The Magazine for LCV Fleet Operators
While we wait for an electric alternative, perhaps a petrol engine can fill the gap, says Dan Gilkes. Petrol Powered: VW Caddy Cargo Maxi TSI

Electrification may take centre stage at many van events these days, but for Volkswagen’s new Caddy, an EV option isn’t even on the table. That’s because the company will launch the full electric ID.Buzz later in the year, offering a pure EV line-up, alongside the conventional diesel and petrol-powered Caddy. 

Powertrain

You can of course still have a diesel engine in your Caddy Cargo. Indeed, the majority of UK customers will continue to opt for the 2.0-litre oil burner, which is offered with ratings of 75hp, 102hp and 122hp. But you can also go for petrol, with this 1.5-litre TSi engine that delivers a healthy 114hp.

Of course, when it comes to powering a light commercial, torque is perhaps a better indicator of performance. The petrol engine delivers 220Nm, from 1,750-3,000rpm, which is admittedly less than any of the diesel motors. It doesn’t feel that way on the road though and this Maxi bodied van offers surprisingly healthy performance.

All of the engine choices come with a slick six-speed manual gearbox, though you can also opt for a seven-speed DSG if you go for the 122hp diesel, or the petrol engine in higher trim versions. The 122hp engine is also available with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, though only with the manual gearbox.

In terms of this Maxi Commerce model, VW claims fuel consumption of 43.5mpg for the petrol engine, which compares fairly well with the 54.3mpg offered by the 102hp diesel, given their comparative price difference at the pumps. CO2 emissions are higher though, at 147g/km for the petrol against 129g/km for the lower powered diesel. 

The petrol van starts at around £1,000 less than the comparable diesel though. While in the past we might have automatically assumed that this would be reflected in residual values, demand for diesel power is likely to continue to fall, which may make the petrol Caddy an attractive second-hand buy in a few years’ time.

Load carrying capacity 

All LCV versions of Caddy are now called Caddy Cargo, to differentiate them from their people-carrying cousins. You can still have short wheelbase or longer Maxi versions, offering 3.1m3 and 3.7m3 of load volume respectively. Volkswagen continues in its belief that you can’t beat a solid bulkhead for occupant safety, so there is no option to fold the passenger seat or load through from the back into the cab, to extend that load space.

Caddy Cargo Maxi vans come with two sliding side doors as standard and those doors are wide enough to load a Europallet through. While it is possible to carry two regular Europallets in either the short or long wheelbase models, only the Maxi can handle two of the larger Euro 3 pallets.

In Maxi Commerce trim, this petrol van has a payload of 700kg, which is slightly above the 681kg of the 102hp diesel version. However, the petrol van has a 1.4-tonne trailer limit, while the diesel can haul up to 1.5-tonnes.

In the cab

Volkswagen has dropped the familiar Startline, Trendline and Highline trims on Caddy, in favour of Commerce, Commerce Plus and Commerce Pro. All models come with a comprehensive range of ADAS systems, including auto post-collision braking, Brake Assist, Driver Alert, Electronic Differential Lock, Engine Drag Torque Control, Front Assist with Pedestrian Monitoring and City Emergency Braking.

Commerce trim includes electric windows and mirrors, an electric parking brake with auto hold function, halogen headlights with daytime running lights, a multi-function steering wheel, cruise control and e-Call. 

As we discovered, in the hottest week of the year so far, it doesn’t include air conditioning. You have to go up to Commerce Plus for that. Alternatively, you can opt for the Business Pack on Commerce models, which includes air con, rear parking sensors and an alarm for just £1,050.

You get a Composition DAB audio system with 6.5” touchscreen, a multi-function display and We Connect Plus preparation. Our van had been upgraded, with Discover Media DAB navigation, including a 10” screen (£1,332) along with front and rear parking sensors (£756).

You also get a totally new cab environment, that is comfortable and feels very well screwed together. Engine noise is very low with the petrol, making the Caddy Cargo Maxi a quiet cruising companion, though road noise does tend to intrude a bit as speeds increase.

We’ve mentioned it before, but unfortunately familiarity doesn’t improve things. While the slick new dash and navigation screen are very nice to look at, the controls for things like the heating system are less of an advance.

There are direct access buttons that can get you directly to the climate menu on the screen, but you still have to slide fingers across controls or the screen itself to change anything, before pressing and swiping again to get back to the navigation map, all the while taking your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road. There really was nothing wrong with a rotary temperature control, or up and down buttons, and it feels like technology for the sake of it.

On the road

As mentioned, the 1.5-litre petrol engine delivers plenty of power for everyday driving. It is particularly at home in an urban environment, where the rapid stop/start system and automatic handbrake make driving easier. For a larger model, the Maxi still feels like a relatively compact van in busy traffic and visibility is good.

The Caddy is equally happy on country roads and motorways, offering a comfortable ride with or without a load on board and reassuring handling. Again, it has more than enough power to keep pace with traffic and the standard cruise control makes longer journeys effortless. 

Conclusion

Despite a few niggles with the human-machine interface in the cab, there is little doubt that the new Caddy is another step forward versus its predecessor. It remains a desirable compact van.

Interestingly, it feels ever closer, both in the cab and on the road, to Ford’s Transit Connect, which is no bad thing. At present the two are very different vans, from separate companies, but their next generations will share far more than driving feel.

As good as the latest Caddy Cargo is though, you can’t help feeling that in some ways VW is marking time, waiting for the really new van to arrive later in the year. As the firm’s ID.3 is taking on petrol and diesel powered Golfs, so ID.Buzz will attempt to win over Caddy customers. It will be interesting to see how that develops.

VanUser rating: 4.5

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