A 2016 update of the Volkswagen Caddy sees the departure of diesel and a new platform for the little best-seller. Let’s take a closer look at the new pint-sized petrol-primed panel van
The petrol-driven Volkswagen Caddy update sees the departure of diesel and a new platform
“There are some very interesting vans at the lighter end of the spectrum that are worth more than a passing glance”
There was a time, many years ago, when all I wanted in life was to paint pictures of naked women and starve in a bohemian garret. Apparently the best way to do this is to hang around art gallery openings for the free cask wine and talk about art in breathless hushed tones, (this tends to sound like a couple of giggling fiveyear- olds trying to blow up a whoopee cushion behind a sofa).
Or, alternatively, elaborate expansively on the exhibition with a plastic wine glass in hand while trying not to douse other people with lukewarm moselle. As I found, it’s actually possible to do both. The only bit of that ambition that I had any real success with, however, was the starving bit.
One thing I did learn, though, was the concept of negative space. The artistic idea of negative space is where the space around the object in question is of more interest than the object itself. And that, in a nutshell, tends to sum up most people’s view of light commercial vans.
I reckon this is a little unfair, however, as there are some very interesting vans at the lighter end of the spectrum that are worth more than a passing glance. And the hugely successful Volkswagen Caddy is one of them.
DON’T MENTION THE WAR
Last year’s exercise in emissions embarrassment, otherwise commonly known as ‘Diesel Gate’, saw the temporary withdrawal of a couple of VW’s diesel plants both globally and in Australia.
But a new Volkswagen Caddy emerged for 2016 with a new 1.4-litre petrol engine that was not only touted to be cleaner and more fuel efficient than the oil-burners, but offered more grunt and pulling power.
Emissions hiccups aside, the Caddy continues to dominate the sub 2.5-tonne van market in Australia. According to FCAI VFACTs figures, the VW Caddy accounts for over 50 per cent of this segment. Its closest erstwhile competitor, the Renault Kangoo, is the next down the tree at more than 26 per cent.
The new Caddy uses the same platform as the Volkswagen Beetle, Jetta and Tiguan and features some new standard and optional anticrashing devices, brake energy recuperation and as before is available in both short and long wheelbases.
FROM THE ASHES
And it also comes with a portable ashtray as standard equipment. I don’t know why I feel the need to point this out, but there’s something quite quaint about the fact that Volkswagen list a portable ashtray on the spec sheet as standard equipment.
Some manufacturers dropped ashtrays from their vehicles years ago. Yet someone at VW was charged with creating the perfect portable ashtray. It’s like finding a perfectly crafted Edison globe hanging in the interior.
As mentioned previously, for the time being, the front-wheel- drive Caddy relies solely on a 1.4-litre turbo charged petrol engine for power. This rather sophisticated little unit puts out quite impressive 92kW (123hp) and 220Nm. And that twisty force is on tap from 1500 to 3500rpm.
A possible downside for commercial buyers is that it needs a diet of premium unleaded to keep the home fires burning. The 1.4 TSI BlueMotion engine also uses engine stop/start to help with fuel economy.
MANUAL OR AUTOMATED
Transmission choice is between a six-speed manual or the seven-speed self-shifting DSG unit. The claimed fuel figures for this little panel van are pretty good too. The petrol has a claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 6.0L/100km for the DSG equipped Caddy, and 6.2L/100km for the manual versions.
A double wishbone McPherson strut irons out the bumps at the front end and a traditional leaf spring arrangement takes care of the rear. Steering is an electro-mechanical rack and pinion set up.
Short wheel base variants have a payload of up to 773kg, LWB variants are up to 840kg, while LWB crew versions have a max payload of 733kg. SWB Caddys have 3200 litres of cargo space and LWB versions have 4200 litres. LWB Crew versions with fold down second row seat have only slightly less room at 4130 litres.
For buyers who have a constant load in the back (racking, tools, coffee etc.), there’s a reinforced rear suspension option. This is recommended for vans with a constant load of 150kg (SWB) and 200kg (Maxi). Clearly, this is
a way of keeping the ride a bit nicer for empty running, yet having the option of a bit of beef in the rear end. And the roof will take 100kg of load if you want to whack some racks on it.
VW has made the myriad of options a little easier to wade through by grouping them into packages. The Driver Assistance pack is full of safety features, including adaptive cruise, forward collision warning and cornering lights amongst others.
The Interior Comfort pack adds a few creature comforts in the cab and the Appearance pack is just that. There are also a bunch of window options, as well as the choice of 60/40 split barn doors or a lift up tailgate. And the van itself sits on 16-inch steel or alloy wheels.
