Volkswagen Caddy's array of equipment that comes as standard should answer the critics who say ‘VW vans are expensive’.
The Caddy TSI is the first petrol van we’ve ever had on long-term test – and it wasn’t long after it arrived at Fleet Towers that we began holding it in the highest esteem possible.
Clad in shiny blue metallic paint and with just 142 miles on the clock, we couldn’t imagine a more pleasant place for a driver to spend a working day.
We quite often comment in our various road tests about how smooth the latest diesel engines are, but it’s not until you actually swop for a petrol variant that you realise you’ve been using the word ‘smooth’ in the wrong context.
This van is so whisper quiet that on a couple of occasions I thought the engine had stalled.
And talk about standard specification! In my 25 years of testing commercial vehicles, things have moved on at a staggering rate and the Caddy boasts a spec sheet that would previously been unheard of.
We take our hats off to Volkswagen for making its ‘Front Assist With City Emergency Braking’ system standard on all its vans.
This system brakes the van to a standstill in the event of an anticipated crash up to 30mph. We’ve tested in on the track in the past and it really is a major step forward in the safety stakes.
But the Caddy doesn’t rest there.
It also has an automatic post-collision braking system, brake assist, anti-lock braking system, automatic hazard light activation under emergency braking, driver and passenger front and curtain airbags, electric seatbelt tensioners, electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic dfferential lock, electronic stabilisation programme and engine drag torque control. Phew!
Next time sometime tells me Volkswagen vans are rather expensive to buy, I’ll reel off that list to explain the value.
In the cab, the standard goodies continue.
Unlike most of the rivals, which charge anything up to a thousand pounds for a built-in sat-nav, this Caddy has one as standard, along with a USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, MP3-compatible CD drive, climatic air-con and cruise control.
And that’s just picking out the best items. If we ran a total list of the standard spec, it would leave little room for other comment.
This particular Caddy was put together especially for Commercial Fleet so the VW PR office added a few extras.
That snazzy paint job, together with extra quality black upholstery, adds £492; a winter pack, including headlight washers, heated washer jets, washer fluid level indicator, heated driver and passenger seats and electric auxiliary air heater, adds £582; and a rubber load compartment floor completes the extras at £120.
Unless you happen to be travelling in the wilds of Scotland in the snow, we probably wouldn’t bother with the winter pack, but the load floor is an essential item to stop small bits of cargo slipping and sliding about when on the move.
It will also protect the floor from scratches and scrapes, which will add to the van’s value at selling time.
And, talking of the cargo area, the full height bulkhead is a no-cost option and there are six load-lashing eyes to tie cargo down.
Of course on top of all this wonderful technology, the Caddy also offers that superior build quality that many other manufacturers strive to emulate but rarely do.
It’s typical of what we expect from makers of German products and has helped Volkswagen to secure the treasured No 2 slot in the UK van sales chart which had traditionally belonged to Vauxhall.
Volkswagen's petrol newcomer Caddy is welcomed as ‘demonised’ diesel looks set to lose ground in battle of the powerplants.
The pendulum of public opinion is known to swing back and forth on a regular basis.
Take eggs, for example, in my lifetime they have been deemed alternately good for you and bad for you several times over (remember the Edwina Currie egg scandal of 1988?)
But surely nowhere does that fickle pendulum swing more fiercely than in the field of vehicle emissions.
At one time petrol was demonised against LPG, then we had a supposed saviour in diesel and now we’re back to petrol as the favourite again, along with hybrids and electric vans.
And that’s not even mentioning the hydrogen fuel-cell.
If the Government gets its way, we’ll all be driving electric vans by 2040, but in the intervening 27 years, what is the environmentally-aware van fleet manager supposed to do to satisfy both his or her finance bosses and the green sensibilities of the general public at the same time?
Electric vans at present are pretty much a no-no if they need to travel more than about 80 miles in a day, so will petrol be the fuel of choice for longer trips?
If you think that, then try finding a petrol van to buy and you’ll be pretty short of choices. There are none at all on offer at 3.5 tonnes – and precious few under that.
Which brings us round to our latest long-term test van, the Volkswagen Caddy petrol.
All van manufacturers have been rather caught on the hop by this new love affair with petrol, triggered by air quality concerns in urban areas, and it’s hats off to Volkswagen for trying to fill this ‘void’ as soon as possible by offering not only the Caddy in petrol format but now the Transporter, too.
Our test van is the top-spec Caddy Highline variant, sporting a 1.4-litre petrol powerplant offering 125PS and 220Nm of torque at between 1,500-3,500rpm, which should give this van plenty of oomph on the road.
Official fuel consumption figure on the combined cycle is 48.7mpg and basic price is £17,735 ex-VAT.
Ignoring the environmental credentials for a moment and looking purely in financial terms, it is reckoned that anything less than about 20,000 miles and the petrol model wins out against the diesel equivalent, owing to its cheaper front-end price and the lower cost of petrol against diesel.
After that, the diesel Caddy begins to win the day, increasingly so as the miles clock up.
So our long-termer is only going to be the choice for any fleet that undertakes low mileage round-town trips, unless the company that buys it regards environmental matters as more important than financial ones.
But what we don’t know at present is what is going to happen to the residual values (RVs) of diesel vans in the future.
So, in three years’ time, this model may well make a lot more at selling time than is envisaged at present, which, of course, will skew the wholelife cost equation in its favour.
What a conundrum our readers face when choosing new vehicles!
Needless to say, we hold the Caddy in the highest esteem, having tested many of them over the years, and I’m looking forward to the next six months as this van will be my sole means of transport.
Unlike most other vehicle testers, I don’t actually possess a car of my own (although I do confess to having a treasured Harley Davidson in the garage), so the Caddy will be my companion through the worst of the coming winter weather.