Expecting Volkswagen's new Caddy to look radically different from its predecessor? No? Then you won't be disappointed.
Now in its fourth incarnation, VW's newcomer looks so much like the model that preceded it that only a light commercial geek would be able to spot the difference between the two. OK, we are exaggerating - but not by all that much.
Perhaps that wouldn't matter if the crisis-torn company's light van styling weren't so unadventurous both inside and out. But it is.
What the latest Caddy does boast however is phenomenal build quality, a praiseworthy approach to safety, impressive on-the-road performance and one of the best light commercial transmissions on the planet in the shape of the optional automated six- or seven-speed Direct Shift Gearbox.
Two engines are on offer, a Euro 5 1.6-litre generating either 75hp or 102hp and a Euro 6 2.0 litre producing either 102hp or 150hp. A Euro 5 version at 140hp is up for grabs too.
As with the outgoing model, you can order your Caddy in either short-wheelbase or more-capacious long-wheelbase Maxi guise with a 4.2cu/m rather than a 3.2cu/m cargo bay. Three trim levels are marketed - Startline, Trendline and Highline - and all models can be ordered with BMT; BlueMotion Technology.
It gets you Start/Stop plus regenerative braking and low rolling resistance tyres.
It should also be noted that Caddy is marketed as a Kombi, with rear seating plus a cargo area at the back, and as a passenger-carrier.
We opted to tackle a short-wheelbase standalone van marketed solely in BlueMotion guise and powered by the 102hp Euro 6 diesel. VW is touting it as the most-frugal vehicle in the new Caddy line-up.
It falls outside the standard trim categories with a specification that sits just above Startline, and with a lowered ride height in a bid to reduce aerodynamic drag.
Access to the 3.2cu/m cargo area comes courtesy of twin, glazed, asymmetric rear doors - no wash/wipe system or heater was fitted - and a sliding nearside door. All three doors shut with a highly-satisfying clunk that reeks of quality and the rear ones can be swung through almost 180 degrees if the stays are released.
If you want solid metal rear doors on security grounds then you're out of luck although the windows can be protected with plastic covers as an option. A solid metal tailgate is available however.
Six load tie-down points are provided. A half-height bulkhead topped with a full-height mesh grille should hopefully stop any cargo that breaks loose and slides forwards from finishing up in the cab although the entire partition is plastic rather than steel.
The doors are defended against scratches to half their height with hardboard and the load bay's sides are partially protected in the same way, but the floor and wheel-boxes are unprotected and the entire cargo area will need timbering out. Side rubbing strips protect the van's exterior from minor damage.
Gross payload capacity is 549kg and our Caddy could tow a braked trailer grossing at 1300kg.
Caddy's closest rival in the Ford line-up is the Transit Connect 200 L1 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel with Auto Start-Stop and 95hp on tap. At 625kg its payload capacity is noticeably higher but its towing capacity is lower, at 1200kg.
For your money you get slightly less load width and length than with Caddy but more load height and more clearance between the wheel-boxes with a 2.9cu/m cargo area.
Cab and equipment
Our Caddy's trim package embraced electric windows, heated and electrically-adjustable exterior mirrors, a 12v power socket and driver and passenger front, side and curtain airbags. We especially liked the attractive-looking 5ins touch-screen Composition Colour DAB+ radio system with MP3 and Bluetooth compatibility.
Included are an aux-in socket, a USB port, a SD card slot and a CD player.
Storage facilities include a full-width shelf above the windscreen, a large and quite deep shelf on top of the dashboard, a lidded and lockable glove-box and bins in each of the doors. You'll find a pair of cup-holders between the seats.
Both the steering wheel and the driver's seat are height-adjustable and the wheel is reach-adjustable too.
Post-Collision Braking comes as standard on all Caddy models. It automatically applies the brakes in the wake of a smash if the driver is no longer able to do so, the idea being to minimise the risk of severe secondary impacts.
All the familiar electronic safety devices are provided including ABS, Electronic Stability Programme, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Hill Hold Assist, Brake Assist, Traction Control System and Engine Drag Torque Control. An electronic diff lock is fitted too.
Options installed in our test Caddy included Front Assist with City Emergency Braking.
The former warns the driver if he or she is getting much too close to the vehicle in front, gives a short jolt to the brakes if the warning is ignored then instantly applies them in full if and when the driver hits the brake pedal. The latter automatically applies the brakes at speeds below 30km/h (18.75mph) if the driver fails to see an obstruction.
Staying with the theme of safety, our Caddy featured a Visibility Pack as an extra-cost option too. It includes automatically-illuminating headlights, a rain sensor for the windscreen wipers and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.
On the face of it the leather-trimmed steering wheel simply represents a cosmetic extra. However it is multifunctional and hosts switches for everything from cruise control to the radio's volume.
Transversely-mounted with a variable turbine geometry turbocharger, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder 16-valve common rail Euro 6 intercooled diesel generates maximum torque of 250Nm at a commendably-low 1300rpm. Top power kicks in at 4,400rpm and our demonstrator was fitted with a five-speed gearbox.
