Car reviews - Volkswagen - Caddy - range
1.4 TSI petrol DSG performance and efficiency, improved safety and tech, multimedia interface, undeniable van practicality, choice
Room for improvement
Firm ride, ageing feel, facelift not different enough from its MY11-15 predecessor
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16 Dec 2015
VOLKSWAGEN’S domination of the small van market has come under threat – not because of the diesel emissions cheating scandal as much as ever-improving competition from the likes of Renault’s charming Kangoo.
This, along with some anomalous specification holes such as a lack of automatic petrol variant, has prompted the Germans to redouble their efforts with the MY16 Caddy revamp – a thoroughly worked-over version of the van (and people-mover) range that has been sold in Australia since the mid-2000s.
If you can spot the changes – congratulations, you’re now a van anorak – then you may notice the slightly sharpened and edgier appearance of the C4-series nose and tail, although essentially this remains the same vehicle as the 2KN.
More impressive are the mods inside, with the Caddy at last gaining a real glovebox (a surprising omission in what is ostensibly an office on wheels for many owners), within a far more car-like dashboard.
Except for the contemporary and quite effective touchscreen interface common on most of the brand’s vehicles from the Polo up, now the overall look and feel is Volkswagen circa 2007. Which is no shock, since the innards here are, at the DNA level, Mk5 Golf.
As a workhorse, however, there is very little to fault – comfy seats (with height and lumbar adjustment for the driver), heaps of storage options, and straight-forward controls aided by elegant instrument dials. There’s plenty to appreciate in there.
Moving to the rear seat in the Caddy people-mover versions, the van side doors with sliding windows are probably way too utilitarian for usual Volkswagen clientele, but as with the front of the cabin, there is heaps of space, while the seats remove individually if it’s a panel van you suddenly lust for.
There’s also a third-row seat in the Maxi, accessible via a (annoyingly left-hand drive-centric) fold and tip mechanism for the fairly upright middle seats, although entry/egress is pretty easy and the amount of room back there is adult-worthy. It’s probably best to disregard the bombproof plastics, even though they are better than the post-apocalyptic presentation of previous efforts of this type. Remember how barren the old 2006 Life was? If you don’t just take a peek out back of a 2016 Crewvan, the tradie version complete with hose-down-able materials.
The new drivetrain, on the other hand, goes a long way to making you believe the Caddy has caught up with this decade, with the usual zingy whoosh and eager mid-range performance, all sheathed in that treacly Volkswagen TSI refinement.
Sampled around hilly inner Sydney, the DSG with hill hold assist or whatever VW brands it these days is mercifully free of jolt and lag, making this a sweet and easy drivetrain pairing. The six-speed manual (unavailable at the launch) should be even lovelier.
However, despite the myriad of tech upgrades like a raft of driver-assist systems joining the Caddy’s modernisation makeover, there is still a stilted, weighty feel and response to how this van/people-mover drives, lacking the verve and alacrity of, say, the Kangoo. Yes, the steering is perfectly weighted, for sure, and safe handling, and the levels of roadholding would make many inferior passenger cars proud but the ride is firm (rear leaf springs are the norm here), with little of the French car’s in-built suppleness or pliancy.
Here, more than anywhere else, VW’s smallest van is seemingly showing its age.
That said, there is plenty to enjoy about the revised Caddy, from the spirited drivetrain to the more contemporary cabin presentation. A high level of active as well as passive safety (second-row curtain airbags are now fitted where applicable) also make it a mandatory short-list contender. Plus, the updated TDI turbo-diesels that should be in dealers sometime early in the second quarter of 2016 will have their own round of improvements, further boosting the newcomer’s appeal.
As a result, and until there is an all-new van breakthrough, we’re expecting the MY16 facelift to keep Volkswagen’s bestseller right at the top of the charts.
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