As mentioned in last month’s VanUser, Volkswagen has launched Caddy 5, its fifth-generation compact van. Due to travel restrictions, we were unable to attend the event in Germany, so VW shipped four Caddy vans to its UK base in Milton Keynes to give us a first chance to get behind the wheel of this latest load-carrier.
All three of the diesel variants were available, from the 75hp model through 102hp and onto the range-topping 122hp. All come with a six-speed manual gearbox or VW’s seven-speed DSG automated transmission. The 122hp engine will also be offered with 4Motion all-wheel drive from the end of Q1 next year.
In the UK, VW expects the 102hp engine to be the most popular, accounting for more than 60% of sales. The 75hp had been dropped in the previous line-up, but has been re-introduced now that it meets Euro 6 emissions standards. It will now be combined with the six-speed box, where previously it was only offered with a five-speed. It is thought that around 10-15% of buyers will go with this entry-level engine.
The 122hp motor is expected to prove an increasingly popular choice, especially when combined with higher trim levels. VW will also offer a 1.5-litre TSi petrol engine in the UK, but this is only expected to account for around 5% of registrations.
In the metal, Caddy Cargo 5 is a good looking van. All of the test models were standard length, though a Caddy Maxi will be available from the van’s introduction in the first quarter of next year. Traditionally, the Maxi model takes up to 25% of UK sales and VW is expecting a similar performance for this slightly larger model.
If you are wondering why there is no full electric model, that’s because Volkswagen is going to follow its car lines and launch a totally separate EV range. So in much the same way that the conventional Golf now sits alongside the new ID.3 and ID.4 electric models, so Caddy and Transporter will be joined by a new line of EV vans, previewed by VW’s ID.Buzz concept. That said, Caddy 5 has been engineered for a mild-hybrid driveline at a future date.
There will be three trim levels, but they will not be the old Startline, Trendline and Highline specifications. The company has yet to name the models, but has said that there is no plan for a Sportline van at present. That said, all trims get a new dash layout, with its flush infotainment screen and Light & Sight touch panel for the lights. The main screen is 6.5” across in lower trim models, rising to the full 10” touchscreen with navigation on higher line models.
On the road
The 75hp engine has returned to Caddy, this time connected to a six-speed manual box. In all honesty, I had to check with VW that this actually was the 75hp model, such was its nippy performance, writes Dan Gilkes. Admittedly, the van was the only one present without a half load in the rear, but it was none the less impressive.
The performance was not limited to Milton Keynes’ many roundabouts either. It was equally capable on the nearby A5 dual carriageway and on the M1 motorway, where the compact van was more than happy to cruise with the flow of traffic.
The jump to a 102hp output coincided with a half load being strapped into the back of the van, but there was no dent in the performance. The Caddy was as happy to keep pace with urban traffic as it was to tackle country lanes. The vans secure handling presumably owes much to the new rear axle, but there is a real feeling of security on even the bumpiest cross-country roads.
There was a time when a 122hp engine was deemed over the top for a 3.5-tonne van, never mind a compact Caddy. Working in combination with the seven-speed DSG automated transmission, the range-topping Caddy offers plenty of performance for any use. A few junctions of the M1 reveal the van’s natural habitat, but that DSG box also makes the ideal companion for inner city stop/start driving.
So, all is well under the bonnet. The redesign inside the cab is equally successful, with a feeling of space and VW’s traditional sturdy construction. There is still no option to fold the bulkhead and drop the passenger seat to the floor for longer loads, or to try and squeeze a third seat into the cab. That means however that you get a full bulkhead to provide protection and to help reduce road noise from the load area.
The new dash looks good. But I still question the move from many manufacturers to group all of the minor controls within on-screen menus. While it’s true that the Caddy does have touch-sensitive sliders for temperature control, you have to go into the main screen to control fan speed or air flow direction. Extended exposure no doubt breeds familiarity and you will soon be clicking and sliding with ease. But, luddite tendencies aside, was there really anything wrong with a simple rotary switch?
There are also plenty of controls built into the multi-function steering wheel, but again, you have to search through menus on the smaller main dash to find a way to turn off the rather over-active lane keeping assistance system, that wrenches the wheel from your hand if you fail to indicate a return to the left hand lane after overtaking.
These are minor points however and Caddy Cargo 5 is a big step forward from the previous generation van. Add in more carrying capacity and lower emissions and VW’s engineers certainly seem to have done their job.
It will be interesting to see how VW’s WeConnect connectivity offer develops too. All Caddy vans now come with an e-SIM, along with the basic WeConnect, that includes e-call, service scheduling and vehicle health data at no cost. WeConnect Plus will deliver additional features, including things like geographic settings for local fuel pricing and parking space availability.
WeConnect Plus will be standard for one year with the upgraded radio package, or for three years if the customer specifies satellite navigation. Beyond that term, UK pricing has yet to be set, but European Caddy customers pay around €60 a year for a subscription to the service.