Stuart Martin reviews the changes to VW’s Caddy for 2016

Relaxed cruising out in front of the pack is far from Volkswagen’s tactic when it comes to its Caddy range as it aims to keep its little wagon in top spot.

Hamstrung by the absence of a diesel until the brand sorts out its emissions issues, the new-look load-lugging small van and its people-mover sidekick will be looking to stay segment leader with a peppy petrol engine and wider availability of an automatic.

While the French are coming at them with renewed vigour, VW Commercial Vehicles director, Carlos Santos, is confident in the Caddy’s credentials and it’s ability to go beyond its traditional segment.

“The most exciting thing about Caddy is the auto availability, and it’s breaking out of its segment with the new people-mover segment,” he said.

The 4th-gen Caddy will make do until sometime in the first half of next year with the 92 kW/220 Nm (from 1500 to 3500 rpm), 1.4-litre, turbocharged, direct-injection, four-cylinder, petrol engine that is endowed with stop-start and brake energy recovery fuel-saver systems.

While it does need 95RON PULP in its 55-litre tank, it claims a fuel use of 6.2 litres per 100 km for the six-speed manual, dropping to a claim of 6.0 litres with the seven-speed DSG.VW-Caddy Van_02_M

The workhorse side of the Caddy equation now starts a little higher in price – at least until the manual-only TSI160 Runner arrives early next year and gets close to the $22,690 of the outgoing model.

Entry to the range comes in the form of the Maxi Van TSI220 manual from $28,190 – up on the $$25,290 price tag of the outgoing TSI175 petrol model.

The TSI220 DSG variant is the next cab off the rank at $28,990, sneaking in under the $30K mark with the Maxi Crewvan TSI220 in manual guise at $29,690. The Maxi Van with a DSG asks $31,190 and the Crewvan version tops the load-lugger range at $32,690.

The workhorse now gets a model-specific dash and cabin layout, without the higher-end trim piece of the kid-carter models, as well as more open storage trays, a lockable glovebox and open dash storage, as well as under-seat storage and an overhead console and big door pockets.

The Caddy Van remains available in two lengths, the standard version with a 2682 mm wheelbase and the Maxi, which stretches to a wheelbase of 3006 mm that contributes to 470 mm in additional overall length and about one more cubic metre in the load space, taking it to 4200 litres.

The cargo bay measures 1779 mm (2249 mm in the Maxi) and 1259 mm in height, accessed by offset split rear barn doors opening up to 180 degrees, with the option (for $100) of a lifting tailgate and a second side sliding door for $690 on the SWB model.

The new Caddy range comes fitted with combined side/head airbags for Caddy vans, with curtain airbags saved for the people-mover variant.

The range sits on 16-inch steel wheels, with the option of alloys in the same size for an extra $990 (which are not available for the Crewvan buyer).

Standard fare also includes air conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter function, rubber flooring, Bluetooth phone and audio link (with controls on the standard leather-wrapped steering wheel), trip computer, as 12-volt socket in the load bay, power-adjustable heated exterior mirrors, a height adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, and cloth trim.

Standard safety features include stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, emergency brake assistance, hill holder and the electronic differential lock systems. Highlights in terms of standard safety features are the Multi-Collision Braking system, which automatically brakes if the driver can’t, and the fatigue detection system.VW_Caddy Van_01_M

Options range from metallic or pearl paint at $890, a driver’s-side sliding door in the SWB Van for $690 (it’s standard on the Maxi models) or a lift tailgate at $100. Rear parking sensors add $590, or, if a lift gate has been selected, a rear sensors and camera option pack can be had for $1090 (although it’s standard on the people-mover version).

Infotainment can be expanded to the “Composition Media” system with App Connect for $1190, or the app-based sat/nav-equipped “Discover Media” system is a $1990 impost.

A number of option packages have also been put together for the Caddy.

Volkswagen is offering a “Driver Assistance Package” for $2260 that adds collision warning and auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, front fog lights with static cornering function, daytime running lights, auto function for the halogen headlights, rain-sensing wipers and an auto-dimming centre mirror.

An “Interior Comfort Package” for $850 adds the aforementioned lighting extras as well as seat height and lumbar adjustment, vanity mirrors and a 12-volt socket in the dashboard, the latter being something that should probably be standard.

The Caddy runs the independent MacPherson strut front, and leaf-sprung rear end, with the option of heavy-duty dampers – a reinforced rear suspension option is $390 for the standard van and $690 for the long-wheelbase model.

Getting behind the wheel of the TSI220 base model – at least until the Runner arrives early next year – it’s not hard to see why the Caddy is likely to remain a popular workhorse.

The 1.4 is an engine that punches above its number when toiling in the Golf, and it works with similar enthusiasm in the Caddy.

Sport mode in the DSG is not mandatory but it does get the little van humming through the traffic with more purpose; in Drive the gearbox is diligent with gear selections for economy and can be a little prone to sluggish behaviour.

Fuel economy in the mid to high single digits when unladen would not be impossible, given the short run in Sydney traffic had the trip computer showing in the realm of 6.0-7.0 l/100 km.

Despite the open rear cargo area, the Caddy was not overly noisy, nor was it a chore to steer, although the ride was on the firm side thanks in part to the workhorse tyres.

A strong take-up of the blind spot warning system is likely, as non-glazed flanks don’t do much for merging cleanly in heavy traffic situations.

The standard infotainment unit – thankfully now with a USB input and Bluetooth – is more than adequate, but the ability to integrate smartphones into the car’s functions will no doubt be seen as useful for small business operators likely to punt one of these to earn a crust.

Good cabin storage – including useful door pockets and a decent overhead shelf – and comfortable seating will also play well for its sales potential.

Driving with 260 kg in the rear and the fuel use just slipped into double figures, but the rear suspension felt undeterred from its task, and, given the ride was well on the firm side unladen, the load was a welcome settler for the rear end.

It does everything asked of it with typical German adeptness, but it’s not as relaxed and comfortable on the road as its Renault Kangoo opposition, the model from which it has undergone the most challenges in terms of sales this year – it’s up almost 70 percent.

A stint as a petrol-only proposition is unlikely to hinder the Caddy in its assault on the 2016 sales tables, helped by the enthusiastic powerplant, wide availability of an automatic and the prospect of servicing and guaranteed value finance packages, all of which should see the Caddy keep its crown.

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