Little Boxes

The fourth-generation Caddy returns to petrol power – Words by Chris Mullett

Without doubt, the groundswell of interest in small car-derived delivery vans pretty much owes its success to the Volkswagen Caddy. While there were predecessors such as the Holden Combo, the Caddy got the backing of the manufacturer through a focus on light commercials that wasn’t even considered relevant by those at General Motors.

Although it’s been nearly 12 years since the first Caddy launched onto the European market to produce 1.5 million of the little cargo carriers globally, the recent much publicised events at Volkswagen, internationally, have failed to put a dampener on its performance.

What the debacle on global exhaust emissions has affected, though, is the availability of diesel engines in the Caddy range, with VW preferring to take the proven accepted emissions ratings of petrol only, four-cylinder power while the company sorts out its own dirty laundry on a global basis.

Right now, buyers of the fourth-generation Caddy don’t really have an engine choice. All versions come with a TSI petrol engine that produces 92 kW and stays frugal around town thanks to auto stop/start, while returning regenerative power from brake energy recuperation.

Although small in capacity terms for a light commercial sold in the Australian market, the 1.4-litre TSI produces its power output of 92 kW at 4800 rpm, with a peak torque rating of 220 Nm from 1500 to 3500 rpm.

Despite its small cubic capacity, the TS1220 engine makes up for lack of cylinder size by featuring a turbocharger, just like its previous diesel powered siblings. This reflects not so much on the maximum power output, but more so on the peak torque rating, which becomes available at typical diesel rpm levels.

Getting maximum power out of small capacity engines these days requires the use of premium unleaded fuel, and the current Caddy is no exception, with a minimum 95 RON rating. And while it can replicate the performance expected from a diesel, it can’t match the fuel economy, returning a combined consumption figure of 6.2 l/100 km with the six-speed manual gearbox, bettered by the DSG automated manual seven-speed that returns 6.0 l/100 km.

With its transverse-engined, front-wheel-drive set-up, the Caddy basic specs have changed little. It still runs on MacPherson struts with double wishbones at the front end, while at the rear it has a rigid axle on leaf springs.

There are four different variants in the Caddy range. Starting with the standard SWB van and its payload of 733 kg the only transmission choice is the seven-speed DSG AMT.

Moving up in length and interior volume to the Caddy Maxi is necessary before you can choose between the six-speed manual and the seven-speed DSG, with the same twin-driveline options for the Maxi Crewvan. By increasing van size, you also increase payload to 847 kg, but that decreases down to 726 kg when you opt for the five-seat Maxi Crewvan.

The doors at the rear provide the buyer with the choice of tailgate or barn type and there’s the option of a side sliding door on the nearside, with or without glass windows.

The steering response from the electro-mechanical speed-sensitive power steering doesn’t feel much different from that of a conventional hydraulic power-assisted design, but, that development, together with the inclusion of auto stop/start engine control, is typical of the way that passenger car design is heading.

Moving into the options list also brings in some further car-derived features, such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning “Front Assist” with City Emergency Braking (City EB), front fog lights with a cornering function, rain sensing wipers and auto headlamp activation with daytime running lights.

If you don’t care too much for the standard infotainment system, there are two higher levels available, culminating in a 6.33-inch colour touchscreen with proximity sensor, on-board navigation, Bluetooth with audio streaming and phone matching.

Safety features such as front, side and head airbags for the driver and passenger are standard inclusions, as are electronic stability programmes, ABS, traction control and hill hold.

The decision by Volkswagen to introduce the Caddy van with only the seven-speed DSG automated manual gearbox is in Delivery’s view somewhat strange, as the added oncost of the DSG unit in other VW products suggests that it comes with a cost penalty of $3000. This pricing structure may well direct the buyer to consider the larger sized Maxi Van, which does offer a six-speed manual gearbox at a lower overall cost of $28,190, proving that you can have something bigger by paying less initially.

The seven-speed DSG automated manual transmission remains a disappointment, despite attempts through the years to refine its clutch actuation when the vehicle is stationary. The DSG openly attempts to engage and disengage 1st gear when sitting at the traffic lights in Drive and with the park brake applied. If the driver places their foot on the footbrake and doesn’t touch the park brake then auto stop/start comes into play, relieving the clutches from having to attempt to make a decision until pressure is released from the footbrake and the engine restarts.

The purists here might object to sitting stationary in traffic with just the footbrake and not the park brake applied. Those that don’t drive according to the rulebook will probably not care.

Volkswagen has persisted with DSG automated manuals on all its products with the exception of the Amarok, where the outstanding ZF fluid automatic takes such excellent care of the ratio swapping. That said, it was never going to adapt to a transverse engine and front-wheel-drive, hence its exclusivity on the Amarok range as well as other manufacturers such as Jaguar, Range Rover and IVECO.

At the top of the range, the Caddy Maxi Comfortline starts off with a price of $37,990, and a buyer can quickly add a further $2,160 by adding the Driver Assistance Package of Front Assist with City Emergency Brake, Adaptive Cruise Control, front fog lights with cornering function and Park Assist. A further $2000 adds the Exterior Upgrade Package that includes Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels and silver roof rails.

Delivery’s preference is certainly to keep the cost affordable when it comes to buying small vans, as these will never be able to compete completely with the comfort levels of longer-wheelbase models with larger diameter wheels.

In the case of the Caddy, until a six-speed manual version of the standard SWB van becomes available, the next step up to the six-speed manual Maxi seems to be the best bet if Volkswagen takes your fancy.

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