Something big is happening in the small van sector.
All of a sudden that cosy little world of Citroën Berlingos, Vauxhall Combos and Volkswagen Caddys is bifurcating into two distinct species.
Later in the year, Citroën and Peugeot launch a new Berlingo/Partner which sees an increase over the old model in terms of loadspace and payload and in February, Volkswagen launched this new Caddy which – as suggested by its name Maxi – ups the load carrying capacity of its standard brother.
As the original Berlingo, Partner and Caddy will continue on sale, that means that effectively we now have two sectors where last year we had one – I suppose we’ll have to call them small van sector and not quite so small.
These manufacturers just don’t appreciate what problems they cause for the motoring press!
The Caddy Maxi is 470mm longer than its standard brother and boasts a payload of up to 800kg and loadspace of 4.2 cubic metres, up from 3.2 on the standard model.
To put things in perspective, this load volume is now bigger than that offered by the old Citroën Dispatch, which was always considered to be in the class above the Caddy.
In addition to the panel van on test here, there is also a five-seat crew van and a model called Life, which is an MPV seating seven people in three rows
There is a choice of engines – a 1.9TDI PD offering 104bhp at 4,000rpm and 185lb-ft of torque at 1,900rpm and a 2.0-litre unit offering 140bhp.
Our test model featured the DSG six-speed automatic gearbox in place of the standard five-speed manual.
Standard specification is high and includes remote central locking, full bulkhead, ABS brakes, EBC (engine braking control), electronic brakeforce distribution, and a TCS traction control system. ESP Plus, an advanced traction control system incorporating driver steering response, is extra at £282.
Prices start at £12,650 ex-VAT and our test van weighed in at £14,050 ex-VAT.
It came loaded down with extra goodies including electric windows and heated door mirrors (£255), air conditioning (£725), 15in alloy wheels (£360), comfort pack, which includes carpets and underseat storage (£215), body-coloured bumpers and wing mirrors (£180) and metallic paint (£295).
Behind the wheel
I’ve always held the Volkswagen brand in the highest esteem and I was, in fact, one of the judges who awarded the Caddy the title of Fleet News small van of the year in March.
A week with this van confirmed that my vote had been put in the right place.
As soon as you climb aboard the Caddy, you know you are in a vehicle that simply oozes quality.
It feels a lot tougher than most of the opposition and I can see these vans still buzzing around the UK in 20 years time.
Our test vehicle turned up at Fleet Towers looking a treat, but note from our earlier comments that there are a fair amount of paid-for extras tacked on to make it look like this – £2,030’s worth to be precise.
Many fleet buyers would scoff at paying all that extra money and they may have a point.
But if you run a high profile fleet that wants an upmarket image, it could be worthwhile coughing up.
In the front, the cab proves to be typical German fare – nothing fancy but everything solid, practical and where it should be.
The dash looks as though it might have been hewn from a single piece of plastic.