In the ever-changing sea that is the light commercial vehicle industry, the edges between the various sectors are becoming distinctly blurred.
As the van manufacturers rush to fill in various niche areas so that every need is catered for, we journalists can no longer refer simply to ‘car-derived’ or ‘light panel’ segments.
Recently yet another schism has occurred – sleek and stylish versus plain and practical.
This new divide first raised its head when Volkswagen launched the new T5 Transporter last year.
While no-one can question this van’s practical credentials – indeed it won both the Fleet News light panel van of the year award and the What Van? Van of the Year in 2003/4 – the T5 hardly cuts a dash on the motorways in the way the Renault Trafic and its twin brothers, the Vauxhall Vivaro and Nissan Primastar, do.
It is a similar story with the new Caddy.
It is big, solid and will suit most fleet needs. It’s just a shame that it looks so ugly.
Volkswagen, of course, would argue that fleet buyers don’t give a damn about what their vans look like – they concentrate instead on running costs and reliability.
And I’d have to admit that the firm has a good point there, so will say no more about looks.
It’s just that every time I see the Caddy parked on my driveway, I think to myself, what if…
Priced at £9,650 (ex-VAT), the Caddy SDI matches Ford’s Transit Connect. The 1.9-litre TDI model on test here is £10,550 ex-VAT.
There will be no petrol or LPG vans. Standard equipment includes ABS brakes, ASR traction control, a CD player, driver’s seat height adjustment, reach and rake adjustable steering wheel and a solid/mesh full height bulkhead.
At the business end, the Caddy mixes it with the class leaders straight away, packing a gross payload of 815kg, or 819kg for the more powerful TDI version.
As Volkswagen is not slow to point out, this is more than any of its rivals except the Transit Connect.
It’s a similar story for the body volume, which at 3.2 cubic metres equals the class-topping Fiat Doblo Cargo.
As this figure suggests, it’s also one of the biggest vans in its class.
The 1,781mm load length is longer than the Vauxhall Combo, although only by one millimetre, while at 1,558mm wide, the load width is greater than all its rivals.
Maximum width between the wheelarches is 1,171mm, which means the Caddy can easily take a Europallet on board.
Six lashing points are provided in the floor to secure loads.
The Caddy’s trademark asymmetrical split rear wing doors are carried over to the new model, although a tailgate will be optional later.
Having moaned about the looks of this van, our test model turned up at Fleet Towers clad in a natty set of alloy wheels and metallic paint, which will add £320 and £245 to the list price.
The van still looked rather like a barn but these two extras make it as good as it will ever look.
There are large plastic bumpers front and rear and side rubbing strips but no protection for those wheelarches. Side mirrors, meanwhile are big, wide and chunky.
In the front
If the outside looks big and hefty, the inside matches it.
Entry is by central (not remote) locking and the doors resemble something you might find on the average butcher’s fridge.
The dashboard, meanwhile, looks like the side of a house and about as solid too.
The top of the dash features a series of little trays which will hold all sorts of bits and bobs in place and there is another large shelf above the driver and passenger seat.
There are two cup holders in the centre console and those thick doors allow for a cola bottle bin in each side – a first in this size of van.