The VW Caddy is marketed in South Africa by VW commercial vehicles division which suggests that the vehicle is no more than a workhorse but in the case of the Trendline at least, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that this model drives like a good hatchback and offers the versatility of a panel van as proven on a recent launch drive through the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
This is the fourth generation of Wolfsburg’s all-rounder and it’s been the recipient of a styling make-over which incorporates many of the current, chiselled VW design cues that endow this practical vehicle with a decidedly smart appearance that’s enhanced by beautifully glossy paintwork and a range of appealing colours.
In South Africa, four versions of the Caddy are offered: The Panel Van and Crew Bus for commercial applications and the Trendline and ruggedly-adorned Alltrack for private customers. All bar the Alltrack are also available as Maxi versions with an extended wheelbase that extends fore and aft space by not far short of half a metre.
Three motors are offered, these being an 81kW petrol 1.6 and 81kW plus 103kW 2.0 TDIs, the first two in combination with a five-speed manual gearbox. The Panel Van and Crew Bus are fitted with either of the lower-powered motors while both 2.0TDIs are available in the Crew Bus, Trendline and Alltrack.
If the 103kW output appeals to you, a 6-speed DSG gearbox is compulsory but as you’ll read in a moment, that’s a bonus.
We were exposed to the Trendline on the launch and let me say that the interior execution, following an extensive makeover, is really very pleasant even if soft-touch surfacing does not abound. VW are past masters at applying grains and surfacing that disguise the nasty side of plastics and so it is here with the dashboard reminding me a lot of a modernised Golf 5 layout.
As you’d expect in a VW, safety is not skimped with airbags backed up by Automatic Post Collision Assist and in the case of the Trendline, Alltrack and DSG Maxi versions of the Crew Bus and Panel Van, a Driver Alert System is standard. An Optical Parking System, rear view camera and fog lights with cornering lights may also be specified.
Driving such a vehicle isn’t all work and no play as the standard installation of a Composition Colour touch screen infotainment unit with Bluetooth, USB, AUX and SD proves. This can be upgraded to a larger 6.5 inch Composition Media display (standard in Alltrack) complete with wiping and zooming gesture control.
Other standard comfort items in the Trendline include climatic air con, auto mirrors, electric windows, leather-wrapped steering wheel, height adjustable front seats with under-seat storage and a multi-function display to name the primary niceties.
Externally, the passenger car-like spec continues with 16-inch alloy wheels, body-colour bumpers, handles and mirrors, multi-function display, black roof rails and more.
For a comprehensive run-down on the full range of options in the SA market, and the variations available by model range, a visit to www.vw.co.za is strongly recommended.
If the external appearance of the new Caddy telegraphs greater sophistication, the overall interior ambience and driving feel follow suit. Five seats are standard fare in regular and Maxi versions with a third row offered as an option, creating seven-seat capability. The middle and rear seats can be folded, double-folded or completely removed in a matter of seconds — as demonstrated to us — to create a mammoth 3.03 cubic metre load area that rises to 3.37 in the Maxi.
The cloth-covered front seats are as comfortable and as well-bolstered as any you’ll find in a decent quality passenger car and all controls fall easily to hand so forget any ideas you may have that you’re driving a van in its most basic form.
Our initial exposure was in a Trendline DSG with 103kW and it took only a few metres to establish that VW has worked wonders as far as refinement is concerned. The proven 2.0 turbo diesel motor can’t quite hide its origins at idle but once on the move, it settles into its work in near silence and with an ease that may not be familiar to those who only drive petrol vehicles.
The incredibly slick and responsive DSG gearbox responds to driving style so if a light foot is applied, the box quickly skips through six gears and has you cruising at a fair lick with just 2 000 rpm or less on the tacho. All this is thanks to a meaty torque curve that sees a maximum of 320Nm on hand all the way from 1 750 to 2 500 rpm.
Be aware though, that if you want to get moving quickly after lulling the Caddy into a quiet phase, there is a need to prompt down changes but this is no hardship as the lever can be flicked backwards or the throttle stomped to the floor.
It was all too easy to find the speedo sitting well above the 120 km/h speed limit thanks to the aforementioned effortless power delivery and to very good isolation of wind and road-induced disturbances, quite an achievement for a vehicle with such a capacious cabin.
Admittedly the ride wasn’t seriously tested on mostly smooth-surfaced roads, but aside from some thump generated by transverse ridges, the level of comfort and control could be described as remarkable for a vehicle of this ilk. Doubtless a load will improve matters further still.
The brakes, by the way, felt powerful and nicely weighted. And as for fuel consumption, a combined figure of 6.2l/100km is claimed although a figure of around 7.5 would be more attainable in the real world.
The next day, our return was effected in a 5-speed manual Trendline with the 81kW turbo diesel motor. I happened to be in the passenger seat for all of the 170km but did not detect any fundamental differences in how the Caddy coped with the more variable road surfaces chosen for the return leg. The lower-powered engine also seemed more than adequate and was equally smooth and restrained as far as diesel clatter is concerned.
I appreciate that image projection is a rather powerful element in the decision–making that surrounds the purchase of a vehicle but let me state here and now, that this new Caddy, in passenger-orientated spec, really does overcome most of its workhorse image with slicker styling and a smart and well-equipped interior that offers versatility and a level of security a double-cab can’t approach.
People carrier, load carrier or both, this Caddy’s got most of the bases covered and on top of that, it’s a nice drive.
Volkswagen in Zimbabwe is represented by CFAO Motors, Golden Stairs Road, Harare. In the short time between compiling this article and the need to despatch it to my editor to meet deadlines, I was unable to acquire a response from CFAO as to the company’s plans for the fourth gen Caddy in Zimbabwe. I do know, however, that historically, and I suspect as a consequence of import duty structures, only the Panel Van version has been imported.
More’s the pity but the upgrades applicable even to the workhorse version of the revised model are sure to keep owners and drivers happy.
You can keep up to date on www.volkswagen-zimbabwe.com
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