and hard. — pos­si­bly a good thing for a work­ing ve­hi­cle that may never ben­e­fit from be­ing cleaned.

Handy cabin kit in­cludes roof bins, nu­mer­ous stor­age com­part­ments and bot­tle hold­ers. De­pend­ing on the model, in­fo­tain­ment ranges from not bad to pretty good. Not so flash is us­ing phone stream­ing for sat­nav.

The ex­te­rior styling bor­rows cues from the Golf and Polo. More an­gles and a smarter grille dom­i­nate.

DRIV­ING

As ex­pected, the new Caddy is an ac­com­plished ve­hi­cle with perky per­for­mance from the 1.4-litre en­gine. We didn’t get a drive in the man­ual but the seven-speed DSG is a crack­ing good de­vice, de­liv­er­ing crisp gear changes at the right time.

It gets off the mark smartly and, from be­hind the wheel, feels much like a Golf, if one with a cheap in­te­rior. Ride qual­ity is im­pres­sive whether empty or par­tially loaded.

On our brief test drive, the work­ing Caddy was reg­is­ter­ing a measly 7.4L/100km in mostly city driv­ing.

It’s easy to op­er­ate, has log­i­cally placed switches and would be a rel­a­tively pleas­ant en­vi­ron­ment to spend your work­ing days. Load­ing is via a side slider or barn rear doors. A tail­gate is op­tional, as is a sec­ond slider.

VER­DICT

The Caddy is a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment over the pre­vi­ous model on all fronts. It should have a re­verse cam­era stan­dard across the en­tire line-up. We are scep­ti­cal about stream­ing Google maps through the phone all the time.

En­gine per­for­mance is im­pres­sive enough to make the diesel re­dun­dant.

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