Let me be honest. I am no fan of utility vehicles posing as lifestyle transport solutions. South Africa is however a very popular international travel destination and one can certainly understand the need for these vehicles as affordable yet upmarket shuttles catering to the hospitality industry, specifically guest houses and small hotels.
In seven seat Maxi configuration the VW Caddy makes perfect sense, but there are drawbacks. Yes it seats seven tourists and literally all their luggage very comfortably. Remove the second and third row of seats in the off-season and you have a utility vehicle capable of lugging about a noteworthy and very impressive 3700 litres of whatever. So it’s practical as well as versatile, but versatility comes at a price I’m afraid. You see the VW Caddy Maxi is exceptionally practical. Besides its 800kg payload it is also capable of towing 1500kg which is again very impressive, but, it can only do this because of its workhorse upbringing. Underneath that modern VW exterior, lurks a relatively unsophisticated utility vehicle which has very little in common with the multiple award winning Golf 7 it is designed to look like.
The suspension is well suited to carrying heavy loads which means it’s stiff and not very comfortable by usual VW standards. There is no fancy multilink Golf 7 rear suspension so you need to slow down around the bends. The VW Caddy does not feature VW’s very impressive MQB platform. So it feels heavy and out dated compared to MQB based VW products. At prices ranging from R372k to R423k, I must admit it is a little expensive, it is a full import from Poland, but still, it’s a Caddy.
Despite all of this, the VW remains unmatched in terms of technical specifications when compared to absolutely everything else. The competition simply does not feature highlights such as city emergency braking which stops the vehicle should you be distracted in bumper to bumper traffic at below 30km/h. Post collision braking is another pioneering VW safety system which applies the brakes after a collision, reducing the risk of your vehicle ending up in oncoming traffic. Many drivers are rendered unconscious by the initial impact or collision. Most vehicles don’t stop after impact and drift into other lanes or oncoming lanes causing secondary, often fatal accidents. I;m not sure why nobody thought of this before. You also get touchscreen infotainment, automatic parallel parking, a reverse camera, fatigue detection, Bi-Xenon headlamps and DSG automatic gearboxes. Some of these features are optional extras, but other manufacturers don’t even allow you to option them, so again very well done to VW.
The 2.0 TDi I had the pleasure of evaluating dishes up 103Kw power and 320Nm of torque through a six speed DSG automatic gearbox. Its no race car, but the powerband is wide, the 2.0 turbo diesel engine never feels strained and the gearbox is notably smoother than before. I noticed this because I have never been a fan of the DSG gearbox. Power delivery is smooth and that mountain of torque make inclines and heavy tourists seem a lot less challenging. Especially since it sips diesel at a leisurely 6.3 litres per 100km
No it is not one of these new, premium VW offerings like Passat and Touareg, nor is it a vibrant and dynamic performance product like a Golf or Polo GTi. It’s a people’s car and that is exactly what VW claims to produce. Purpose built for moving people and things at the same time, it might not be cutting edge but it certainly is a very well executed product. Pity about the price.