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Volkswagen Caddy Cargo 2023 review: Petrol - GVM test

The VW Caddy Cargo feels more like a car than a van to drive. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5

Australia’s small van class (under-2.5 tonne GVM) is a three-way fight between the Peugeot Partner, Renault Kangoo and Volkswagen Caddy Cargo.

All are well designed for light delivery work but in 2023 Germany’s sole contender enjoys a dominant lead over its French rivals.

Recent industry sales figures show the current Caddy 5 (or fifth-generation) range commands 74 per cent of sales. In other words, three out of every four new small vans sold in Australia are displaying a VW badge!

Clearly, the Caddy must be doing something (many things) right to maintain this level of dominance. We recently spent a working week with a petrol-powered Cargo, equipped with the latest MY23 safety upgrades, to find out why.

Price and Features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Cargo range offers eight variants (10 if you include the Crewvan) with a choice of petrol or diesel engines, manual or auto transmissions and two wheelbase lengths comprising Standard (SWB) and Maxi (LWB).

Our test vehicle is the Cargo SWB, equipped with a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic for a list price of $39,990.

The Cargo range offers eight variants. (Image: Mark Oastler) The Cargo range offers eight variants. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Externally you get a no-frills workhorse designed for hard work, with ample dark grey plastic in the usual places where bumps, scrapes and wear occur, including the bumpers, door handles and door mirrors.

However, at least there are silver plastic wheel covers (easy to replace if damaged) to add some bling to its robust 16-inch steel wheels and 205/60R16 tyres, with a full-size spare.

There’s also work-focused rubber flooring in the cabin as you’d expect, which is in stark contrast to numerous creature comforts you might not expect like keyless start, height/reach adjustable leather-rimmed steering wheel, adjustable lumbar support on both bucket seats, heated door mirrors, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors and separate cabin/cargo bay locking.

Upfront of the Caddy Cargo is a 8.25-inch colour touchscreen. Upfront of the Caddy Cargo is a 8.25-inch colour touchscreen.

There’s also standard wireless smartphone charging, two 12-volt accessory outlets and a pair of USB-C ports, plus a four-speaker multimedia system with 8.25-inch colour touchscreen and multiple connectivity including Apple and Android devices.

However, in stark contrast to this tech, there’s no AM radio band. Go figure.

Design – Is there anything interesting about its design?

Our SWB test vehicle has a 2755mm wheelbase and compact 4500mm length.

Its front-wheel drive chassis, which shares some architecture with the iconic Golf sedan, rides on simple but robust MacPherson strut front suspension, a coil-spring beam rear axle and four-wheel disc brakes.

With electric power-assisted steering, it has an 11.4-metre turning circle (larger than we expected) and load access is through asymmetric rear barn-doors and a kerbside sliding door.

The dash has a clean and minimalist look given that most functions including heating/cooling are controlled via the central touchscreen, which, like a phone, can be fiddly and therefore distracting while driving.

Our SWB test vehicle has a compact 4500mm length. (Image: Mark Oastler) Our SWB test vehicle has a compact 4500mm length. (Image: Mark Oastler)

However, it does at least retain traditional rotary dials for audio volume and radio tuning.

The moulded composite bulkhead between cabin and cargo bay, with its mesh-protected central window, is effective as a cargo barrier and in minimising noise from the load area.

However, it appears Volkswagen has also fitted noise-absorbing fixtures over the rear wheel housings, which combined with the bulkhead, create civilised cabin acoustics.

Even so, tyre noise can still be intrusive at highway speeds on coarse bitumen surfaces.

Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside?

The Caddy’s 1433kg tare weight and 2150kg GVM result in a 717kg payload rating.

Up to 100kg can be legally carried on the roof, where external anchorage points covered by protective caps are provided for installing roof racks or rails.

It’s also rated to tow up to 1500kg of braked trailer but VW does not publish a GCM (Gross Combination Mass) rating, so we don’t know how much it can legally carry and tow at the same time.

Driver and passenger have plenty of cabin storage. (Image: Mark Oastler) Driver and passenger have plenty of cabin storage. (Image: Mark Oastler)

The versatile cargo bay, which offers 3.1 cubic metres of load volume, is 1797mm long, 1614mm wide and 1272mm high. With 1230mm between the wheel housings, it can carry either a single 1165mm-square Aussie pallet, one 1000 x 1200mm Euro 3 pallet or two smaller 800 x 1200mm Euro pallets.

All can be loaded through the rear barn-doors, with 180-degree opening for easy forklift access. The sliding side-door’s opening is only 695mm, partly due to intrusion of the bulkhead, so kerbside access is only for smaller items.

The versatile cargo bay offers 3.1 cubic metres of load volume. (Image: Mark Oastler) The versatile cargo bay offers 3.1 cubic metres of load volume. (Image: Mark Oastler)

There are six load anchorage points and even though the cargo bay’s walls and doors are lined to mid-height, there’s no protective floor covering, which we would recommend to avoid unsightly dents and scratches. There’s also bright LED lighting and another handy 12-volt outlet.

Driver and passenger have plenty of cabin storage with large bottle holders and bins in each door, dashboard bins, a large glove box, full-width overhead storage shelf and a centre console offering four open storage nooks and dual small-bottle/cupholders.

Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for its engine and transmission?

The spirited and economical 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine produces its maximum 84kW across a 1500rpm-wide power band between 4500-6000pm.

Torque enjoys similar band width as its 220Nm is served at full strength between 1750-3000rpm, which showcases this little engine’s impressive flexibility.

