At A Glance
Small vans are under a lot of pressure these days, they've got to be as comfortable as a car but practical & reliable enough to let you stick as much kit in the back as you want to! That's where we say hello to the VW Caddy, Volkswagen's attempt to tick all the small commercial vehicle boxes. We decided to give it a road test with van expert Tom Roberts to see if it lives up to the hype...
The Outside Of The VW Caddy
The VW Caddy is one of my favourite looking vans on the market right now, starting with the big iconic VW badge. Chrome bars stretch out from the badge & pull your eyes around the vehicle, and the big headlights and fog lights are incredibly effective at improving visibility in low-lit settings.
The Caddy is designed to turn heads, and those 16-inch alloy wheels play a massive part in that. It's also all in the detail, such as the door mirrors, which are body coloured on the top and tough durable plastic on the bottom. Using a little button on the inside, they fold when you press them as well as being electrically heated to make sure that on those cold days they're defrosted and fully clear for better visibility where you need it.
The entire profile of the vehicle just looks great. Usually on panel vans you get depressions to show where windows can be popped out, but on the side of the VW Caddy there's no depressions at all. Its smooth blank canvas makes it absolutely perfect if you want to get your vehicle sign written.
Loadspace & Storage
The most iconic way of getting into a VW van is with the door hatch, which opens up completely to the top. One of my favorite things about this is if it's a sunny day you've got shade and if it's a rainy day you've got shelter.
Overall, the loading bay looks superb, with excellent quality VW ply lining. There are 3 lashing points down each side bringing you a total of 6, meaning awkward loads are very easy to secure in place. The loading bay itself is 1.8 metres long in the L1 version and the hatch makes it very easy to get loads in and out between the wheel arches.
Another of my favourite things about the Caddy's loading bay is the lighting. A lot of other manufacturers will just stick normal bulb lights in, but VW have finally done what I've been wishing other van makers would do, they've stuck LED lights in there. There are 3 powerful LED bulbs installed because they've realised that LED technology is actually very cost-effective and people will appreciate it more than having to change bulbs every 5 minutes.
VW shows off its build quality one final time in the loading bay with the side sliding door which is very smooth and easy to open. The opening is just under a meter wide, about 0.7m, and the bulkhead really doesn't intrude too much into it, meaning you get to take advantage of all that width.
Interior Trim & Cabin
The first thing I notice about the interior of the VW Caddy is the build quality. Critics usually say that when you sit in the front of a VW van you feel like you're in the front of a VW car, and I've got to say the Caddy is absolutely no different. It's got a beautiful leather-lined steering wheel at the Highline trim lever, a very comfortable heated seat and the plastics in here just fit with the overall design.
There's no nasty seam lines and it just all seems to come together. I don't see anything out of place. It's all well-thought-out, it's spacious and there's a lovely bit of storage above my head which is easy to reach up to and access. And if you want more storage, there's space under the passenger and driver seats. There are big sun visors for the driver and passenger, and just above those is a storage cubby with more than enough room for books, folders, box files, paperwork... whatever you want to stick in there.
When it comes to control, there isn't just standard cruise control. At the Highline trim level you get radar cruise control. On the right-hand side of the steering wheel you've got your phone controls, your volume controls, and your driver information display which is on the dashboard instrumentation just between the rev counter and speedometer. Plus, the reverse parking sensors and reverse parking camera come in very useful!
In the middle of the dashboard you have this kind of trough - a little storage area where you're able to stick stuff like map books or maybe even a sandwich. Moving down from there, you've got two big vents either side of your hazard lights which I think is a really convenient place to put them. This is right below your passenger airbag indicator light and all your climate controls for getting the right temperature in your Caddy's cabin.
Below the climate controls there's a big touch-sensitive infotainment screen, plus radio functions, phone settings and even some voice control options that you can have activated. There's a Sat Nav and a little slot for your Maps SD card, all your app settings and a standard menu function where you can control settings and various other apps.
One thing to point out in this vehicle is that it doesn't have Android Auto & Apple CarPlay, but it still does have some connectivity options. There's a USB socket plus an aux-in socket, fixing you up with some other ways to connect your phone.
In my opinion, the interior on the VW Caddy at the Highline trim level blows the competition out of the water.
Caddy Driving & On Road Performance
So let's take the VW Caddy on the road and see if that 2-litre turbo diesel injection engine really is as powerful as all critics are saying.
Even the most cynical of van reviewers couldn't get into a VW Caddy and not feel like they're sitting in something that's a cut above a certain level of quality. Visibility is excellent. The windscreen is surprisingly large for a vehicle of this size with clear vision on both the driver and the passenger side. The a-pillars are also not that thick, so there's very little obstructing your view when you're looking to the left and right.
Perhaps the most noticeable thing about driving the VW Caddy is just how quiet it is. It's a 2-litre turbo diesel injection engine and yet you can barely hear it. There's barely any road noise whatsoever, in fact, which is a little disconcerting.
The other small vans available in the sector do suffer from road noise probably because there's not much paneling or baffling in the doors, whereas in the VW, the build quality of the vehicle means not only is it a comfortable drive, it's quiet too.
The Caddy feels slinky, smooth and aerodynamic.The 2-litre diesel engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox, which is configured as a dual-shift gearbox. This means effectively two gearboxes running next to each other prepping the next gear to go up or down depending on how you're driving. Not only is this very clever, it also puts a lot of power at your disposal. Thanks to that gearbox, it holds you until that last second and then it booms straight up into the next gear. It keeps that power feeding the wheels which makes it great fun to drive and when I put my foot down, it's straight up acceleration with a wonderful 0-62mph reading of just 9.4 seconds!
The VW Caddy is absolutely overflowing with options and additions at the Highline level of trim (not to mention the other trim levels), but it's also fast and incredibly fun to drive. This is a van for someone who likes to turn up on-site, turn some heads and turn the engine over when they get a stretch of road. The 2-litre turbo diesel injection engine and that 6-speed DSG gearbox work together to make it incredibly fun to drive.
I had a great time on the test drive, and I'm pleased to see the VW Caddy is not afraid to wear its heritage on its sleeve because it comes from great stock. At the Highline level of trim, the Caddy is everything you need from a modern van and that alone has proved its value to me! It gets a big thumbs up.
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