The Caddy was introduced to the Australian market in 2004 as an alternative to the popular Transporter, and it has enjoyed success as a small-size delivery model during the past decade. As a small panel van, it is ideal for small and starter businesses.
The Caddy’s cabin has wide-opening front doors and plenty of legroom, and it is conveniently and comfortably accessible for delivery drivers who are in and out of their vans frequently during the course of the day. There is height-adjustable seating for both driver and passenger, ensuring comfort over long hours, and the cabin has plenty of storage to hand, making it the ideal choice for long hours and maximum kilometres.
Spotting a gap in the market for a larger-size van that was still more manoeuvrable than the mid-size Transporter, a “maxi” version was introduced in 2008. The Caddy Maxi is nearly half a metre longer than the standard Caddy and also features more than 30% more cargo space. It is also extremely versatile, with sliding doors providing excellent access to both sides in addition to the standard access offered by the fully opening rear doors.
The Maxi Van was hailed by Volkswagen as the perfect solution for a growing company – providing all the benefits of a larger-than-average delivery van without the size or commitment of investing in a full-size Transporter or similar larger-scale model. Volkswagen has made much of the Maxi’s ability to carry a full-size Australian pallet, which is markedly bigger than its European counterpart.
From the front, the two models look very similar; however, from the side, the differences between them are plain to see in the extended wheelbase and larger stowage area of the Maxi.
The Maxi Life completes the model offering as a larger-sized MPV, accommodating 7 adults and their accompanying luggage without a murmur. The Caddy Life is based on the longer-wheel-based Maxi van, with additional glazed areas, bench seating, and folding seats along with cargo nets, compartments, and cup holders transforming it into a perfectly comfortable people carrier.
The entry-level second-generation (2008) Caddy came with a 1.6L petrol engine giving 77kW and 250Nm of torque. Transmission on the basic model is 5-speed manual only, although the TDI offers a DSG automated manual alternative. Engine choices are the same across both the Caddy and the Caddy Maxi, and most drivers would probably agree that the TDI is the pick of the pair. Not only does it offer the additional benefit of the optional DSG gearbox, it also uses 2.0L/100km less fuel than its petrol-powered counterpart at just 6.1L/100km.
The Caddy Life comes with just one engine option, a 1.9 TDI with the option of 5-speed manual or 6-speed DSG transmission.
Updated models from 2011 feature two petrol options based on the 1.2L TSI and four diesel options producing 55kW, 77kW, 82kW, and 105kW, the last two being offered with the DSG 6-speed transmission option and the 82kW model also featuring Volkswagen’s popular 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system.
The Caddy is front-wheel driven and acceleration is pretty swift, although this is of course changeable depending on the weight of cargo inside. The Caddy’s steering is also surprisingly light and responsive. In fact, for a compact van both the Maxi Caddy and the standard model handle remarkably like a well-made European car – certainly a far cry from a rough-and-ready delivery vehicle. The Caddy clings to the bends, even at a brisk pace, with minimum roll and plenty of grip.
Standard features on the Caddy and the Caddy Maxi include air-conditioning, power steering, power windows, power mirrors, CD player with single-disc facility, cruise control, and central locking. Rear parking sensors are available as one of a package of optional extras, though bearing in mind this is a panel van, it could be argued that models would benefit from having them as standard.
Safety is a key feature for the Caddy, with the van obtaining a four-star rating from ANCAP, the first of its type to do so. Contributing factors to its safety success are the driver’s side airbag, anti-lock brakes with traction control, and additional options including passenger airbag and side airbags and ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Programme).
Since it came to market in 2005, the Caddy has assumed its position as the market-leading compact van in Australia, enjoying almost 50% of the market share a few years after its launch. Competition to the Caddy comes from other small delivery-style vans, such as Citroen’s popular Berlingo and the Holden Barina Combo. In general, even with its premium pricing, the Caddy wins the day, especially in its TDI/DSG transmission format.