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Volkswagen Caddy 2018 review


Daily driver score

4.1/5

Tradies score

4.1/5

The Caddy is the undisputed king of the compact (that's under 2.5-tonne GVM) van class in Australia. The popular Volkswagen soaks up about 60 per cent of all sales in this small but important segment, meaning two out of every three compact vans sold are wearing a Caddy badge.

At least part of that appeal is due to variety, with this fourth-generation Caddy available in a choice of short-wheelbase Van or long-wheelbase Maxi Van and Maxi Crewvan, with the latter catching our eye for its versatile load-lugging ability - whether it's carrying people or cargo. 

So is the Maxi Crewvan the sweet spot in the Caddy family? We spent a week in one to find out.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Maxi Crewvan is available with a choice of two engines; a 1.4-litre TSI220 petrol paired with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic, or a 2.0-litre TDI250 turbodiesel offered only with a DSG.

Our test vehicle was the TSI220 with DSG, starting at $34,090. For that, you get no-frills 16-inch steel wheels with 205/55 R16 94H tyres and a full-size spare (16-inch alloys are optional), daytime running lights, a two-speaker audio system with a 5.0-inch colour touchscreen, multiple connectivity options (including Bluetooth) with separate controls on the (height and reach adjustable) leather-bound steering wheel, heated mirrors, cruise control and more.

The Crewvan comes with a 5.0-inch colour touchscreen. The Crewvan comes with a 5.0-inch colour touchscreen.

There’s also a choice of solid body colours plus optional metallic finishes, as well as driver assistance and interior comfort enhancement packages.

Thankfully it comes with a 16-inch full-size spare. Thankfully it comes with a 16-inch full-size spare.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The Maxi Crewvan looks compact but is deceptively spacious, riding on a 3006mm wheelbase (which exceeds that of several 4x4 dual-cab utes) and is 324mm longer than its short-wheelbase Caddy stablemate. However, with minimal overhangs front and rear and a still tidy 12.2 metre turning circle, the overall length of 4878mm is easy to manoeuvre and park in busy city and suburban environments.

The 3006mm wheelbase exceeds that of some utes. The 3006mm wheelbase exceeds that of some utes.

Its front-wheel drive layout features electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering, powerful four-wheel disc brakes, MacPherson strut front suspension and a leaf spring beam axle rear suspension set-up designed for load carrying, with big rubber cones mounted on the chassis rails above each rear spring which compress under heavy payloads to provide additional support.

Sliding doors on each side (with opening windows) provide ample access to the 60/40 split-fold rear seat. The twin barn doors at the rear have a wiper/washer and 180-degree opening for easy forklift access. A single swing-up tailgate and side windows in the cargo bay are also useful options.

Access is easy with sliding doors on the side and barn doors on the back. Access is easy with sliding doors on the side and barn doors on the back.

All-round vision is pretty good for a van, with the rear barn doors being asymmetrically split (one wide, one narrow) to minimise obstruction in the rear mirror. The centre rear-seat headrest is also slightly lower than the outer pair to further aid the driver’s view.

The passenger-side door mirror is larger and more rectangular than the driver’s side, with a convex lens to improve ‘blind-side' vision, while the enormous windscreen provides a panoramic view of the road in a cabin that feels spacious and airy with plenty of headroom for tall drivers.

The front seats provide good upper thigh support, along with adjustable lumbar support in the driver’s backrest. The rear seat has adequate leg room, but there’s no rake adjustment for the backrest, and three large adults are squeezed for shoulder space as the Caddy’s overall width is about the same as a dual cab ute. Short trips with a five-person crew would be fine, but longer journeys should be as a four-seater.

It can seat five, but the Caddy is perhaps best as a four-seater. It can seat five, but the Caddy is perhaps best as a four-seater.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The 1.4-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine offers excellent performance, with 92kW at 4800rpm and 220Nm across an unusually broad 2000rpm torque band that spans 1500-3500rpm. It only drinks premium unleaded (95RON minimum) but does have the option of automatic stop/start.

The 1.4-litre engine puts out 92kW/220Nm. The 1.4-litre engine puts out 92kW/220Nm.

The seven-speed DSG is a highly efficient dual-clutch automatic transmission, with an optional Sport mode that alters the shift protocols for sharper throttle response. It also has Tiptronic manual sequential-shift mode which offers direct control of the gears, which can be handy when hauling heavy loads or for those wanting a more engaging feel.

How much fuel does it consume?

VW claims a frugal combined (urban, extra-urban) figure of only 6.0L/100km, and after our test - which involved a variety of roads and loads - the trip computer and bowser readings worked out at 7.8L/100km. Based on these figures you could expect a driving range of more than 700km from its 55-litre tank.

That's excellent ‘real world’ economy, especially given the official figure is achieved in ideal lab conditions and that the auto stop/start was switched off for the duration of our test.

How practical is the space inside?

With a 1524kg tare weight and 2249kg GVM, the Maxi Crewvan offers a useful 725kg payload rating. Up to 100kg of that can be carried on the roof, which provides four mounting points per side designed to take VW genuine accessory roof racks. However, unlike the SWB Van, the Maxi Crewvan is not rated for towing.

