Volkswagen Caddy is the Forward Thinking Panel Van. Or is it?

On the face of it, the Volkswagen Caddy Caddy Cargo 1.6 moves the panel van forward on many a front. Built on the same MQB platform as the latest Golf 8, modern styling brings a cutting edge feel. Neat and tidy, rather than over the top as some vans tend to be, new Caddy works well with the eye. It looks the part with smart H7 Halogen headlights and daytime running lights and a roofline sloping slightly down towards the rear.

Ultra Modern Inside & Out

Step inside and its ultra modern too – futuristic sliders and interface surfaces replace the buttons and it even has a decent infotainment system on board. Pretty smart for an entry level panel van. We volunteered to do an afternoon of delivery for the local laundry and that’s where this Caddy really starred. It’s easy loading and a friendly nature while working the load and driving about, is what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Not much else has changed. This Caddy delivery van remains a practical little vehicle that delivers van space, car-like handling and practical packing versatility. Caddy still feels light, brisk and effortless and benefits a command raised seating position with the controls higher positioned too. For ergonomic harmony. The accent is on practicality with enough handy storage pockets and spaces. Although better place for a pen and a clip for a delivery note board would be welcome.

But some of it makes us wonder. For example, the last time we drove an entry-level Caddy, it was powered by a fine little 75 kW 175 Nm litre turbo triple that cut fuel consumption quite dramatically. This one’s back to the old school normally aspirated 81 kW 152 Nm sixteen hundred gas burner and its 7.2 lites per hundred economy. Versus that one litre’s 5.6 per hundred. Still, it may not be the quickest van on the block, but Caddy Cargo cruises most comfortably when up to speed.

Caddy is Car Like & Manoeuvrable

It yaws slightly more than a Polo Vivo, for instance when you press on. But Caddy is manoeuvrable with a tight turning circle. Large windows provide good visibility from the cabin forward and to the sides, although this one had no rear windows. So its reverse camera came in handy. And we really scratched our heads about that rear-view mirror. If they are tying to save cents by putting in an old school engine, why put in a mirror you will never use? Odd. It has power wing mirrors too

The single near-side sliding door and 180° opening 60-40 split tailgate doors provide great ingress to a quite massive loading bay. This short wheelbase version still packs 3.1 cubic meters of cargo into its well sorted bay equipped with six lashing rings and a neat divider to keep the cabin separate to what’s in the back. And there’s a roof vent for better climate control and faster stationary ventilation in the back.

We found Caddy easy, practical and versatile while loading, transporting and delivering a variety of cargo. There were one or two issues in the field. The centre top tailgate door strikes are a menace. We bumped our heads on one while loading. Painful. We also bumped one of the rear latches shut while the door was ajar and spent 20 minutes figuring out how to release it again. Partly our problem, but still. And the auto hold brake is inconsistent. Sometimes it works a treat, others it is jerky and unpredictable.

A Generous Helping of Onboard Tech

Caddy however further detaches itself from its commercial image by a generous helping of on-board tech and other cool bits and pieces. New driver assistance systems make it safer and easier to drive, while Cruise Control eases the driver’s workload and Park Assist paired with the Rear-View Camera takes the hassle out of parking in tight spaces. Trailer Manoeuvring further adds towing confidence.

Getting back to that large modernised LED lit cabin, as always, Caddy majors on practical storage. It also now boasts a new radio and infotainment system with two lovely knobs for volume and tuning for the App-Connect smartphone compatible Composition Comfort radio infotainment systems. Beyond that, the cabin has been completely ‘modernised’ with a next step instrument cluster and redesigned interactive interface control elements.

Now we are not quite sure why VW seems to insist on these ‘smart’ touch and swipe ’switches’ in a car, but we still cannot get our heads around them. And likely never will. They are too sensitive to the touch and impossible to master while rumbling along on a rougher road. They work half as well as good old buttons and knobs do. It certainly all looks cool and modern, but we really don’t see the point. Maybe they’re cheaper to procure?

Caddy Remains a Difficult Van to Beat

At the end of the day though, the Volkswagen Caddy is still very much a panel van at heart. Best of all it’s a Volkswagen. It brings all that backing and convenience and a two year unlimited mileage and three-year 60,000 km service plan in a proven platform with a reliable engine and drivetrain. Yes, it is perhaps all wrapped up too modern a wrapper, but as a little workhorse, the Caddy remains a very difficult van to beat – Giordano & Michele Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Volkswagen Caddy Cargo 1.6
Engine: 81 kW 152 Nm 1.6-litre petrol I4
Drive: 6-speed manual FWD
Cago Capacity:    3.1 m3
Braked Towing:    1,300 kg
0-60 km/h:        5.13 sec
0-100 km/h:       12.32 sec
0-120 km/h:       19.81 sec
400m:             18.2 sec @ 122 km/h
80-120 km/h:      9.55 sec
VMax:             178 km/h
Fuel:             7.2 l/100 km
CO2:              165 g/km
Warranty/Service: 2y unl./3y 60K km
LIST PRICE:       R404K
RATED:            7
Tagged with: