DRIVING IMPRESSION: Volkswagen Caddy Maxi 2.0 TDI Trendline
The rise in popularity of crossovers over the last few years has, in some ways, spelt the end for the once-dominating multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) on local shores.
Originally the ubiquities choice of transporting families from point A to B in comfort and with lots space, the arrival of SUV’s in the early 90s, followed by the recent trend of buyers jumping ship to crossovers, has resulted in many manufactures simply deciding not to offer their latest people-carriers in South Africa due to a lack of demand.
A quick glance at the monthly sales figures proves this in no uncertain terms as MPV’s, if you factor out the mostly taxi-aimed offerings from Toyota and Nissan, now make up a smaller percentage of private sales compared to crossovers, SUV’s, bakkies and traditional family hatches / sedans.
This downwards trend has however done little to the stem the popularity of the Volkswagen Caddy. From its beginnings as a pick-up derivative of the Mark 1 Golf, to a full-blown panel van and later people hauler based on the SEAT Ibiza and then the Golf Mk 5, the Caddy, in its current guise, has proved to be a smash-hit success from both a business and family transport perspective.
With the third generation Caddy (the second generation was never sold locally) having chalked up sales of 23 400 units since making its debut in 2004, Volkswagen South Africa upped the ante late last year with the official unveiling of the fourth generation model, its states represents more than just a simple mid-life facelift.
Visually, the newcomer tested here in long-wheel-base Maxi configuration and in top-spec Trendline trim, retains the same basic silhouette as its predecessor, but with a redesigned front facia seemingly inspired by the recently introduced T6.
Consisting of a more rounded front bumper, new grille with a chromed lower slat, new bonnet, angled headlights with daytime running LED’s and smart 16-inch Bendigo alloy wheels, the enhancements lends the Caddy a more stylish and even upmarket appearance than before, with the transformation completed by black taillight lenses, chunky roof rails and the same V-shaped number plate cavity found on the T6.
Where things have taken a more considerable change is when you step inside. Boasting a new dashboard and switchgear, the biggest difference has been the dropping of the previous audio system in favour of Volkswagen’s new Composition Colour infotainment system, operated via a five-inch touchscreen display, which incorporates Bluetooth audio streaming, aux input, USB jack and SD card slot.
In typical Volkswagen fashion, built-quality is impressive with soft touch plastics used on most surfaces, while the addition of chrome inserts around infotainment screen and on the door handles, as well as a slab of silver plastic on the dash, gives the interior an airy feel backed by the expansive windscreen.
Lending a sporty touch, our tester also came fitted with an optional leather covered flat bottom multi-function steering wheel, finished in a mix of chrome and piano-key black detailing, and featuring controls for the six-speaker audio system and trip-computer.
As part of the overhaul, standard spec is also gone up a notch with items including climate control, electric heated mirrors, auto lock/unlock doors, electric windows, height adjustable steering wheel, Hill Hold Control, Driver Fatigue Detection, ABS with EBD and ESP, Automatic Post-Collision Braking and six airbags.
Optional items fitted were also extensive and consisted of front and rear parking sensors with reverse camera, active cornering bi-xenon headlights, 360 degree optical parking system that uses sonar to scan for objects likely to pose a threat, height adjustable driver’s chair and metallic paint.
Somewhat predictably, the Maxi lacks for very little when it comes to the question of space. Measuring 4 878 mm in length with a wheelbase of 3 006 mm and height rated at 1 868 mm, the interior is best described as capacious with commendable head and leg room in the second row, and more than adequate levels in third row.
Tilting the middle row forward and getting in the back also proved easy with storage coming in the form of hidden compartments in the second row passenger footwell, a nifty overhead area above the driver’s head, and third row trays with drinkholders.
Open the one-piece tailgate, which can be substituted with so-called barn doors, cargo space comes in at 530-litres with all seven seats up, although, thanks to the Maxi’s additional 470 mm, this can be increase to 3 880-litres with the second and third rows completely removed.
Escaping the generation change unscathed, the Caddy continues to makes use of Volkswagen’s stalwart 2.0 TDI engine which, in the case of our tester, produces 81 kW and 250 N.m of torque when paired with the five-speed manual gearbox, as opposed to the flagship six-speed DSG’s 103 kW and 320 N.m.
Although appearing modest on paper, the amount of twist proved somewhat surprising as the engine pulled stronger than what the aforementioned figures suggest, despite it being tasked with hauling the Maxi’s additional 100 kg’s in gross vehicle mass over the conventional five-seat Caddy.
Backing the engine up, the five-speed box not only felt and slick and precise, but made the most of the TDI’s low down torque to propel the Caddy forward with little effort. A quick trip up the N2 to Jeffreys Bay further highlighted the TDI’s credentials, as the Maxi’s trip computer returned a figure of 5.3 L/100 km.
While it continues to use the same the underpinnings as the Mark 5 Golf, the Caddy’s use of MacPherson Struts at the front and leaf springs with stabiliser bars at the rear, a nod to its van roots, provides a comfortable ride setup with imperfections well dented and body roll kept to a minimum.
It might lack the inherent appeal of crossovers or SUV, there is still little to fault the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi when it comes to the pure business of transporting seven people in comfort and with sufficient levels of space. With its predecessor having proved its worth, expect the new Caddy to make the segment its own.
|ENGINE LAYOUT||DOHC 16v Inline 4|
|MAX POWER||81 kW @4200 rpm|
|MAX TORQUE||250 N.m @1500-2500 rpm|
|DRIVE LAYOUT||Front engine; Front-wheel drive|
|ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H]||12.8 secs|
|TOP SPEED||170 km/h|
|FUEL CONSUMPTION||5.8 L/100 km|
*Excludes options fitted
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