We spent a bit of time with the Caddy recently to catch up on where the diminutive little hauler was at post- diesel. The last Caddy we’d had the keys for was a 1.6-litre diesel Maxi, which proved to be a very nice little jigger to punt around urban and country roads. This one is a very orange 1.4-litre, short wheelbase variety equipped with the sevenspeed DSG ‘ box.
The addition of the Interior Comfort pack did take away some of the stern coldness that often seems to be a feature of these little load luggers. There’s plenty of dark dashboard, but this was broken up by the multi-media unit that displays the reverse camera as well.
As much as I hate using car references when talking about vans, the cockpit of the vee- dub is car-like and comfy. The analogue instruments are well placed and easy to read and a simple digital menu displays all the usual info from fuel economy to doubling as a digital speedo – something handy in this day and age of robot speed enforcement.
As per previous models, there’s just enough storage for a work day. The overhead console is an obvious place for turfing paperwork and clipboards, though it may be a bit of a challenge to extract those items after a drive around a few corners. There are also enough cubby holes to lose pens, phone chargers, lollies, and bottles if needed.
With the advent of the new model, the Caddy did cop a new wheelbase. However, interior dimensions remain unchanged, which makes life easier for owners of previous models when it comes to fitting their pre- existing racking, shelving and equipment.
There’s always going to be a bit of road noise thrumming through the cargo area of a van, though less so in a front-wheel drive. But the 1.4 is a willing little unit that seems both happy to rev and lug at the same time.
The car/SUV platform that the Caddy is based on also makes it a very civilised little panel van to punt through city traffic. Visibility is great, and the optional rear view camera and parking sensors are a sensible box to tick for those who tackle the urban hurly burly on a daily basis.
The 1.4 TSI has more than enough grunt to hurtle the Veedub along at a respectable rate of knots with surprisingly minimal lag off the line. And even though it has inner city
delivery written all over it. The Caddy is a happy highway cruiser that handles in a way that belies its commercial intentions.
I know it’s not cool, but in this SUV-riddled world, I’m still surprised more people don’t opt for the people mover variants of these things because they are a great little unit to pilot.
The DSG tranny, however, doesn’t perform to expectations when negotiating the urban jungle. As far as robotised manual ‘ boxes go, the DSG is a good one, but while clutch engagement from a standstill is fine, it does have some annoying characteristics.
For example, rolling up to a roundabout looking for a break in the traffic can see some hesitation before the DSG finds the gear it wants and gets power to the ground. This fumble tends to be exacerbated if you forget to turn the start/stop function off.
By the time the engine fires up and the van is in gear, you can lose valuable milliseconds when trying to slot into a busy stream of traffic. Plus, while taking off when either
“The future’s looking rather positive for VW’s baby van”
loaded or empty, the Caddy can seem to have trouble deciding how long to hold on to a gear before an upshift.
As previously stated, the little petrol engine has quite a bit of oomph for its size. Yet, in conjunction with the DSG, it sometimes takes off like a scalded cat or bogs down. Considering how slick most Euro manuals are these days, I’d opt for a stick shift.
The Aussie market’s preference for autos is a bit of a frustration for many Euro manufacturers. Much of the buying public doesn’t differentiate between a self-shifting manual like the DSG cog ‘ box and a torque converter automatic. To most, they are both ‘autos’ and expectations of performance are the same.
But, even with the DSG, the Caddy is a nice drive. The pint-sized petrol power plant is also a frugal one, with VW claiming 6.0L/100km combined for the DSG- equipped Volksy, and 6.2L/100km for the manual.
I certainly wasn’t able to exceed those figures during my few days in the little Honey Orange beastie. Maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough.
Even without the traditional diesel, the space occupied by the Caddy isn’t negative at all. In fact, the future’s looking rather positive for VW’s baby van.
Volkswagen’s baby van copped a new platform and a new engine for 2016
Top: A pleasant office for work or play
Above left: The Caddy needs a diet of premium unleaded
Below: Interior dimensions remain unchanged
Above right: A portable ashtray is standard equipment
Bottom: Plenty of room for a modest pallet in the back, though you’ll have to go for barn doors for forklift access
Below right: The new Caddy even gets a proper glovebox
Middle right: Plenty of cubby holes for bottles
Top right: The reverse camera and parking senor package is a sensible option box to tick
Below left: The 1.4 TSI has more than enough grunt
Below left: Transmission choice is between a six-speed manual or the seven-speed self-shifting DSG unit
Above: The new 1.4-litre engine is a strong performer
Lift up tailgate is an option. The reverse camera package isn’t compatible with the 60/40 split barn doors.
It’s actually quite a handsome little jigger in metallic orange.
One sliding door is standard, a driver’s side slider is an option