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VW Caddy: gallery now live

2004-10-12 10:32

John Oxley

In my early days of journalism I was often amused - or bemused - at the way my editor, Ronnie Gill, could mix his metaphors with gay abandon, apparently immune to the sniggers of all around.

"That headline is scratching the bottom of the caddy," he would say, simultaneously showering the sub-editors' room with cigarette ash and glaring at us all through piercing blue eyes set into a deeply-lined face that seemed to have a permanent deep tan.

Of course, most of the other subs knew he was talking about a barrel - after all, they spent much of their time trying to empty them - but what the heck, Ronnie didn't care.

Well, I've found a Caddy I don't think Ronnie would have any problems with. It comes courtesy of Volkswagen, and it's going to make headlines without scratching its bottom!

Golf platform

This Caddy is based on the Volkswagen Golf 5 platform, so it's decidedly quick to react, has great handling, and rides much better than your average econo-van or MPV while still allowing lots of space for five people and tons of luggage, or even seats seven, depending on your options.

What's more it comes with plenty of power.

There are two model types - your straight-forward commercial closed van, for transporting stuff around town or on inter-city runs. That comes with either a 75 kW petrol engine or a 2-litre normally-aspirated (non-turbo) diesel engine producing 51 kW of power but with bags of torque.

Then there are three people movers, aimed at the school run, leisure trips, or plain family or business transport.

There's a base model Caddy, with not so many frills (but still all the stuff you need, including bags of safety features), then two Caddy Life models, which come with more equipment to make life pleasanter - at a price.

Base model

The base model has a 1.6-litre 75 kW petrol engine, then there's a Caddy Life with either that same engine or a 77 kW 1.9-litre turbo-diesel.

At 4.4 metres long, 1.8 metres wide and 1.83 metres high the Caddy is in fact bigger than it's "bigger" brother, the Touran, and it offers a lot more in terms of load and interior space, plus more versatility - although in a package which is closer to OK Bazaars than Woolworths.

But its design is totally different, with a tall aspect more akin to its commercial vehicle ancestry than the car-based Touran.

It does LOOK a lot like the Touran from the front, with the same Volkswagen family grille. But that where it stops.

The Caddy is tall, and slab-sided, with a huge tailgate that lifts up high (you get a strap to pull it closed) to allow easy loading and give you cover while you're doing so - or while watching your favourite outdoors sport.

In some respects I like the Caddy better, in fact. It's got more character.

Easy access

For instance, there are one (on the Caddy) or two sliding doors each side for easy access. And they have very neat sliding windows which are flush with the bodywork when they're closed.

The seats are easy to push around to give various loadability options (the second seat has a 60/40 split and tumble fold) while the extra row which comes as a R4 100 option on the Caddy Life 1.9 is easy to remove altogether.

But look inside and you might be disappointed by the uncovered door surrounds in the back, which offer painted spot welds as a totally uncharacteristic Volkswagen trim, and in contrast to the upmarket look of the dashboard and the driver's compartment.

Volkswagen says that comes with the territory. Extra trim or smooth metal would cost a lot more.

But there are other areas where the Caddy scores. For instance, it has tight 11.3 metres turning circle for whipping around city streets. And a 154 mm ground clearance for avoiding the dreaded middel mannetjie.

Big load

What's more it will take a full 850 kg load, or a massive volume of 3 200 litres.

There's enough space between the wheel arches to fit a standard Euro-pallet.

Or as many as three adults can sit on the first row of seats, while the optional second row can seat a further two people.

The left seat is separate and can be folded down to provide access to the rear seat should that be fitted as an option.

Its head restraint fits snugly into the rear foot well, so it does not have to be removed when it is folded.

Of course there are other reasons why this seat can be folded, like a long household or leisure object snugly fitted along length of the Caddy. The rest of the first row also folds accordingly for increased rear loading space.

