Caddy BlueMotion

VW tweaks its appealing Caddy to gain improved economy

Volkswagen is almost single-handedly responsible for generating interest in the small car-derived style of the van segment. Since launching the Caddy, we’ve seen additional competition join the market from Renault with the Kangoo, Peugeot with the Partner, and Citroen with the Berlingo.

Although we have been expecting Mercedes-Benz to launch into this market with its Citan, which, incidentally is based on the Renault Kangoo platform, changes to production specifications in order to gain a higher Euro NCAP crash safety rating has meant a delay until probably around August of 2014.

Caddy holds 66 percent of this small-van segment (VFacts YTD August 2013), having increased its share since the same period of 2012 by ten percent. Renault comes into second place with the Kangoo at 8.5 percent, Peugeot is currently managing 5.3 percent, and after that comes Citroen at 4.8 percent.

Sales in this segment are only really relevant to manufacturer profitability if you grab the lion’s share of the market, as in total we are talking of just 2,228 sales for the first eight months of the year. Some 322 units in this segment are actually held by Suzuki with the APV, an absolutely horrible vehicle that brings into question buyer sanity as to where the appeal might originate, other than in a low retail price. It’s certainly not selling on the grounds of driver appreciation.

There’s plenty of room for market expansion in this segment and Volkswagen plays its cards well, offering different wheelbase lengths, interior trim levels that range from a full van, to include seating as a crew van and even an all-wheel-drive version it calls 4MOTION, for those delivering to the snow.VW-Caddy_3

The Caddy Maxi Crewvan variant joined the range earlier this year and adds a three-seater rear bench in the cargo area that splits and folds forward to increase the load capacity from 1.6 m3. The maximum load length is 2.25 m, with a cargo volume of 4.1 m3 (with second row seats removed), and payload is 709 kg (manual).

Due to increased payload requirements for this model, it runs on 16” steel wheels as standard equipment. As per the Caddy Maxi Van, rear barn doors are standard equipment, but a tailgate is available as a no-cost alternative at the time of ordering.

Under the bonnet of the Caddy Maxi Crewvan is a 75 kW 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine with 250 Nm of torque, coupled with either a five-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG transmission.

The combined fuel consumption figure comes in at 5.9 litres/100 km (CO2: 155 g/km) for both the manual and DSG versions, and pricing comes in at $29,490 for the five-speed manual and a further $3,000 for the DSG transmission. Delivery would suggest that changing gears manually takes on a new significance for those looking to save on purchase cost, adding just $1,500 to the price of the basic Maxi van.

Delivery has been spending time in the most economical light commercial in the VW range, which turns out to be the Caddy Maxi with BlueMotion technology.

This little cargo shifter is the first of VW’s light commercial range to feature BlueMotion technology, and is actually bristling with clever eco-stuff such as an exceedingly innovative high-tech package that includes Start/Stop system and battery regeneration mode.

The combination of stop/start system and battery regeneration is the first of its kind in the local compact-van segment.

Average fuel consumption for the Caddy Maxi Van with BlueMotion Technology is 5.2 l/100 km, which equates to a fuel consumption gain of 0.6 l/100 km compared to the Caddy Maxi Van TDI250 with five-speed manual gearbox. Carbon dioxide emissions have also been reduced significantly by 16 g/km, to 136 g/km.

The 1.6-TDI engine in the Caddy Maxi Van 250TDI with BlueMotion Technology produces 75 kW of power and develops a maximum torque of 250 Newton metres from 1,500rpm.

VW-Caddy_1The stop/start system reacts by turning off the engine when you stop, select neutral and then take your foot off the clutch, but maintain brake pressure.

As soon as the driver puts their foot on the clutch, the engine automatically starts, ready to accept a gear. Fuel consumption savings obviously depend on the number times the stop/start system actuates, but, if your day is spent in heavily congested traffic, it can make quite a significant contribution to your back pocket.

Regenerative braking helps the vehicle to utilise energy whenever the driver lifts their foot off the accelerator or intentionally brakes. The voltage output of the generator is increased and utilised to maximise the recharge rate of the vehicle’s battery.

By boosting the recharge rate when the engine is under less load means that, when the engine is working harder, the electrical generation and recharging of the battery can be cut back. This reduces the load on the engine at peak demand and again saves fuel.

Priced at $27,990 and with a five-speed manual gearbox, Delivery found the Caddy Maxi Van with BlueMotion Technology to provide a well-equipped, pleasant runabout for the city that was also capable of cruising down the freeway at maximum posted speeds.

We particularly liked the sliding side door feature on both sides of the van, and the access into the cargo area was consequently excellent. When loading major items, the offset-sized hinged barn doors open wide, with the stays for the hinges capable of being unclipped. The barn doors don’t fold back flat against the side of the van but they still allow access from a forklift into the rear.

The stop/start function is something that just happens in traffic, and no driver will worry about it intruding on their abilities. When fully loaded, the acceleration might be considered slightly sluggish, but remember here we are dealing with a 1.6-litre engine. If you want better performance, buy a bigger engine and pay the price in additional fuel.

The cruise control system is easy, but Bluetooth phone connection can be a bit fiddly if you want to dial on the move. Probably a safer option is to just answer calls and wait until you stop before calling anyone.

If there is any criticism of the Caddy Maxi it’s the amount of road noise that transmits into the cargo space interior and makes itself heard in the cabin. If it were ours, as regular transport, we would add in extra sound deadening, even if that was just a couple of old carpets, to absorb the road and tyre rumble.

All in all, the driving position and seat are comfortable, handling on-road is as you would expect from a modern car, and there’s a surprising amount of space available for some serious load carrying.

Total whole-of-life costs for servicing have improved since VW announced capped-price servicing lasting for six years across the entire commercial range.

Service costs for the type of Caddy we were driving, with a TD250 diesel engine, worked out to $365.00 for the first 15,000 km and 30,000 km (12/24 months), escalated to $435.00 at 45,000 km (36 months), rose to $491.00 at 60,000 km (48 months) and then dropped back to $365.00 for the 75,000 km mark (60 months). VW figures the total cost for 90,000 km works out to be $2,456.00. The warranty is for three-years/unlimited-distance and includes three years of 24/7 roadside assistance.

Caddy claims four stars from Euro NCAP crash safety testing, and in Delivery’s view it provides good value, a well-sorted design and solid credentials.

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