The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic offers three drive modes comprising Drive, Sport and Tiptronic; the latter for manual-shifting using the steering wheel-mounted paddles. There’s also an electronically-controlled automatic locking diff.

Under the bonnet of the Caddy Cargo is a1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. (Image: Mark Oastler) Under the bonnet of the Caddy Cargo is a1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Efficiency – What is its fuel consumption? What is its driving range?

VW claims an official combined figure of 6.2L/100km and the Caddy’s dash display was claiming 7.2 at the end of our 252km test, of which about one third was hauling its maximum payload.

After crunching the numbers from tripmeter and fuel bowser readings, our own figure was very close to the Caddy’s at 7.4L/100km.

So, based on our figures, you could expect a ‘real world’ driving range of around 670km from its 50-litre tank using 95 RON fuel.

VW claims an official combined figure of 6.2L/100km. VW claims an official combined figure of 6.2L/100km.

Driving - What’s it like to drive?

It may be a small vehicle but people of most shapes and sizes can find a comfortable driving position thanks to its spacious cabin with ample headroom, comfortable and supportive bucket seating with adjustable lumbar support and a big left footrest. Rake adjustment for the seat’s base cushion would make it even better.

Although it looks like a back-to-basics workhorse it doesn’t drive like one, particularly when unladen.

It feels more like a car than a van and is quite engaging (dare we say sporty) with its combination of firm but supple suspension, nicely weighted and communicative steering through the delightful leather-wrapped wheel and reassuringly strong retardation from a quartet of disc brakes.

Although it looks like a back-to-basics workhorse it doesn’t drive like one. (Image: Mark Oastler) Although it looks like a back-to-basics workhorse it doesn’t drive like one. (Image: Mark Oastler)

It has less power and torque than its TDI320 turbo-diesel sibling and both peak values are accessed further up the rev range, so it must maintain higher rpm than the diesel for optimum performance which is typical of small turbo-petrol engines.  

The sweet-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic makes this easy to achieve, though, particularly when you have the option of manual paddle-shifting.

The gearing also ensures low engine stress at highway speeds, requiring only 2000rpm to maintain 110km/h.

Although its agility is great for zipping through busy traffic or down narrow city lanes for delivery work, unfortunately it can’t erase the huge blind-spot over the driver’s left shoulder caused by the cabin bulkhead and, beyond that, the solid cargo bay walls.

With 415kg loaded into the cargo bay, the rear coil springs only compressed about 45mm. (Image: Mark Oastler) With 415kg loaded into the cargo bay, the rear coil springs only compressed about 45mm. (Image: Mark Oastler)

The passenger-side door mirror is not large enough for adequate visual coverage of this hazardous zone. Although blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are available as pricey options, we reckon they should be standard issue for not only our test vehicle but all solid-walled vans.

To test its load-carrying, we inflated the tyres to the 42psi cold pressures recommended on the placard and forklifted 415kg into the cargo bay.

With our crew of two, that equalled a 575kg payload that was about 140kg under its peak rating (we would have loaded more but weights were in short supply on the day).

The Caddy Cargo wears 16-inch steel wheels. (Image: Mark Oastler) The Caddy Cargo wears 16-inch steel wheels. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Even so, the rear coil springs only compressed about 45mm, which was no different to when we loaded a similar model with more than 700kg. The rear suspension felt slightly firmer but still supple under this weight, maintaining safe and predictable handling.

 It also performed well on our 13 per cent gradient, 2.0km-long set climb at 60km/h, self-shifting down to a suitable gear and easily hauling this load to the top.

Engine-braking on the way down, in a manually-selected second gear, was minimal at best requiring several brake applications to keep it under the posted 60km/h speed limit.

However, this is typical of small displacement motors with heavy loads on their backs.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating?

A maximum five-star ANCAP rating applies to all Cargo variants built from July 2022.

The Caddy Cargo offers numerous safety features headlined by seven airbags and AEB, along with new MY23 upgrades comprising 'Lane Assist' and 'Front Assist'.

Lane Assist operates above 60km/h to provide steering correction when the vehicle appears to be leaving the lane without the driver using the turn signal.

The Caddy Cargo offers numerous safety features. The Caddy Cargo offers numerous safety features.

Front Assist detects cyclists/pedestrians plus oncoming traffic when turning at an intersection and can apply autonomous braking to avoid a collision.

There’s also a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, daytime running lights, non-adaptive cruise control, a driver fatigue alert system and more.

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs?

The Volkswagen Caddy Cargo is covered by a five year/unlimited km warranty with 12 months roadside assist.

Scheduled servicing every 15,000km or 12 months whichever occurs first.

Total capped-price servicing for five years/75,000km is $3142, or a pricey average of $628 per year.

However, VW offers an upfront five-year care plan that represents a $1492 saving (that’s almost 50 per cent) for the same service period.

The Volkswagen Caddy Cargo is covered by a five year/unlimited km warranty. The Volkswagen Caddy Cargo is covered by a five year/unlimited km warranty.

The VW Caddy Cargo feels sporty and is undeniably fun to drive with its lively engine and responsive handling. But that doesn’t detract from its light workhorse capabilities.

Given the choice, we’d prefer the TDI320 turbo-diesel’s superior torque, payload and fuel economy, but for $2000 less this turbo-petrol version with enhanced safety still has plenty of appeal for small van buyers.

$43,990 - $58,880

Based on 35 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.