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Volkswagen Caddy SWB Trendline TSI220 2017 review

The VW’s Caddy Van market share has grown from around 46 percent in 2016 to more than 55 per cent this year. (image credit: Mark Oastler)
Mark Oastler
Contributing Journalist

6 Sep 2017 • 11 min read

Daily driver score

4.2/5

4.2/5

The small (under 2.5 tonne GVM) commercial van market in Australia is characterised by fewer sales and competitors than the medium (2.5-3.5-tonne GVM) van segment. The requirements of small vans tend to be more specialised, typically involving light loads, stop-start city traffic and confined pick-up and delivery locations.

The undisputed leader is VW’s Caddy Van, which has grown its market share from around 46 percent in 2016 to more than 55 per cent this year. Its sales dominance is due to a variety of factors, including a choice of petrol or diesel engines, manual or dual-clutch automatic transmissions, different wheelbase and body configurations, and clever use of space.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

There’s one sliding door on the left-hand side of the cargo bay and twin-swing rear doors (single rear tailgate and side windows optional). The rear doors have heated glass, a single wiper-washer and are asymmetrically split (one wide, one narrow) to minimise obstruction in the rear view mirror. They also have 180-degree opening for forklift access.

With front-wheel drive and four-wheel disc brakes, the smallest Caddy rides on a compact 2682mm wheelbase with an overall length of 4408mm and width of 1773mm. MacPherson strut front suspension and electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering are matched with a well-designed leaf-spring beam axle rear suspension. Tapered rubber cones mounted on the chassis rails above each rear spring compress under heavy payloads, to provide additional support and bump absorption. 

The Caddy has one sliding door on the left-hand side and twin-swing rear doors. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The Caddy has one sliding door on the left-hand side and twin-swing rear doors. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

The overall height of 1823mm creates a spacious cabin environment. There’s easy entry and exit through wide door openings and the uncluttered dashboard has controls that are generally well placed and easy to use. Drivers of most shapes and sizes should be able to find a comfortable position, with the bottom section of the steering wheel rim straightened to provide easier access and more leg/waist room for larger drivers.

Our only gripes are that the driver’s left footrest is a tad too high for those with longer legs and there is no rake adjustment for the driver seat’s base cushion, which would improve driver comfort.

How practical is the space inside?

Its tare weight of 1322kg and GVM of 2095kg allows a maximum payload rating of 773kg. It’s also rated to tow up to 1300kg of braked trailer at maximum GVM, resulting in an impressive GCM of 3395kg.

That’s a lot of weight for a little 1.4-litre engine to pull, although it’s unlikely a typical Caddy owner would ever need to. And the tow ball download limit of 100kg is probably too low to legally tow 1300kg anyway, as tow ball downloads usually represent about 10 per cent of total trailer weight.

The cargo bay has a generous 3200 litres of load volume. The floor is 1779mm long and 1556mm wide with 1170mm between the wheel arches, which (like the Kangoo) means it can swallow one 1160mm-square standard Aussie pallet. The cargo bay has six well-placed lashing rings for securing loads plus hardboard side trim panels, LED roof light and handy 12-volt socket.

he cargo bay has a generous 3200 litres of load volume. (image credit: Mark Oastler) he cargo bay has a generous 3200 litres of load volume. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

The roof has three external mounting points per side designed to take VW genuine accessory roof racks. VW also offers an optional steel mesh cargo barrier, which we would strongly recommend given that there is no protection from loose cargo for driver and passenger.

The cabin offers an impressive choice of storage options, with a bottle holder and storage pocket in each front door plus open storage compartments in the central dash-pad and above the lockable glove box. The centre console has an open cubby in front of the gear lever, plus four cupholders and two small oddment trays. There’s also a full-width roof shelf, plus storage compartments with hinged lids beneath the front of each seat and extra storage space beneath the rear of both seats.

The centre console has an open cubby in front of the gear lever, plus four cupholders and two small oddment trays. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The centre console has an open cubby in front of the gear lever, plus four cupholders and two small oddment trays. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

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

Our test vehicle was the smallest and most affordable in the range – the SWB with TSI220 1.4-litre petrol engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic at $29,390. This represents an 11 per cent price premium over its closest competitor, Renault’s Kangoo L1 SWB Compact, which, with a smaller 1.2-litre petrol engine and six-speed dual-clutch automatic, is $26,490.

The smallest Caddy comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels and 205/55 R16 94H tyres with a full size spare (16-inch alloys are optional), manual air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows and heated/power-adjustable door mirrors. There’s also a multimedia system with 5.0-inch colour touchscreen and multiple connectivity including Bluetooth, with separate controls on the leather-trimmed and height/reach adjustable steering wheel. The driver’s seat also has adjustable lumbar support. 

The smallest Caddy comes standard with a full size spare. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The smallest Caddy comes standard with a full size spare. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Caddy’s refined 1.4-litre turbocharged direct-injection petrol engine is one of its strong points, with a healthy 92kW at 4800rpm and maximum torque of 220Nm from 1500-3500rpm. 

