REVIEW | 2020 Volkswagen Caddy is the unsung champion of practicality
While eyeballs are transfixed on VW’s push of electric cars like the I.D.3, there is something else the company still sells and that’s quite impressive — the Caddy.
It hasn’t a tough job on its hands. Though the MPV sector has been declared just about dead in this market, there are fresh models of differing spectrum, from Renault’s cheap-as-air Triber to Peugeot’s 5008 all trying to resuscitate this sensible genre.
The Caddy is the one with the longest service despite low volumes as people don’t want to drive around in van-based MPVs, of which there’s only one other of its type, the Opel Combo Life. If one wants flexible space for five, or even seven, nothing comes close in offering as much cargo space as these two.
There’s a plethora of technology and refinements in the Caddy that naysayers would be surprised to find on the options list, not least stop/start for saving fuel and the same infotainment system you’d find on Polos or Tiguans.
It’s a bit of both MPV and van in that the utilitarian bit is still there but not shaky or creaky. Good quality materials cover the commercial bones very well and the seats can be configured to reflect either of the genres.
The Caddy on test is the latest to be fitted with a smaller, vigorous three-cylinder 1.0 TSI petrol motor, and it’s made it into quite a peach above the four-cylinder motors of old. By dropping a cylinder, the Caddy doesn’t struggle to fend off loads or steep inclines.
It’s mated to a slick five-speed manual gearbox, and I suspect an auto would be perfect. Nevertheless, this new engine and transmission combo brings an altogether more refined and engaging level of performance and frugality.
The new engine makes 75kW and 175Nm and it’s a nicely refined motor, with a smooth, hushed delivery. This Caddy can return impressive economy — 5,9l/100km being our achievement in a week of living with it — and just a few notches shy off the OEM claim of 5.6l/100km.
It’s a big and tall car yet it never feels like it. It measures 4,408mm nose to tail and 1,858mm high. The net value in that height is an airy cabin with tinted windows and huge headroom.
The 2,682mm wheelbase also benefits legroom and luggage space and general usability. The row of seats in this five-passenger guise is always a welcome place for occupants to spread out in while the driver and front passenger also flop in comfortably in a generous command station with a large dash with VW’s current digital outlay staring back.
If you option the large digital screen you could very well be driving a Golf, such is the arrangement of the cabin and the comfortable suspension damping and driving position. There’s no pronounced body roll through corners and the cabin remains admirably quiet even at high speeds.
It also allows for playfulness in the bends with squealing, progressively safe understeer setting in later than anticipated.
It’s effortless to drive and nimble around obstacles despite its dimensions and retains the practicality value that no-one can object to. So it isn’t cooler than regular MPVs or SUVs, which is what keeps it off the list of many would-be customers who’d find little that disappoints. It’s a special car and it’s your loss if you aren’t biting.
The new fifth-generation Caddy has just been launched overseas and an SA introduction is expected in 2021.
VW Caddy 1.0 TSI
WE LIKE: Practicality, refinement, build and drive quality
WE DISLIKE: Manual transmission only
VERDICT: The best car you never knew you needed
Motor News star rating
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Performance * * * *
Economy * * * * *
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Value For Money * * * * *
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Opel Combo Life, 68kW/230Nm — R369,900
Type: Three-cylinder petrol turbo
Type: Five-speed manual
Type: Front-wheel drive
Top speed: N/A
Fuel Consumption: 5.6l/100km (as claimed), 5.9l (as tested)
Auto on/off lights, Xenon bulbs, LED daytime running lights, alloy wheels, cruise control, power steering, remote central locking, onboard computer, multifunction steering wheel control, rain sensor wipers, audio system with USB port, cloth upholstery, ABS brakes, stability control, six airbags
Warranty: Three years/120,000km
Maintenance plan: Three years/60,000km
Lease*: R7,902 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit