Vehicle Style: Light commercial van
Fuel Economy (claimed): 5.8 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.2 l/100km
Freshly updated, the new 2011 VW Caddy van range sports new front styling, new engines and more safety equipment as standard.
It's comfortable, handles well, can swallow a hefty load and has very strong residual values.
However, our time in the Caddy Maxi Van TDI250 showed that the optional DSG automatic is not worth the added premium.
Quality: For a commercial van, the Caddy Maxi has a decent cabin. Rubberised floor covering is easy to wipe clean, the cloth upholstery is durable and so are most of the plastics.
Thin plastics in the door trims and the lack of a glovebox lid cheapen it somewhat, but, given the type of vehicle, it’s no deal-breaker.
Comfort: The two front seats are comfortable enough for long stints behind the wheel, and offer good forward visibility. The steering column adjusts for both rake and reach, something that’s uncommon in the light commercial segment.
The large wing mirrors help reduce the Caddy’s otherwise substantial blind spot (our car did not have the optional rear windows fitted), but the window frames of the rear barn doors can impede rearward vision.
Equipment: Standard on the Caddy Maxi Van are power front windows, dual rear sliding doors, 15-inch steel wheels, cruise control, air conditioning and a single-DIN CD-tuner with a 3.5mm auxilliary input.
Our car was also equipped with the optional dual-zone climate control plus a moulded rubber mat for the cargo area.
Other options include front foglamps, a top-hinged tailgate, 16-inch alloy wheels, a trip computer, body coloured bumpers, rear parking sensors and sat-nav.
Storage: As the long-wheelbase variant in the Caddy range, the Maxi Van’s load area measures roughly 2.25 metres long, 1.5 metres wide and 1.2 metres tall, with around 1.2 metres between the rear wheelarches (that's wide enough for a standard pallet to slide into).
The Caddy Maxi Van can carry a maximum payload of 800kg, although VW recommends that vehicles regularly carrying over 250kg be fitted with the optional uprated rear suspension.
Maximum towing capacity is 1500kg with a braked trailer.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The TDI250’s 1.6 litre turbodiesel engine has 75kW and 250Nm at its disposal, which is fine for most suburban driving but feels a little limp when accelerating onto freeways - especially when carrying some weight in the back.
The optional seven-speed DSG automatic transmission is normally excellent on Volkswagen’s passenger cars, but it fails the Caddy thanks to its baulky low-speed performance.
Trying to smoothly move away from a standstill is difficult, particularly when on a slight incline. You can feel the transmission trying to juggle its clutches seamlessly, but repeated small throttle movements (such as when reversing up to a loading dock) can have the Caddy jerking and stuttering awkwardly.
Refinement: As with any commercial van, the Caddy Maxi Van is noisy inside when unladen, particularly at highway speeds. A load quietens things down though and it feels pretty solid.
In all, aside from the expected resonance and wind noise from the big boxy body there’s little to complain about.
Suspension: The Caddy rides well for a van, let alone one with a beam axle rear suspension. It’s very car-like in how it handles, however its 12.2 metre turning circle isn’t ideal.
Braking: The all-disc brake set-up works well, but the hill-holder system can make sidling up to a loading dock a jerky affair if there’s a slight incline (amplified by the DSG).
ANCAP rating: Not rated
Safety features: Dual front airbags, three-point seatbelts and stability control are standard on the Caddy, however side/head airbags are a cost option.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Service intervals are set for every 15,000km or 12 months. Routine services cost between $380 and $820, with the first major service (due at 105,000km/84 months) costing around $1100.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Renault Kangoo diesel ($24,490) - The Kangoo is the cheapest of this bunch, but in diesel is only available in manual short-wheelbase guise (a petrol automatic SWB is also available).
On the plus side, you can fit a standard pallet in the back and the diesel can haul an impressive 800kg payload - the same as the Caddy.
Citroen Berlingo LWB ($26,490) - Its load area is slightly shorter than the Caddy’s, but the Berlingo can still fit a standard pallet between its rear wheelarches and carry a respectable 750kg payload.
It’s also manual-only, but with slightly more standard equipment the Berlingo is a solid alternative to the VW.
Peugeot Partner L2 HDi ($25,890 ) - The long wheelbase version of the Partner has less power and torque than the Caddy TDI250, but its maximum payload of 750kg is only 50kg less.
The Partner, again, is only available in manual, but a lower price of entry means it’s still competitive with the updated Caddy.
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The refreshed Caddy is still arguably the pick in the small commercial van segment.
Its competitors may offer similar capabilities for a little less money, but the VW outguns all of them for power and torque, as well as carrying capacity.
We have our doubts about the DSG gearbox’s suitability for a commercial vehicle, though. Jerky low-speed engagement isn’t a good thing when trying to manoeuvre into a tight parking spot or loading dock.
With no conventional auto available, we'd recommend saving a few dollars and opting for the five-speed manual.