Today’s compact van must be all things to all users.
Obviously there are limits, but the main contenders all now offer a choice of two sizes.
Volkswagen’s Caddy is no different but brings a quality feel and a depth of engineering that’s missing from some rivals.
The Caddy van has come a long way. The name dates back to 1996 when all this LCV really offered business buyers was a Volkswagen Polo with a metallic shed bolted on the back.
Today’s restyled Caddy sports a pleasingly cohesive shape and runs on the altogether more substantial platform of the MK5 Golf hatchback.
The choice of standard and larger ‘Maxi’ bodystyles means that you can even get a passenger car version – the Caddy Maxi MPV – which offers a no-frills seven-seat people carrier.
Plus there are Caddy+ enhanced payload models, frugal BlueMotion Technology versions and 4Motion 4WD options.
There’s a diesel only-engine range for Caddy Maxi customers to consider and the overwhelming majority of UK van operators wouldn’t have it any other way.
The 75 and 102PS 1.6-litre TDI engines open proceedings and are adequately forceful for moving even the biggest Caddy Maxi and its cargo thanks to useful reserves of torque. The alternative, however, has quite the powerhouse – by van standards at least. Packing 110 or 140PS, the 2.0-litre TDI can really move.
Its strength low down in the rev range is perfect for getting weighty loads off the line or up steep inclines.
The cut and thrust of motorway travel is also greatly simplified when you’ve got this much power under your right boot.
Both of the Caddy Maxi’s diesel engines now use the common-rail injection diesel set-up that tends to be smoother and more refined.
There’s the usual diesel rumble at start-up but once operating temperatures are achieved, the Caddy goes about its business in a reasonably hushed manner.
The driving position is nice and high, affording good visibility and easy access. The dash-mounted gear shift has a nice, positive feel and the braking performance inspires confidence.
The Caddy isn’t as enjoyable to hustle along as some of the other offerings in this sector but its suspension irons out the bumps well for an overall driving experience with high levels of comfort.
The Caddy’s front end has a new look, adopting the mix of clean, horizontal lines that already features on the Transporter.
The standard Caddy offers a 3.2cu m load volume with a 720kg payload.
With the Caddy Maxi, you’ve got 470mm more in length, with 151mm of that accounted for by a longer rear overhang and 319mm squeezed into the wheelbase. It all makes for a vehicle of 4,875mm in length with a 4.2cu m load volume – 1cu m more than the standard van. The maximum payload is increased to 800kg in a Caddy Maxi.
Even if you really only need a small van, this version is worth considering. You’ll be glad you opted for it when the inevitable day comes when you turn up to collect a load bigger than advertised and find that it won’t fit.
A braked trailer capacity of up to 1,500kg is within the Caddy’s remit and pulling potential of this magnitude is rare in this sector.
It’s the Caddy’s mass that allows owners to hitch-up such a big trailer. With gross vehicle weights between 2,205kg and 2,235kg, it’s a much heavier vehicle than any direct competitor - few vans of this size even approach the 2,000kg barrier.
As well as the panel van model, the Caddy Maxi can also be ordered in Window Van and ‘MPV’ forms. These bring additional people carrying options, with the Window Van taking a basic minibus approach with a carpeted floor and bench seats.
Volkswagen has a very effective LCV line-up and the Caddy is a key part of it.