That 2000rpm torque band is usefully wide for such a small engine, indicative of its non-peaky nature and the efficiency of its variable vane turbocharger, particularly when hauling loads. There’s also a fuel-saving automatic start/stop function but it only drinks premium unleaded (95-98 RON).

The 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces 92kW at 4800rpm and 220Nm of torque from 1500-3500rpm. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces 92kW at 4800rpm and 220Nm of torque from 1500-3500rpm. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

The seven-speed 'Direct Shift Gearbox' (DSG) is a dual-clutch automatic transmission that is a delight to use. The optional Sport mode sharpens up the automatic shift points for more spirited response and the 'Tiptronic' manual sequential shift mode has a more engaging sporty feel that can also be useful when hauling heavy loads.

How much fuel does it consume?

VW claims a combined cycle figure of 6.2 litres/100km and the dash display was showing only 5.8 litres/100km, but our figures based on fuel bowser and trip meter readings worked out at a still frugal 7.7 litres/100km. And this was with the start/stop function switched off. Based on these figures, expect a ‘real world’ driving range (including some heavy load hauling) of around 700km from the 55-litre fuel tank.

What's it like to drive?

Un-laden or with only a load light on board, the Caddy is a nippy performer that’s actually quite enjoyable to drive around town, with a comfortable driving position, brisk acceleration, firm and decisive automatic or manual gear changes, nicely weighted direct steering and well-tuned suspension. Combined with a tight 11.1-metre turning circle, it’s tailor-made for stop/start driving in busy CBD and inner-suburban delivery zones. 

It also has powerful braking. If anything it’s a tad too strong when running on empty, as the four-wheel discs can bite pretty hard if you don’t apply gentle initial pedal pressure. However, they provide similar retardation from empty right up to maximum GVM, as we discovered with a big load on board.

The centre rear view mirror is a good size and so too are the different-shaped door mirrors, with the passenger side rectangular in shape (driver’s side is square) using a convex lens to provide a wider-angle view down the driver’s blind side.

We loaded 650kg into the cargo bay, which with a 90kg driver and three-quarters of a tank equalled the Caddy’s 773kg maximum payload rating. The leaf-spring rear suspension compressed almost 60mm, which engaged the rubber damping cones to provide extra support. There was no change in the front ride height, ensuring that steering response, front tyre grip and braking were largely unaffected.

With a load 650kg equaling the Caddy’s 773kg maximum payload rating. The leaf-spring rear suspension compressed almost 60mm, which engaged the rubber damping cones to provide extra support. (image credit: Mark Oastler) With a load 650kg equaling the Caddy’s 773kg maximum payload rating. The leaf-spring rear suspension compressed almost 60mm, which engaged the rubber damping cones to provide extra support. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Acceleration was reduced but not to the extent we thought it would. You certainly feel the extra weight, but the engine maintains an acceptable level of performance and the suspension maintains its impressive composure, soaking up big bumps without a hint of bottoming-out. 

The shift protocols in the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic are tailored to extract the best from this engine under heavy payloads. It seemed almost dismissive of our 2.0km set climb (13 per cent gradient), shifting down to fourth gear and 2500rpm to easily maintain the 60km/h speed limit all the way to the top. 

Our only concern was a faint whiff of burning oil when we got there. Engine braking in second gear on the way down was almost non-existent, as we’ve come to expect from small engines, with regular braking required to adhere to the 60km/h limit.

There was roar from the rear tyres at highway speeds, with the wheelarches and open cargo bay acting like steel echo chambers. This noise becomes noticeable from about 40km/h and builds to an intrusive roar at 100km/h, so pack industrial-strength ear plugs if you’re planning to do lots of highway driving. Or VW could include a standard (or dealer-fit option like Kangoo) steel bulkhead between cabin and cargo bay, which would eliminate this problem.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

No ANCAP rating but comes well equipped with passive and active safety features including front and side/head airbags for driver and passenger, multi-collision braking, electronic stabilisation program, brake assist, traction control, electronic diff lock and hill-hold control along with daytime running lights.

VW’s driver assistance technology offers driver fatigue detection, rear park distance control with audible warning and forward collision warning with city emergency braking, but no AEB. Hopefully VW will offer a reversing camera for customers that want twin-swing rear doors (camera currently available only with the single tailgate option).

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

Volkswagen supports Caddy with a three-year/unlimited km warranty plus three-year paintwork warranty and 12-year anti-corrosion perforation warranty, as well as 24/7 roadside assistance for the duration of the original warranty period.

Service interval is 12 months/15,000km whichever occurs first. Capped-price servicing of $347 (12 months/15,000km), $505 (24 months/30,000km) and $427 (36 months/45,000km).

It’s not hard to see why VW’s range of small vans is the dominant market leader, as the Caddy sets benchmarks for styling, versatility, performance, economy, load-carrying ability and warranty/service at a competitive price. If you’re in the market for a small commercial van, it’s a no-brainer that your search starts here.

Is the VW Caddy worthy of its dominant leadership in the small van class? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

$23,880 - $28,990

Based on 3 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4.2/5

4.2/5
Price Guide

$23,880 - $28,990

Based on 3 car listings in the last 6 months