The three-point seatbelts on the two outer seats are fastened to the C-pillar and equipped with the CSF (Child Safety System) system.

The front seats are height and reach adjustable for the 1.6 Life and 1.9 TDI models, with fabric seat upholstery.

Technical stuff

The 1.6 engine on the Caddy and Caddy Life produces 75 kW at 5 600 r/min and a respectable 148 Nm of torque at 3 800 r/min.

VW claims sea level acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 13.7 seconds, with maximum speed at 164 km/h and overall fuel consumption of 8.2 litres/100 km.

There's a 60 litre tank. Transmission to the front wheels is through a 5-speed manual gearbox.

The 1.9 TDI, with 250 Nm of torque available from 1 900 r/min, produces 77 kW.

Overall fuel consumption is 6.1 litres/100 km, and maximum speed is 166 km/h.

Stopping is aided by disc brakes at the front and rear, with ABS brakes, TCS traction control and EBC.

Further safety is provided by a standard driver airbag and passenger airbags for the Life package and the standard 1.9 TDI.

Central locking

Remote central locking with an alarm immobiliser and anti-tow is standard across the range, as well as an unbreakable steering lock.

Exterior features include sliding doors on both sides (optional on the base Caddy), with sliding windows for the first row of seats, all tinted.

There are large exterior mirrors (taken from the VW T5).

The front wipers have alternating rest positions to reduce wear and increase wiper blade life. Every second time the wiper is switched off, the wiper will move upwards slightly and the blade will fold over.

The steering uses the same Servotronic technology as the Golf. In simpler terms, the electronics gauge such factors as driving and crosswind speed as well as the amount of force applied to turn the wheel.

There are lots of storage compartments, including a huge tray above the driver's head, big pockets in the doors, and compartments under the seats.

Optional specification includes a fixed towbar for additional luggage, cruise control, alloy wheels, seat heating and satellite navigation.

The 1.6 Life and TDI models have a climatic air conditioner, a second sliding door and a radio/CD player with a front loader as standard. A six CD shuttle is an optional extra.

On the road

I was very surprised at the Caddy's agility - but I shouldn't have been, given its Golf 5 genes.

The front suspension is in fact almost straight out of the Golf, with MacPherson struts and wishbones plus an anti rollbar, and this makes it very easy to place the car exactly where you want it in a corner.

At the back there are leaf springs (one or two, depending on the model) but again an anti-roll bar is used to prevent sideways movement.

Interestingly, despite some brisk motoring the Caddy kept to its line over quite fierce bumps, and never felt at all fazed or unsettled.

And it proved a comfortable and relatively quiet package too, far better than I had expected from a van-based MPV.

OK, it's not the fastest kid on the block, but then again, it's not the most expensive either.

Prices start at R162 500 for the Caddy 1.6 base model, while the Caddy 1.9 base is R185 000.

The Caddy 1.6 Life is R182 500 and the Caddy 1.9 Life is R195 000.

Apart from R4 100 for those extra two seats on the Caddy 1.9 Life you can also pay R21 300 for satellite navigation.

For the petrol-engined version, service intervals are the standard 15 000 km, while the 1.9 TDI needs an oil change every 7 500 km. Normal service is carried out at 15 000km.

The Caddy is covered by a 120 000 km / 3 year warranty, while AutoMotion maintenance plan is an option.


The van models feature a single sliding door as standard (a second one is optional) and asymmetric side-opening rear doors.

Also standard is a bulkhead with mesh behind the driving compartment, as well as all the safety and mechanical features of the Caddy MPV.

Because the panel van is a commercial vehicle, it is offered with a 2 years/ unlimited warranty and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. Service intervals for both engines are every 15 000 km.

Prices: Caddy 1.6 Van R122 750, Caddy 2.0 Van R131 250.

The previous Volkswagen Caddy, a Golf 1 based pickup, continues in the VW range, but in future it will be called the Volkswagen Pickup.

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