South Africa’s most popular half-ton panel van just got a whole lot fresher. GAVIN MYERS spent some time at the golf club with the new Caddy …
Perhaps it was fitting that Volkswagen South Africa chose the rather up-market Serengeti Golf Estate, north-east of Johannesburg, to show off its new Caddy LCV and MPV to South Africa’s motoring media. No, I’m not making any silly associations with its name (well, maybe a little), but take a look at the new Caddy and you will see that it’s quite good looking. It could be mistaken for a slightly more expensive and up-market MPV (such as big brother Touran) and, doesn’t look at all out of place in the clubhouse parking lot.
It wouldn’t be surprising if this came partly as a result of VW targeting the small MPV segment of the market (of which the Caddy occupies only 4%) a little more aggressively. However, if we’re talking LCVs, that’s a different story. This is where the Caddy reigns supreme, the previous version selling around 13 000 units since 2004, earning it a 60% market share, which it has consistently held for the past few years.
Either version benefits from VW’s new design DNA. Following the Amarok and T5, the new Caddy gets the now familiar VW family-facade of a horizontal grille connecting the headlights to form a single unit. There’s the new horizontal bumper below – body colour only on Trendline models. From the rear not much has changed. There are new tail-light clusters and you have the option of having either a two-part winged tailgate, or a “top opening glazed ladder flap”. Probably best to go for the former; it’s more practical, and less of a mouthful.
The problem is however, that when driving a Caddy fitted with these, the middle division – although offset to the right and thus behind the driver – blocks a good portion of the view behind you, especially when checking your mirror (speaking of which, oddly, the two wing-mirrors are different; the left being longer and narrower than the right, which is shorter and wider).
But that is about the worst of the Caddy’s woes. Otherwise, to drive, the new models are very car-like – very VW. The new 2,0-litre diesel engines, in either 81 kW and 250 Nm or 103 kW and 320 Nm guise, are not only smoother, more fuel efficient and more environmentally friendly than the 1,9-litre unit they replace, but they offer earlier and more sustained peak torque to make progression effortless. The five-speed manual gearbox is a pleasure to use, but VW took the liberty of allowing those interested in the 103 kW model to enjoy their sublime DSG six-speed double clutch ’box. The motors offer good get-up-and-go and should have no problem lugging around heavy loads, all the while returning claimed consumption and emissions figures of 5,6l/100 km and 147g/km for the 81 kW model, and 6,31l/100 km and 166g/km for the more powerful 103 kW.
All controls and instruments are within easy reach and have a robust yet VW-quality look and feel to them. The electromechanical power steering makes manoeuvring easy (it is even designed to help counter cross-winds, though I could barely feel the effectiveness of this) and the driving position is generally good, though a little compromised on models without seat height adjustment. Whether you’re in the long or short wheelbase version, the Caddy is exceptionally stable and comfortable at high speeds (except for the harsh wind noise) and over rough, pothole-repaired roads.
ESP is standard should things get out of line, though (the only car in the small panel van segment to be fitted with it), and so is an electronic diff-lock and emergency flashers that activate under hard braking at over 60 km/h. MSR engine drag torque control is standard, and so is trailer stabilisation on models with a VW-fitted tow bar. Cornering lights are an option (standard on Trendline models) but all models are standard with daytime running lights. Other options include a multifunction steering wheel, a multifunction display on the commercial models and cruise control and light and rain sensors. Happily, the spare wheel is a full-sized steel rim and there are up to 24 storage compartments scattered around the cabin.
The commercial Caddy starts at R172 940 and goes up to R219 200, standard with a two-year unlimited mileage warranty, while the passenger vehicles sell for between R240 110 and R292 080, standard with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty.
Let’s be honest, the golf club is probably more likely to own a Caddy than its members are to be arriving in one. No matter the driver though, be it the seven-seater Maxi Crewbus or the humble panel van, the new, fresh and versatile Caddy perfectly completes the VW Commercial Vehicles range.