A diesel particulate filter is installed and Euro 6 engines come with an eight-litre AdBlue tank under the bonnet. It will need topping up at between 6,000 and 10,000km - 3,700 to 6,200 miles - depending on the work the van is engaged on.
A urea-based solution, AdBlue is injected into the exhaust gas stream to help clean up the vehicle's emissions. The Euro 6 standard will not become mandatory until September 2016 and vans that meet it are pricier than their Euro 5 counterparts, but VW claims that the price premium and the extra expenditure on AdBlue will both be offset by lower fuel consumption.
Chassis and steering
Caddy's suspension features coil springs with telescopic shock absorbers at the front and a rigid axle with leaf springs plus load-sensitive shockers at the back. Our demonstrator sat on 15ins steel wheels shod with Continental ContiEcoContact 195/65 R15 tyres but the wheel-covers that should be fitted to this model were absent.
Speed-related power-assisted steering delivers a 11.1m turning circle between walls.
With 102hp on tap Caddy certainly doesn't lack performance with plenty of torque available at low revs. As a consequence it digs in nicely and forges ahead when you're tackling a steep incline with a bit of weight in the back.
A slick gear change enables the driver to make the most of what the engine has to offer, but it is a pity we only had five speeds to play with. Cruising down the M5 we could have done with a six-speed box and we kept trying to change up to a gear that was not there.
Optional Adaptive Cruise Control which includes a speed limiter helped reined in a typically-heavy right foot.
Sharp handling makes Caddy fun to drive down twisting rural lanes but the extremely-firm ride may prompt you to slow down. Hit a hump or a pothole and you will certainly feel it, especially if you are lightly-laden.
A shame VW hasn't spent more on sound deadening. The cab interior could have stood to be quieter, with excessive levels of road noise caused in part by the absence of a completely-solid and sound-insulated bulkhead.
Buying and running
This is where things get difficult given the worldwide controversy over the emission figures VW has been quoting.
Its specification sheet lists a CO2 figure of 114g/km and a combined fuel consumption figure of 65.7mpg. However we were getting closer to 55mpg on a mixture of rural, motorway and suburban routes, a figure which is almost in line with VW's urban consumption figure.
That would suggest to us that Caddy is frugal, but perhaps not quite as frugal as VW's literature suggests.
The Ford we referred to earlier - which is Euro 5 - is marginally less frugal according to official figures, at 64.2mpg/115g/km. You can go for the same model in ECOnetic trim with Auto Start-Stop and beat Caddy with an official return of 67.3mpg/109g/km if you wish; but you will not be able to tow a trailer according to the Ford catalogue.
VW's new baby comes with a three-year/100,000-mile warranty with breakdown assistance available over the entire period with no mileage restriction. The paintwork warranty lasts for three years and Caddy is protected by a 12-year anti-corrosion perforation body warranty.
Service intervals can vary in line with the nature of the work the van is on but even if it is extremely undemanding you would be well advised to take it to a dealership long before two years are up; and don't neglect those interim AdBlue top-ups.
A tyre inflator and sealer fastened to the shelf above the windscreen is provided instead of a spare wheel. We'd rather have the latter.
|VW Caddy C20 SWB Euro 6 102hp 2.0 TDI 5-speed BlueMotion|
|Price (ex VAT) – £15,930|
|Price range (ex VAT) – £13,500-£21,455|
|Gross payload –549kg|
|Load length – 1779mm|
|Load width – (min/max) 1170mm/1556mm|
|Load bay height – 1244mm|
|Load volume – 3.2cu/m|
|Loading height – 577mm|
|Rear door aperture – 1183mm x 1134mm|
|Side door aperture – 701mm x 1097mm|
|Gross vehicle weight – 2000kg|
|Braked trailer towing weight – 1300kg|
|Residual value – 20.6%*|
|Cost per mile – 23.59p|
|Engine size/power – 1968cc, 102hp @ 4400rpm|
|Torque – 250Nm @ 1300rpm|
|Gearbox – 5sp|
|Fuel economy – 65.7mpg|
|Fuel tank – 60 litres|
Caddy first broke cover in the USA as a pick-up badged as the Rabbit believe it or not back in 1978. It proved popular so VW decided to launch it on this side of Atlantic as the Caddy pick-up in 1982, assembling it in a factory in Sarajevo; an unfortunate choice given what subsequently happened in former Yugoslavia.
Debuting in 1995, the second-generation Caddy was a high-cube light van developed by VW family member SEAT - which sold its own rebadged version - and built in Spain. A Caddy pick-up assembled in the Czech Republic broke cover in 1996.
Sold solely as a van, the Mk 3 Caddy appeared in 2003 with a 3.2cu/m load area and was joined by the bigger Maxi version with a 4.2cu/m cargo bay in 2007. Refinements included the appearance of the aforementioned DSG automated box as an option as well as the 4MOTION four-wheel-drive system.
The entire range received a facelift in 2010.
In many respects an attractive package but one whose appeal may be dented by the controversy swirling around its manufacturer.