By Brian Byrne
ALTHOUGH not the biggest selling van in its category amongst light commercials in Ireland, Volkswagen’s Caddy has maintained a solid position in the top three in recent years.
That’s a reflection of how well the nameplate is considered, especially in the self-employed trades area.
It is arguable that for a number of those years, the other key players — Peugeot Partner, Citroen Berlingo, and Ford Transit Connect — had moved ahead of the VW in terms of comfort and quality in the all-important cab area.
Caddy had the same basic interior for a long time, and despite the iconic shape and renown for reliability, a driver’s workspace these days needs to be as good as in any car. Underpinnings from older Golf versions also meant it couldn’t offer all the latest technology.
With the latest generation, Caddy the van has now driven right into the first division, thanks to being built on Volkswagen’s modular technology platform, MQB.
For the operator, the immediate visible change is a completely digitised infotainment set-up, as well as switchgear that is better placed and labelled.
Depending on grade, it now has the options of virtually every driver comfort and safety assist systems.
That the vehicle now is also the base for the latest version of Ford’s Tourneo Connect MPV is another recognition of its up-to-date character.
The latest Caddy has been here since last year, but I only got a chance to try it out recently. In the metal it looks even better than the photos suggest.
There’s still a strong ‘Caddy’ set of cues in the shape, but the detailing enhances a purposeful presence.
Smart modern headlights design, and tall-aspect LED rear lights are just a couple of these.
The mesh-style under-grille is distinctive, there’s an interesting waistline treatment that makes the vehicle look stronger and longer from the side. And for the owner-operator who likes a bit of bling, there are a number of alloy wheel options to add a touch of pizzazz.
The driver’s area is a quantum ahead of the predecessor van, and indeed is right up there with any car in the same size category. My immediate feeling was much more comfort, and real thought into the highly integrated screens of the infotainment system. OK, I still have personal issues with the ‘touch-slide’ centre screen management, but it is something you can get used to.
Overall, the cabin is now a place where a full-time operator’s ‘office’ space is very much liveable.
The levels of connectivity are limited only by how much you want to spend on options, and the van now has access to VW’s mobile online services.
One very welcome ergonomic improvement is the high placement of the controls for the headlights and foglights, no longer hidden low under the dashboard. The same panel also houses the front and rear demist functions.
The overall exterior of the van is longer and wider and there’s a longer wheelbase. The practical features of sliding side doors open into a cargo area that has more capacity.
The cargo area is significantly larger in many aspects. If you’re buying the passenger Caddy Life variant, you also get a substantially wider side sliding door opening.
All versions are powered by the latest version of VW’s 2.0 diesel, in 75hp, 102hp and 122hp output options. There are three van grades — cargo, business and edition — each with their own level of upgrade packages.
My drive vehicle was the 122hp with the seven-speed dual clutch automatic, and this is the one that a good sales rep will use to convert any potential buyer to the improved driving experience of an automatic for all-day delivery work.
The engine was very well soundproofed, the progress seamless, and I’ll bet the fatigue level after a day’s work in this one would be way down over the manual.
This is Caddy for today, and definitely I expect to see an uptick in the van’s placing in this year.
What I like: From €21,175 on the road; review
vehicle from €27,240.
Price: Caddy is now what it should be.