Volkswagen adds a different dimension to compact transport with a limited edition Caddy. Words and images by Chris Mullett
Don’t expect sleek lines and aerodynamic wedge styling in the Caddy Edition 30. This boxy five-seater is of course a derivative of the Caddy light-commercial small van, the model that has revolutionised the Australian attitude to compact load carriers to such an extent that it is market leader, and looks like staying that way through 2013.
The Caddy has always been a good package, and, in the form of the Caddy Maxi, it offers far more than it seems when given a cursory glance. Although from the outside it still looks like a small van with windows, it provides a really versatile option to drivers looking for interior space, easy access for front and rear passengers, more than acceptable performance and outstanding fuel economy.
The close of last year marked 30 years since the release of the first Caddy, and to celebrate the milestone Volkswagen has introduced a special edition version, the Caddy Edition 30.
The short-wheelbase five-seater people mover is offered with the same 103 kW engine and six-speed DSG transmission currently featured in the Caddy Maxi Comfortline TDI320. However, a number of changes have been made that set the special edition apart. Externally, the Caddy Edition 30 incorporates a gloss black roof panel, 17-inch ‘Budapest’ alloy wheels with black highlights, fog lights, roof rails, twin halogen headlights, and painted bumpers. Unique Caddy Edition 30 signatures are added to the dual sliding doors, at the back of the vehicle and on the doorsills.
The special edition receives high-quality, two-tone Alcantara interior upholstery that differentiates itself by having a suede-like insert in the seat back and base, plus there’s a leather steering wheel, full interior trim and climate control. The one inclusion that you will not find on the Edition 30 is that of Bluetooth connection for mobile telephones, in our view a serious and disappointing omission.
There is a comprehensive list of safety features, such as Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with Brake Assist (BA), and driver and front passenger front, head and thorax airbags. Further inclusions add cruise control, powered front widows, powered and heated door mirrors, daytime running lamps, hill-hold assist and an MP3 compatible CD player with six speakers.
Regular readers of Delivery will know of our dislike for the Volkswagen DSG gearbox on the grounds that it has, up until now, been annoyingly grumpy in heavy traffic. It has always performed rapid-fire gearshifts at full throttle perfectly, but heavy traffic and a slow urban morning or evening crawl resulted in the clutches arguing with the gear engagement in stop/start motoring. The shift from Drive to Reverse, when parking, was also annoyingly slow.
Someone in the Volkswagen vaults has obviously been charged with fixing what we saw as a serious limitation to the appeal of the DSG twin-clutch transmission, and, in this new Caddy, the transmission has morphed into a delightful gearbox, capable of tackling all types of driving constraints.
The hill-hold assist system fitted to this model means there is no longer any lag or attempted creep by the transmission as it tries to engage traction. Take-offs from stationary are now perfectly controlled, and the six gear ratios shift smoothly through the gearbox, both up and down the selection. The electronic control unit that monitors the shift protocol also appears to have been upgraded, and, in this latest version, the shift selection is much more intuitive.
A light touch of the brake pedal, when encountering a slight downhill slope, will result in a downshift automatically, whereby the engine provides retardation without driver intervention. Any slight pressure on the accelerator pedal will see the upshift occur.
The Caddy can now boast a transmission that is equal to the ability of the 2.0-litre diesel, four-cylinder engine. With its 103 kW of power produced at 4,400 rpm, it’s all about torque when it comes to driving pleasure. In this case, the torque rating of 320 Nm from 1,500-2,500 rpm spells out how relaxed the drive will be and how the engine characteristics will blend in well for obtaining good fuel efficiency.
The combined figure quoted by Volkswagen is set at 6.5 l/100 km, with an emissions output of 171 g/km of CO2. Far from being difficult to obtain, this figure of 6.5 l/100 km can be improved upon if the driver wants to save some extra cash. All it takes is a little extra concentration, and an attentive driver will easily drop that figure down to 6.0 l/100 km.
We mentioned earlier that we felt the Caddy Edition 30 was impressively versatile, but it’s only when you poke about inside the car that the real benefits become visible. The front doors are front hinged, just as with any sedan. The rear doors are not hinged, but slide smoothly to reveal very easy access to the three seats in the centre row. Each is fitted with a three-point lap/sash diagonal seat belt.
The nearside seats are a pair with the offside seat being a single. Both can flip their seat backs forward onto the seat bases, and then can again fold forwards to provide greater space in the already cavernous rear luggage area. For those times when you visit IKEA or Bunning’s and wish you had a ute parked outside, you’ll be amazed at just how much space this provides. And, when you want more, it’s an easy five-second job to remove any or all of the seats in the second row.
This leaves the owner with an interior luggage area that expands to a length of 1,800 mm, a width of 1120 mm, and a height of 1250 mm, all accessed by either of the two sliding side doors or by a top-hinged tailgate that lifts up at the rear.
And yet there’s more by way of the good bits that we liked – there’s plenty of storage space. In addition to the usual door pockets and centre console, there’s a full-width parcel shelf extending right across the dashboard above the windscreen. It’s easy to access, and it can hold all manner of things, from books to maps, torches to even pullovers and light jackets or rainwear.
The Caddy Edition 30 was released at last year’s Sydney International Motor Show, and it’s our understanding that the initial shipment for the Edition 30 was limited to just 75 vehicles. That said, it shows what can be achieved, with a little thought, to differentiate the Edition 30 from the lower spec models and to improve appeal amongst its potential group of buyers.
On sale at a very competitive drive-away price of $37,990, the Caddy Edition 30 could prove to be the perfect compromise for a small family that needs a load carrier for business during the week and a people mover for the weekends.
The only shortfall, from our perspective, was the already mentioned omission of Bluetooth connectivity for mobile telephones as standard, plus the tyre and rim fitment of using Spanish made Turanza 205/50R17 tyres mounted on 17-inch alloy rims.
The wheel and tyre option does indeed look good, but because of the tyre’s 50 aspect ratio tread depth, the ride comfort is compromised. At full rated weight, the recommended tyre pressure is set at 50 psi (340 KPa), and, with little give in the rubber, it makes the ride unnecessarily harsh.
In its more commercially-oriented form, the tyre fitment for the Caddy Maxi is between the 195/65R15 or 205/55R16 sizing, and either of these choices would be an improvement in ride comfort, while also lowering road noise transmission to the vehicle interior.