Review

Volkswagen Caddy Panel Van (2015 - ) review

VW’s smallest panel van, the Caddy, isn’t a class topper when it comes to practicality, but a strong on-road manner, solid and well laid out cabin, and appealing looks, help boost its popularity.

Words by: First published: 3rd December 2018
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.6
Style, a compliant ride, and a car-like cabin and driving experience, all work in the VW Caddy’s favour. However, it’s let down by an inability to match the best in the class for practicality.

Pros

  • Excellent ride
  • Comfortable cabin
  • Strong fuel economy

Cons

  • Inability to take a Euro pallet
  • Slightly dated cabin
  • Noisy at speed
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Cargo & practicality 3/5

The Caddy might be the smallest van in the VW range, but a certain amount is still expected of small commercial vehicles these days.

The Caddy doesn’t match up to the very best in the class on practicality due to the simple fact that you can’t get a Euro pallet sideways in between the wheel arches in the loading bay. Many owners, looking to use the Caddy for short urban deliveries, won’t need this practicality all the time, or ever, but it is a shame when rivals are able to accommodate what is a standard load these days.

Payload is relatively low, too, with a range of 545kg to 736kg: again somewhat smaller than the competition, which is capable of taking up to and over a tonne in some cases. There is a Maxi model, too, which offers a greater overall load capacity (4.2 cubic metres versus the standard version’s 3.2) but although it’s taller, it’s marginally narrower, so is also unable to take a wide load.

A standard fit bulkhead is a welcome offering, although this may come with a mesh upper on lower level trims. This is handy for visibility and urban parking if you are delivering low-value goods, but obviously reduces the level of security for those that want to transport higher value items and leave them unattended for any period of time.

A rubber floor covering is offered as standard on most models, which will make the Caddy a model that can be bought and put to use immediately without any interior preparation – great for those looking for a van they don’t need to do anything to once it arrives.

Interior 3/5

The Caddy’s interior might well be familiar to VW car drivers, but it evokes the passenger models of a generation or two ago rather than the latest versions. The materials are solid and unspectacular in their feel and design, with the operations feeling plasticky and functional rather than plush. They feel really well put together, though, and there are no noticeable squeaks when you are on the move.

The satellite navigation and infotainment setup has elements of the more modern systems, but isn’t as quick and slick as the car equivalents. It’s easy to use, though, and provides clear guidance both on the screen and on the information display. The basic version gets a slightly smaller screen, at 5.0-inches, but the optional upgrade takes this up to 6.5-inches.

Running costs 5/5

The Caddy has a selection of diesel and petrol engines, with the former the obvious choice for those looking to prioritise economy. The lower powered 2.0-litre diesel promises in excess of 60pmg, which is a strong offering in a class where many struggle to get out of the 50s. This is thanks to some standard fit eco tech, including stop-start, regenerative braking and low rolling resistance tyres.

The Caddy is a little more expensive to buy up front than some rivals, but on the flip side of that, it does hold its value well, so it should even out over the lifecycle.

Reliability 4/5

Volkswagen – and the Caddy in particular – has a reputation for reliability built over four generations. The model’s strong resale values illustrate this partly.

Peace of mind will also come from the three-year 100,000-mile warranty, VW’s mobile servicing and three-years of roadside assistance.

Performance 4/5

The Caddy comes with a series of rather large engines for a small van – the three diesel engines are all 2.0-litre units.

The mid-range, 102-horsepower engine is the best all round version, and it pulls well at lower speeds. If you are regularly venturing onto the motorway, though, the more powerful version is going to be a better bet. The five-speed gearbox means it sits at high revs when cruising at motorway speeds.

The least powerful of the engines, a 75-horsepower version, is really only suited for urban driving, and it might be that one of the two petrols is a more tempting option.

Ride and handling 5/5

A firm suspension setup means the Caddy is a capable van around corners. Despite this stiffness, it is able to absorb most smaller bumps and potholes without transferring too many jolts into the cabin and loading bay. The steering is sharp, too, which means it’s even quite entertaining when not fully laden.

The entry level models, with their mesh-topped bulkheads, are loud on the move, though, with a fair amount of noise making its way into the cabin, particularly when the engine is working harder at higher speeds.

Safety 4/5

As ever with vans, not all the security kit comes included, but VW does offer city emergency braking as standard across the range. This joins post-collision braking, which helps mitigate the impact of a crash. Driver, passenger and front curtain airbags are also offered as standard, as are electric seatbelt tensioners. A Driver Alert system monitors for signs of tiredness, and warns if the driver isn’t paying enough attention – it is also standard.

Packs such as the Business Pack allow buyers to get extra kit without specifying it individually – rear parking sensors and an alarm come alongside other more driver centric equipment.

Equipment 4/5

Entry level Startline comes with a decent level of kit, including a multifunction, leather-covered steering wheel, Bluetooth, aux, SD card and USB connections, DAB digital radio, driver’s seat that adjusts for height, and heated door mirrors.

Trendline’s additions are largely cosmetic, with body-coloured door handles and mirrors, but it also gets elements like cruise control, under-seat storage systems and rear parking sensors.

Highline gets the satellite navigation, a heated windscreen and automatic wipers.

Why buy? 4/5

The Caddy is good, but not perfect given it’s up against some strong competition in its class. The new Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Partner/Vauxhall Combo trio have raised the bar, and the Caddy feels a little outdated in some ways, particularly on the payload and practicality front.

It is still an excellent van to drive, though, and for those that don’t need their small van to lug vast amounts, it should prove a reliable and economical companion.

Interested in buying a Volkswagen Caddy?