Some might have an opinion that the proliferation of small companies gives rise to employers requiring a practical mode of transport, in order to manage multiple tasks at one go. While SUVs and MPVs fall under this category, they are often utilised for family duties. The appeal of vans bring forth a refreshing range of alternatives that are developed for commercial-oriented assignments, a main reason why we notice more modern examples combing the streets of our island nation nowadays, primarily dominated by Volkswagen’s Caddy.
There are hints that Volkswagen’s flagship van is way more functional than it seems at first glance, although the main feature of the Caddy still lies in its massive space in the rear third. There is no lack of storage in other parts of the cabin, featuring stowage in the overhead compartment, under the front seats and dashboard to supply the Caddy with more options on days when the main compartment is fully utilised. Folks who rough it out daily can opt for our test variant, the Caddy Maxi Panel Van, a trim level that comes with steel wheels and metal panels made to withstand harsh knocks – perfect for tasks that render more towards industrial than white-collared work. 4-sided glass panels can also be selected on an arguably more “family-oriented” Caddy (hence its “Window Van” label), a feature that will be useful when sifting through amenities without disarming the sliding door.
Goods are transported in a fuss free manner, courtesy of the rear door that unlatches wide to a comfortable degree – an ideal angle to load and offload cargo packaged in unconventional dimensions. And the side opening accessed by a sliding door on each side will come in handy on occasions when you need to access baggage wedged deeply in the rear compartment.
While the appeal of the Caddy primarily lies in the way it can carry large, bulky items effectively, three days of wheel time also suggests that you can have plenty of fun behind the wheel of a van, too. It won’t exactly set your pulse racing, but the manner in which performance is delivered affords the driver with a relaxing, yet fairly engaging time behind the wheel. Our test unit is equipped with the seven-speed DSG transmission, an option we would gladly tick over the five-speed manual alternative especially as this adds up to the appeal of a fuss free mode of transport housed in a functional package. Each upshift is dealt with a seamless transition as it works well with the diesel motor to generate ample torque in each gear, not showing any signs of gear hunting that might impede efficient progress during fluctuating road conditions.
The narrow but meaty torque band from the 1.6-litre TDI engine is particularly useful for Singapore’s cut-thrust traffic, too. A slight prod on the throttle supplies a consistent increase in speed rather than a wild surge of thrust, with 250Nm of torque more than sufficient to hurl 1,440kg of heft as you embark on your daily duties. Coupled with a steering wheel that enriches the driver with alert responses and a long travel suspension that finds a fluent tempo with the road, you would find yourself operating the Caddy at a brisker pace than most rivals in this segment.
Our test route consisted of a blend of city and highway driving, as well as various types of driving styles to replicate real world applications. Volkswagen claims that the Caddy can yield more than 17.5km/l on the combined cycle, not a far cry off our tested figures and hugely impressive even when pitched against modern engines tuned for efficiency over performance.
The Caddy is a classic example of one that attracts the consumer who fancies modern tech to facilitate efficient motoring without compromising on the basic duties of a van. And we wouldn’t rule out the fact that this could be the perfect platform to work on an intricate in-car entertainment setup too!
Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Panel Van (DSG)
1,598cc, turbodiesel in-line 4
101bhp at 4,400rpm
250Nm at 1,500 – 2,500rpm
$107,300 with COE