It’s become a mainstay with courier services, florists and shuttle services, and family buyers and surfer-types appreciate its versatility and car-like driving dynamics. But that doesn’t mean that Volkswagen could rest on their laurels – after 11 years in production, the outgoing Caddy (not the beloved albeit ancient bakkie, but the smallest van in Volkswagen’s wide range of commercial vehicles) could do with a bit of surgery and an update here and there.
One thing that didn’t change is its car-derived platform. It still draws from the same component set, one which underpinned the fifth- and sixth-generation Golfs (as well as the current Jetta and Touran), but features model-specific changes to the running gear. Forget about new-fangled TSI petrol engines and independent rear suspension, for instance – the Caddy soldiers on with a choice of one non-turbo petrol engine and two TDIs, and the type of twist-beam solid rear axle which served generations of Volkswagens so well.
These changes are not only about cost, for the older suspension type gobbles up much less loading space than the newer independent type, and it’s not like a Caddy is meant to win prizes at the Traffic Light Grands Prix either, so those durable, under-stressed engines will do just fine here. Yes, think of the Caddy as the blue-collar member of the Golf family: not quite as polished as its flashier siblings, but with the same fundamentally good genes. Now, following some fettling in the operating table, it looks a lot more like its relatives as well.
Most of the work was done on its nose, where the new radiator grille and headlights echoes the current Volkswagen design language with its emphasis on horisontal lines. The rear end also came in for some work, and features new tail lights and a revised design for the tailgate to give a much sleeker appearance. Most of the sheetmetal has changed as well, as have the bumpers at both ends.
The cabin also receives a major upgrade, with a new dashboard, centre console and switchgear. The multimedia system moves to the current-generation design, with touch-screen interfaces standard on all but the entry-level variants. This means that USB ports and a cellphone interface are finally available as standard in a Caddy (the high-spec versions, at least). Safety equipment also gets a boost with the addition of post-collision braking and fatigue detection, and an optional rear-view camera with parking sensors also make their appearance.
Oily bits remain largely unchanged, although the 1.6-litre petrol engine receives a slight power hike (from 75 kW to 81 kW). This engine is only available in the basic Panel Van and Crew Bus variants, while the two 2.0 TDI engines (with 81 kW or 103 kW) are available in all derivatives bar the Panel Van. The two 81 kW engines drive the front wheels through a 5-speed manual gearbox, but the 103 kW 2.0 TDI is paired exclusively to a 6-speed DSG transmission.
As before, the Caddy offers a choice between body styles and wheelbases (the longer one is called the Maxi), and seating options range from 2 people (Panel Van) to a 7-seater. In addition to the utilitarian Van- and Crew Bus, the Caddy can also be configured as a passenger vehicle with a massive loadbay (Trendline), or as a lifestyle variant with a chrome grille, special wheels and black wheel arch trim, known as the Caddy Alltrack (which replaces the old Caddy Life). The Alltrack also adds niceties such as foldable tables for the rear seats, extra brightwork for the switches, cruise control, automatic controls for the lights and wipers, and the top-spec multimedia system.
The new Caddy gets pretty close to being an actual Golf, but because it is still a van at heart, it remains a solid value proposition. To put it bluntly, it majors on really cheap space – you’ll struggle to pay less per cubic metre of cabin room anywhere else. This is not only good news for budget-constrained families, but is also sure to make the countless delivery drivers spending their days behind Caddy steering wheels smile a little more. Sadly though, most families will still ignore the Caddy in favour of some SUV or crossover, because there’s neither justice nor logic in this world.
– Martin Pretorius
Volkswagen Caddy Range:
Caddy Panel Van 1.6i 81kW R229 400
Caddy Panel Van 2.0 TDI 81kW R260 500
Caddy Maxi Panel Van 2.0 TDI 81kW R283 700
Caddy Maxi Panel Van Sport 2.0 TDI 81kW R306 700
Caddy Maxi Panel Van 2.0 TDI 103kW DSG R312 200
Caddy Crew Bus 1.6i 81kW R222 400
Caddy Crew Bus 2.0 TDI 81kW R265 200
Caddy Crew Bus 2.0 TDI 81kW R296 700
Caddy Crew Bus 2.0 TDI 103kW DSG R325 200
Caddy Trendline 2.0 TDI 81kW R344 300
Caddy Maxi Trendline 2.0 TDI 81kW R362 600
Caddy Maxi Trendline 2.0 TDI 103kW DSG R391 600
Caddy Alltrack 2.0 TDI 81kW R358 200
Caddy Alltrack 2.0 TDI 103kW DSG R387 300