Commercial and personal options
Buyers can choose between passenger, panel van and crew-bus versions, with the passenger models offering more refinement, sexier styling and a more comprehensive range of optional extras. The Caddy, based upon the VW Golf platform, offers a sensible alternative to the Kombi and other larger minibuses and vans that South Africans love so much, and VW sold 1.5 million units of the third generation model worldwide in its 11 years of production, with 23 400 finding homes in South Africa.
The passenger range consists of Trendline and Alltrack derivatives, with the latter replacing the Cross Caddy in the line-up. The Panel Van, Crew Bus and Trendline are all available in long wheelbase Maxi versions that add 469mm in length, and there are three engines on offer - a naturally aspirated 1.6 litre 81kW petrol engine available only in the Panel Van and Crew Bus, and 81kW or 103kW two-litre turbodiesels across the range. The petrol and 81kW diesel offerings are available only with five-speed manual transmissions, while the 103kW models use a six-speed automatic DSG gearbox. There are 14 derivatives in all, ranging from the utilitarian R234 000 Caddy Panel Van 1.6 to the R399 300 Caddy Maxi Trendline minibus.
All come with ABS brakes, traction control, stability control and at least two airbags, while things like aircon, parking assist and all the other nice-to-haves depend on the model chosen and what options you select, but the closer you get to the top of the list the more you get as standard. Volkswagen’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking system that helps reduce the effects of secondary collisions after an accident is standard across the range.
Versatility is the name of the game in this type of vehicle, and the Caddy has it in spades. The Panel Vans come with a sliding side door on the left, but a second one for the right-hand-side can be provided as an option, and the asymmetrically-split rear doors can open to 90 or 180 degrees to enable easy loading. The passenger versions come with five seats in two rows as standard, but buyers can opt for a third two-seater bench for the back with a fold-down backrest. The last row of seats is very easy to remove and replace, and with the front seats folded and tucked out of the way there’s enough room in the Maxi versions to use them as ad-hoc camper vans or as a transporters of bulky goods.
What’s it like?
At the launch we drove the 81kW Trendline to Nottingham Road, utilising freeways and back roads to give us a fair impression of its capabilities. We’ve had a number of similar but larger vehicles pass through our hands recently – the Mercedes Benz Vito and V-Class, the VW Caravelle and the Hyundai H1 wagon - and although we enjoyed them all the Caddy came as a breath of fresh air because it was so car-like in the way it went about its business. The 81kW turbodiesel’s 280Nm of torque from 1 750rpm makes the bus easy to drive swiftly, and the Golf-derived suspension does a good job of soaking up the bumps. The interior is very classy and there’s so much space to play with that the Caddy really is a very capable people and load carrier as well as fun to drive, and yet it doesn’t feel like a truck or a bus. I rate it highly on the list of cars that I’d buy with my own money because it offers so much bang for the buck.