Thinking frugal thoughts and having the right approach to your driving can reduce your running costs.

Volkswagen almost single-handedly was responsible for the resurgence of interest in small vans. With considerable emphasis placed behind the marketing of the Caddy small van, Volkswagen has scored a return on its efforts by holding the number one spot in sales for its contender in this segment.

Caddy comes in three commercial derivatives – a standard wheelbase van, a longer wheelbase version called the Caddy Maxi and one with additional seating called the Caddy Maxi Crewvan. After that the choice becomes a bit more complicated through being able to choose from four different engines, five-speed manual or six and seven speed DSG automated manual transmissions, plus an all-wheel-drive version using VW’s 4MOTION system.

The basic Caddy small van has a length of 4,406 mm, a width of 1,794 mm and a height of 1,823 mm. The Caddy Maxi forms the basis for the other versions, and it grows its length to 4,876 mm through extending its wheelbase by 329 mm. This additional length impacts on the turning circle, adding a further 1.1 metres to achieve a turnaround in 12.2 metres. The interior cargo volume grows also, from 3.2 to 4.2 cubic metres, but in the Crewvan part of this extra space is taken up by a second row of seating. The payload range is 800 kg for the standard van, 850 kg for the Maxi, 790 kg for the 4Motion and 691 kg for the Crewvan.

Up front is a four-cylinder, transverse-mounted engine that drives the front wheels, or, selecting the 4MOTION version sends power to all four wheels. There’s a bit more thought required, though, when selecting the engine and driveline, where choice will determine performance and fuel economy. Think Blue 096

Power comes in petrol form from two different ratings of a 1.2-litre, turbocharged and intercooled, single overhead cam engine. If you carry volume but not weight, the smaller output version provides 63 kW at 4,800 rpm and peak torque of 160 Nm from 1,500-3,500 rpm. Want a bit more petrol power, and on offer is 77 kW at 5,000 rpm and peak torque of 175 Nm rated from 1,550-4,100 rpm. Both have five-speed manual gearboxes.

If you prefer diesel as a fuel, for its increased torque and more frugal approach to fuel use, the decision making is between two versions. The 1.6-litre produces 75 kW at 4,400 rpm with a peak torque rating of 250 Nm from 1,500 through to 2,500 rpm. The top spec version offers a 2.0-litre diesel, again turbocharged and intercooled, but this time producing 103 kW at 4,200 rpm and peak torque output of 320 Nm at the same rpm.

VW offers manual gear selection using only a five-speed box on the 1.6-litre diesel, or opting for an alternative seven-speed DSG automated manual. Move to the top spec 2.0-litre and there’s no manual gearbox available, your only option being a six-speed DSG.

Regular readers of Delivery will know of our dislike of the DSG transmission from its first release. Undoubtedly, the transmission with its twin clutches shifts ratios faster than a human can manage, but the downside has been that the transmission will argue with the engine whenever the car or van is in stop/start traffic.

Durability has also been poor, with many customers reporting total gearbox failure at relatively low distances, around the 100,000 km mark. Progress has been made with the electronic management system in recent units, but that didn’t improve the shift quality and clutch engagement performance of the older models. This was compounded by claims that in certain vehicles the driver could suffer a power reduction with the engine dropping into limp mode without warning. The effect of this happening at high-speed on a freeway could be extremely daThink Blue 003ngerous, with following traffic closing onto the vehicle unexpectedly.

Our reluctance to recommend the DSG transmission has, unfortunately, been endorsed recently through a series of forced global recalls. This has now spread to Australia where Volkswagen Group Australia has announced a voluntary recall for 25,928 vehicles fitted with seven-speed DSG gearbox (DQ200).

Vehicles affected include Golf, Jetta, Polo, Passat and Caddy that were produced between June 2008 and September 2011. Also affected are the additional Volkswagen brand companies such as Audi, SEAT and Skoda. Delivery suggests checking with your dealer for further details.

The service rectification action throughout the Australian market follows the recall in the Chinese market of almost 400,000 Volkswagen vehicles fitted with the seven-speed DSG transmission.

According to a Volkswagen media representative: in isolated cases, an electronic malfunction in the control unit inside the gearbox mechatronics may result in a power interruption.

Volkswagen Group Australia started contacting owners of affected vehicles from July onwards to replace the gearbox mechatronic unit at no cost to the customer, at the same time updating vehicles with the latest software version.

So, with the suggestion of staying with the manual gearbox version seeming to be the more sensible solution to those setting their hearts on a Caddy, let’s look at the fuel economy available from the different drivetrains.

Taking the combined fuel consumption figures as our benchmark, buyers of the 1.2-litre petrol entry-level engine can expect 6.9 l/100 km, the higher output 1.2-litre petrol raising that figure by just 0.1 l/100 km. Diesel buyers can expect to return as low as 5.2 l/100 km, again in the manual version, rising to 5.9 l/100 km for the DSG option. Choose the higher performing 2.0-litre diesel and the economy slips to 6.7 l/100 km. Think Blue 005

Our advice, especially for those looking for value for their investment, is to seriously look at the entry-level, standard Caddy van, 1.2-litre petrol version. At $19,990, it’s been advertised as a driveaway price, saving a full $10,000 off the top spec diesel 2.0-litre. Caddy Maxi van pricing starts at around $25,000 and rises to $32,490 for the Caddy Maxi Crew.

In a recent driving exercise, put on by Volkswagen to show what can be achieved by adopting the right frugal approach to driving styles, a Caddy Maxi diesel with a five-speed manual gearbox proved cooperative in assisting its drivers to beat the stated combined figure of 5.2 litres by using the technologies of start/stop systems in traffic and brake energy recuperation.

Best results of the day saw the winning driver record 4.1 l/100 km, an excellent improvement considering it was completed in normal traffic around Sydney suburbs.

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