The Crewvan offers a handy 725kg payload rating. The Crewvan offers a handy 725kg payload rating.

The hardboard-lined cargo bay, which offers 1650 litres of load volume, is cavernous for a vehicle of this size. And its overall length of 1566mm can be extended to 1823mm with the rear seats tumbled forward, increasing cargo volume to an impressive 3950 litres.

There’s also 1170mm between the rear wheel arches, which is just enough width to take a standard Aussie pallet if required. Six pivoting D-shackles are set into the padded load floor for securing loads and there’s also an LED roof light and 12-volt outlet.

Cargo space maxes out at 3950 litres. Cargo space maxes out at 3950 litres.

Numerous cabin storage options include a bottle holder and storage pocket in each front door, open storage compartments on top of the dash pad and above the single glove box, a centre console with open storage cubby in front of the gearshift, four cup holders (two for rear passenger use) and a small oddments tray in the centre. There are also small storage drawers under each front seat plus a full-width shelf above.

However, as we often find in crew-type vans, rear seat passengers can feel more like cargo than crew. There are no storage pockets on the rear of the front seats, in the sliding doors or under the seats. Strangely, there are bottle holder/storage modules on each side of the cargo floor, but they’re positioned behind the seats and not accessible when seated. 

What's it like to drive?

Compared to the Caddy SWB Van previously tested, there’s been a big reduction in the cabin noise caused by tyre roar through the rear wheel arches. VW says no specific noise insulation has been added, so we can only attribute this acoustic gain to the noise-absorbing properties of the extra seat upholstery and perhaps the extra load floor covering and wall linings resulting from the longer wheelbase. The cabin noise is almost car-like at highway speeds, with conversations between front and rear occupants not requiring raised voices.

In city and suburban traffic the Crewvan is an agile and nippy performer, thanks to firm and responsive handling tied to a willing engine that’s so refined you sometimes need to look at the tacho when stopped at traffic lights to confirm it’s still running. 

There’s excellent response from standing starts even with a full crew on board, and between 60-80km/h the engine is always operating within its 1500-3500rpm peak torque band, resulting in instant throttle response where you need it most in city and suburban driving.. 

The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is a delight to use, with seamless up-shifting under acceleration and enthusiastic down-shifting when braking on inclines to ensure the engine is always in the right ratio when you get back on the accelerator.

We loaded 565kg into the cargo bay which, with a near-full tank of petrol and a driver, added up to a payload just under its maximum 725kg rating. The rear leaf springs compressed almost 60mm under this load, with the large tapered rubber cones engaged with the rear springs as they’re designed to do.

Although the rear end felt like it was suspended more by rubber than steel, it maintained its composure over the bumps with no noticeable change in steering response or braking efficiency. On the highway it did its best work in auto mode on the cruise control, maintaining the 110km/h limit at 2400rpm with automatic shifts back to sixth at 2800rpm, and sometimes fifth at 3400rpm, to easily clear hills while keeping within its broad torque curve.

It also made light work of our 2.0km, 13 percent grade climb with this payload, maintaining the 60km/h limit in fourth gear at 2600rpm. However, like the SWB Van, there was a faint whiff of hot oil after we stopped at the top, but there were no warning lights or chimes to alert that anything was wrong so we can only assume it’s normal.

Engine braking on the way down was minimal, as you’d expect with such a small engine trying to restrain such a large load. Fortunately, the four-wheel disc braking is exceptionally strong and if anything can bite too hard if you don’t ease pressure on the brake pedal when running empty or with light loads.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

No ANCAP rating but the rear seat does include ISOFIX child seat fixtures on the two outer seating positions, plus full lap-sash belts and head restraints for three.

There’s also front and side/head airbags for driver and front passenger, plus multi-collision braking, an electronic stabilisation program, brake assist, traction control, electronic diff lock, hill-hold control and daytime running lights, but a rear view camera is only available as an option and only with the optional swing-up tailgate. 

Driver assistance technology includes driver fatigue detection, rear park distance control with audible warning and forward collision warning with city emergency braking, but there is no AEB.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Expect a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, plus a three-year paintwork warranty and 12-year anti-corrosion perforation warranty. You'll also get 24/7 roadside assistance for the duration of the original warranty period.

Service intervals are pegged at 12 months or 15,000km. VW's capped-price servicing program limits maintenance costs to $347 (12 months/15,000km), $505 (24 months/30,000km) and $427 (36 months/45,000km).

The Crewvan offers a versatile mix of cargo and crew-carrying ability which could be ideal for city-based tradies, couriers and small business owners. However, if you don’t mind its utilitarian steel wheel/black bumper appearance, it could also appeal to a family buyer wanting seating for five, but with a lot more cargo space than a sedan or SUV can offer. 

The lack of an ANCAP rating, standard reversing camera and storage options for rear seat passengers works against it as a potential alternative to an SUV, though.

Is the Caddy Crewvan a credible alternative to a sedan or SUV for family/recreational buyers? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

$24,200 - $29,810

Based on third party pricing data

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4.1/5

Tradies score

4.1/5
Price Guide

$24,200 - $29,810

Based on third party pricing data