ONE look at the monthly sales charts and it’s clear South Africa’s love affair with SUV grows ever more passionate. However, if you don’t need to head off-road or desire an elevated driving position, but would like even more space than most SUVs offer, Volkswagen’s Caddy has always been a sensible choice. That option could now be even more compelling with the launch of the fourth-generation Caddy that sees several new features offered for the first time on this people mover.
Although it’s still based on the Golf 5/6 platform, the manufacturer claims the new Caddy has received over 4 000 new components – a move immediately visible on the outside and once you climb behind the wheel.
The silhouette remains virtually unchanged, but the body features sharper creases and flanks, along with more angular headlamps – all of which are the core DNA of VW’s new design direction. It also serves to move the Caddy a little further away from the commercial connection usually associated with the vehicle.
The same applies to the interior treatment, which displays perceived quality and trim levels you would normally associate with VW’s passenger cars. Cruise control with a speed limiter and bi-xenon headlights with separate LED daytime lights are now offered as options for the first time, as are three infotainment systems: the standard Composition Audio; the Composition Colour system; and the top-of-the-range Composition Media. The latter features a USB interface, aux-in jack and Bluetooth.
Further options include fatigue detection and multi-collision brake that, once triggered, initiates controlled braking when a collision has been detected to reduce the intensity of further accidents, including follow-on collisions with oncoming traffic.
Behind the wheel there’s an abundance of headroom – a luxury afforded to every other passenger in the Caddy. In the short-wheelbase model, that means five occupants, while the Caddy Maxi models offers space for seven. The Cross Caddy has been discontinued, but will be replaced by the Alltrack, which will once again have the highest specification in the range.
The cabin has enough storage space for almost every possible object, big or small. The most notable storage space remains the horizontal area above the front passengers’ heads. Indeed, at the launch, VW confirmed that practicality is one of the most biggest reasons buyers select the Caddy, and it is evident in the execution of the seat-folding and -removing mechanisms.
The seatback of the second row easily flips forward, while the pull of another handle tilts the whole bench. Whether you need to accommodate passengers, equipment, or a combination thereof, removing the seats is an effortless affair. In total, VW claims the Caddy SWB can swallow up to 3 030 dm3. An option for the second row of passengers includes folding tables – perfect for longer trips.
The sliding doors on both sides further contribute to easy in- and egress, while the relatively low seating position on the front seats is more in line with that of a sedan or hatchback than most of today’s crossovers and SUVs.
The driver has a perfect view over the short bonnet which, together with the optional rear-view camera, makes manoeuvring the Caddy in tight spaces a cinch. Heading along the highways and twisty roads of KwaZulu-Natal’s Midlands, I was most impressed with the Caddy’s suppression of road noise. Although not built for cornering performance, for a top-heavy people mover, it handles remarkably well.
This entry-level model features a five-speed manual gearbox, while the more expensive models come with a six-speed DSG transmission, as well as an increase in power and torque levels. Not that the extra power is really necessary… With 81 kW and 250 N.m on offer, progress is relatively swift and, once on the open road, there is little need to switch to a lower gear if you need to over take traffic.
If you are in need of a more relaxed driving experience and even brisker performance, the DSG models offering 103 kW with 320 N.m might be more your cup of tea.
Standard safety features have also been added to and every model now features four airbags, while active safety features include ESP and traction control.
Following our long-term test of the outgoing Caddy (see February 2016’s 12-month report), the new Caddy takes the range into a more desirable, lifestyle direction. It continues to strike a near-unbeatable balance between passenger-car sophistication and the added ability, practicality and space of a van.