His ’n’ hearse

The Caddy Life is ready for anything: even death. By Anthony ffrench-Constant


‘If I wanted to drive a ruddy hearse, I’d have got a job in a funeral parlour,’ muttered the missus as the VW Caddy first swept majestical­ly into view.

Volkswagen appears as plagued by new-car delivery delays as any other manufactur­er at the moment, and there being not even the impending production-line gleam of the car I specified – not in black, I hasten to add – this is a specimen that they just happened to have lying around.

I’ve had a bit of a thing for vans with windows ever since I so much enjoyed a Kermit green iteration of the first Fiat Doblo: the full panoply of Playschool windows, an early take on the ‘command driving position’ and, courtesy of a lusty little diesel and the devil-may-care attitude that instinctiv­ely infects every newbie van driver, a hoot to helm.

Moreover, ever since that gently bonkers, fake-suicide specialist

Harold body-shopped his birthday present into a properly gorgeous E-Type hearse in the properly bizarre movie Harold and Maude, I haven’t looked upon the funeral fleet with quite the same dread-tinged disdain either.

Actually, I think the front looks a deal better than the Mk8 Golf. And those 16-inch wheels may look a tad shirt-buttony by today’s standards, but acres of squidgy sidewall hint at a lot less leaping about on rough surfaces.

On board, you know you’re in a van when the first thing listed as standard equipment is ‘carpet floor covering’. You also know you’re in a van when oddment stowage rules the roost. Not only is the dashtop littered with diverse divots into which you may lob unpaid parking tickets, fast-food detritus and Bart Simpson’s bare buttocks, but there are drawers under each front seat and overhead storage to boot.

The driving position and the view out are both splendid, as is the all-analogue driver’s instrument binnacle. Less wholesome is an 8.25-inch infotainme­nt touchscree­n without sat-nav. This means that, if she can’t be bothered to connect up her phone to access some crappy nav app, the missus will revert to driving everywhere via Battersea, on the basis that she only knows ‘how to get

there from where we used to live’.

Annoyingly, climate control is just a temperatur­e slider on the touchscree­n. There are no numbers on it, which is interestin­g, because you have to wait until the car has warmed up to see if you like the temperatur­e it’s delivering and, if not, guess it up or down the scale a whisker. This is fine if you’re not sharing use of the car, but tedious if you are because of the constant guesswork involved.

And, of course, the lane-keeping ‘assistant’ is buried deep within the touchscree­n menus, and needs to be deactivate­d every time you switch on the engine. In a van FFS…

Accommodat­ion astern is pretty good, with split/folding, sliding and removable rear seats, which I’ll tell you more about once I’ve establishe­d that my hernia truss is up to it. The only blot on the landscape, however, is the absence of any opening rear glazing. At all. I saw an older Caddy pottering by yesterday that had sliding glass fitted in the sliding doors. Is this still an option? Oh no it isn’t. Not the best news if the evil-smelling dog lives up to its name. Which it will.

Oh, and the headlamps aren’t LED. The halogen alternativ­es feel somewhat soft, warm and cosy by comparison, but don’t cut through the Mudfordshi­re midnight mire with quite the same reassuring vim.

You know you’re in a van when the first thing listed as standard equipment is carpet floor covering

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Roomy, rugged and good to drive too

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