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VW Caddy gets new engines and look

The cars arrive in Australia in mid-December and VW Commercial Vehicles director Phil Clark says Caddy is a key growth area for the world's biggest carmaker.

Volkswagen already does big business with the compact vehicle in both people-mover and van guises, but is relying on a major upgrade of its drivetrains and a move to sedan styling to haul in more capacity.

The cars arrive in Australia in mid-December and VW Commercial Vehicles director Phil Clark says Caddy is a key growth area for the world's biggest carmaker.  "Small vans in 2004 were 8 per cent of the market; now its 18 per cent," he says. "Caddy has done very well for us.

"With this model, everything forward of the windscreen is new."  The latest range was internationally launched in Germany last week, where they proved themselves capable of reaching speeds _ even with 350kg of ballast in the back _ that would have you locked away for life in Australia.

More importantly, the interior fabrics and plastics look like the soft-texture stuff out of the VW parts catalogue, but have a much more durable feel to them.

The driving position is similarly sedan style, wtih the six-speed manual shifter easy enough to work that it takes little effort to drive in peak-hour traffic.  The six-speed wet-plate DSG shifter is still the go, but it is slightly vague at speeds under 30km/h, so stop-start operators will have to trade off the precision of the manul of the ease of the self-shifter.

Conversely, the automatic is the box of choice for families, who will find it saves fuel and hassles Clark says prices haven't been finalised but he doesn't expect dramatic rises.

Opening the bidding for budget-conscious families is the five-seat Caddy Life. It's powered by a 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine that has cut fuel consumption by 21 per cent and increased torque by the same amount over the outgoing model, with fuel use of 6.6 litres for 100km and outputs of 77kW/175Nm.

The test drive was notably missing hills, but the Caddy punches well above its weight on the autobahns, with serious mid-range urge with two people on board.  We'll wait until it lands Down Under for a full review, but it looks like a capable entry level vehicle.

Pulling power won't be an issue for the long-wheelbase Caddy Maxi Life, which will carry seven with reasonable rapidity thanks to the 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine producing 103kW/320Nm.  Strip out the seats and buy the Caddy as a van and the DSG will hit the sweet-spot with fleet operators and owner-operators who don't want the hassle of constant gear changes.

Clark admits the manual's biggest buyers will be tradies who won't change their clutch-operated ways and says the auto version will be the dominant player.  "A lot of these guys are couriers _ they prefer a diesel with an automatic and that's why we've done so well with Caddy Maxi."

"If they don't need a one-tonner (the Maxi's rated to lug 813kg) and are looking at carrying capacity, that's were we've got the edge."  The Caddy's obvious rival is Mercedes' one-tonne Vito range, but the two share similar internal volume.

Craig Duff
Contributing Journalist
Craig Duff is a former CarsGuide contributor and News Corp Australia journalist. An automotive expert with decades of experience, Duff specialises in performance vehicles and motorcycles.
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