I have an all together different vision of VW’s Caddy to what we have on test today, the 2.0 TDI Caddy Maxi Trendline DSG. Im my mind, the Caddy is the MK1 Golf bakkie. A Citi Golf with its rear roof chopped off, and fitted with all the same loveable nuances and rattles South Africa became utterly obsessed with over the decades, in the Citi Golf. This current Caddy is more of a soccer moms car, being a full 7-seater, and just like the similar Touran we tested a few months back, one of the easiest cars to drive you’ll ever find.
As with the Touran however, the Caddy is unlikely to catch many eyes for its looks. Ultimately, there’s not a whole lot VW designers can do with the box shaped Caddy. The nose is nice enough, the VW family design is present with its sharper, more angular lines. Extending towards the rear from there though, all you get is a sloped windscreen, connecting to, well it’s just a box isn’t it. The exterior does feature sliding doors for the rear passengers on both sides, which is a nice touch, and they’re easy to operate. Loading and offloading of passengers then is a quick and easy process, as long as you’ve got the procedure for getting people into the very back row practiced. The middle row outer seats have to be manoeuvred correctly, and whilst it is easy enough once you’ve done it the first time, expect a few first time passengers to be stumped.
Somehow we’ve moved from talking about the boxed styling to the interior, so I guess we should stick with that. The Caddy is comfortable, although far from lavish, it isn’t a luxury vehicle. As such the equipment available is the basic minimum, it does have more or less everything you’d need, but nothing more. We had a few options fitted, things which maybe should’ve been standard, such as Park Distance Control for over 3 grand. Base price is R292,080, our bells and whistles made the final price R317,950. Removing the bare standard items list from the equation, the Caddy is plenty of car for that money.
The interior was acceptable then, not the greatest, but decent enough. I did have two issues with it though, firstly the boot. The Caddy is one of those either or vehicles, sure it has space for seven passengers to sit comfortably, but not all of their luggage as well. I guess to make that sort of room pushes the Caddy into an entirely different segment, so it is an understandable oversight. The second problem, and this is for the first time ever in a modern VAG car, there were a few rattles in the dashboard. They weren’t constant, and hardly a big annoyance, but this is VW/VAG we’re talking about, that just doesn’t happen from the guys with the best build quality in the business. It must be that MK1 Caddy DNA eking though the cracks. The materials were still of a high quality of course, the standard VW steering wheel standing out as one of the best around outside of sports cars. No wheel is as smooth through the hands as that one.
The actual drive was just as smooth as the steering wheel, essentially making you forget all about the large barn door you were slicing through Joburg traffic. The 2.0L TDI engine develops 103kW@4,200rpm, and 250Nm@1,500-2,500rpm of torque, which turned out to be surprisingly zippy. When I say zippy, I mean for a for an 8-seater box (what’s the antonym for aerodynamic?) powered by a diesel mated to a 6-speed double clutch DSG gearbox. Maybe it was just because given the nature of the vehicle I was never racing too much, but the engine didn’t seem as prone to the rev dependent diesel trough effect, where you get nothing, then too much and then at high revs, rapidly nothing again. The power didn’t seem to die horribly when climbing into the upper rev range, and pulled fairly well throughout, all things considered.
The gearbox was somewhat of a non-event, which believe me, was a good thing considering how easily turbodiesel automatics can go wrong. In Drive mode, there was a little delay on pull-off, a combination of turbodiesel lag and gearbox lag, but nothing too serious. Sport mode by the way was pointless, it did quicken shifts, but made them too harsh for this type of vehicle. Using Drive mode, economy was decent given the weight of the vehicle. Casual driving usually averaged mid-8L/100km, whilst the vigorous stuff returned roughly 12L/100km.
Cornering was obviously not the best, but it did pass the one test it needed to. It never felt like it was going to topple over, although as with any vehicle, pushed enough I’m sure it would get scary. The point is that it handled as it needed to, the Caddy seemed more about the smooth and comfortable ride than cornering prowess. In this it handled rough roads with ease, without bouncing around too much. The brakes were a bit unusual though, they worked well if depressed hard, but you had to extend the brake arm quite far before much at all started happening. Braking progression was very slow, which is great as it eliminated snatching the brakes, something us left-foot brakers hate, but the first emergency brake event is alarming. Once you realise where the big bite point is there is no issue, but on my first drive, braking heavily on a steep downhill produced some widening of the eyes as I discovered the late bite point.
There’s no need for a long drawn out summary here. The Caddy is sublimely easy to drive, fairly spacious, and quick enough without burning too much fuel. Precisely what it needed to be. The thing is though, the DSG gearbox seems to contribute quite a bit to the price, making this particular Caddy not entirely worth it, I’d recommend the manual instead.
Liked: As easy to drive as you’d ever want
Decent power delivery from a diesel engine
Disliked: Flaws in the build quality, from a VW it’s unthinkable
Somewhat bare standard equipment list
Engine: 1968cc turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: 6-speed DSG (double clutch automatic)
Power (kW): 103 @ 4,200rpm
Torque (Nm): 320 @ 1,500-2,500rpm
Kerb weight: 1,656kg
Driven wheels: Front
0-100km/h (claimed): 10.9s
Economy (claimed combined cycle): 6.3L/100km
Warranty: 3 years/120,000km
Price (base): R292,080
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