Volkswagen Caddy plays Golf
Volkswagen's new Caddy is based on the latest Golf, making it a particularly talented car-like compact van, says William Scholes
IT isn't that long ago that commercial vehicles were synonymous with being crude and uncouth, writes William Scholes.
But that has all changed. We've talked before on these pages about how in the last decade or so no class of vehicle has improved quite so dramatically as the pick-up. The best of these manage to be properly utilitarian and tough as well as plush and pleasant to drive.
Vans have made great strides too, often by virtue of being based on passenger cars.
In the compact van sector, Citroen's Berlingo has set the standard for car-like dynamics and comfort on top of its sheer usefulness.
The Berlingo package is also offered as the Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo Cargo - the three brands are all part of the same group - and also as the Toyota Proace City.
The Berlingo siblings won't have it all their own way any longer, however.
Volkswagen, another commercial vehicle giant, has just started delivering an all-new version of its Caddy to showrooms.
The headline news here is that the Caddy, now into its fifth generation, is based on the same platform that is found under a vast array of highly regarded cars in the Volkswagen Group empire, from the VW Golf and Audi A3 to the Skoda Octavia and Cupra Formentor.
That means the Caddy is built on some great foundations and gives it access to the same safety technology, infotainment and digital screens as the cars.
As before it comes in panel van - called the Caddy Cargo - and passenger-carrying flavours, and is offered with a choice of wheelbases - standard and 'Maxi'.
The headline news here is that the Caddy, now into its fifth generation, is based on the same platform that is found under a vast array of highly regarded cars in the Volkswagen Group empire, from the VW Golf and Audi A3 to the Skoda Octavia and Cupra Formentor
The styling, such as it is, is in the typically Volkswagen evolutionary mode - it looks much as you would expect a more modern version of the previous Caddy to appear, with some crisper lines and up-to-date lamp treatments, for example.
If the exterior is steady-as-she-goes, then the interior is radically different.
The dashboard could pass for something out of a VW passenger car - this is a good thing - while the digital dashboard display and centrally mounted infotainment touchscreen are essentially the same as you get in a Golf these days.
And as with the latest Golf, the Caddy has many touch-sensitive buttons. Taken together, it gives the Caddy driver the impression they are driving something undeniably high-tech.
It has to be said that delegating so many functions to a touchscreen and little touch-sensitive buttons will not be to everyone's favour, but the same observation applies to many contemporary cars. Sometimes, a proper button or knob is simply more intuitive...
Latest-generation driver assistance systems now on offer include trailer assist, which makes reversing with a trailer much easier, and the vehicle has the capability to contact emergency services if it is in an accident.
There is an electronic handbrake and all models get a multi-function steering wheel.
The versatile Caddy passenger model, meanwhile, comes as a spacious five-seater in standard wheelbase form or as a seven-pew Maxi, complete with three rows of seats
The Caddy should be a more useful van than the previous model. The adaptability of the clever platform it is built on means that the overall height of the vehicle has been reduced by 25mm, yet the overall load height has increased.
In standard wheelbase guise, the Caddy is also 93mm longer than before - bringing it in at exactly 4.5m long from nose to tail - and has a 73mm longer wheelbase.
Cargo width is up by 57mm to 1,613mm, with the width between the wheelarches swelling by a similar 60mm to 1,230mm. The rear door opening is 51mm wider, at 1,234mm.
The standard van's load capacity is 3.1 cubic metres, with the Maxi model offering 3.7 cubic metres, courtesy of its 215mm wheelbase stretch. The Maxi's sliding doors are also wider.
The standard Cargo can carry a single Euro pallet, while the Maxi can swallow two.
Being able to draw on the VW Group's resources mean the Caddy arrives with a wide range of engines - three diesel (74bhp, 101bhp and 120bhp) and one petrol (112bhp) - while a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel-drive is standard, though the more powerful engines can be specified with a double-clutch automatic transmission and four-wheel-drive.
There is no electric version as yet.
The Caddy Cargo comes in three different trims - Commerce, Commerce Plus and Commerce Pro - with on-the-road prices ranging from £18,760 (ex-VAT)/£22,448 (inc VAT) for a petrol Commerce to £27,810 (ex-VAT)/£33,308 (inc VAT) for a diesel four-wheel-drive Maxi Commerce Pro.
The versatile Caddy passenger model, meanwhile, comes as a spacious five-seater in standard wheelbase form or as a seven-pew Maxi, complete with three rows of seats.
The Caddy isn't offered, at least for now, with the 74bhp or four-wheel-drive options available with the panel van.
It comes in Caddy and Life trims, with on-the-road prices starting at £20,585 (ex-VAT)/£24,648 (inc VAT) for a short-wheelbase Caddy with the petrol engine and rising to £27,480 (ex-VAT)/£32,922 (inc VAT) for a Caddy Life Maxi with the 120bhp diesel engine and seven-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox.
The new Caddy is better than the old model in every way that matters and is further evidence that vans are becoming increasingly sophisticated and car-like.