Nowadays it seems you can hardly take a breath without reading about a new environmentally-friendly van being launched. Not that that is a bad thing of course.
The real point is, though, that these vans are invariably more fuel-efficient and can save the fleet operator money.
The latest ‘green’ van is the model on test here, the Volkswagen Caddy Bluemotion, which has just gone on sale and is the most frugal Caddy yet. It offers a combined fuel economy figure of more than 60mpg and CO2 emissions of just 119g/km.
In addition to the standard Bluemotion technology features – cruise control, hill-hold assist, start-stop and energy recuperation – the ride height has been reduced by 27mm to reduce aerodynamic drag, low rolling resistance tyres are fitted and there’s improved engine control and revised calibration. The result is an 11.8mpg improvement over the standard van.
To differentiate the Bluemotion model from the rest of the Caddy range, Volkswagen has introduced a few exterior and interior styling changes.
It gets new multi-spoke wheel covers for the 15-inch steel wheels, body-coloured side guard strips and a black and blue coloured interior trim fabric.
As with all Caddy variants, this model comes with electronic stability control as standard, together with remote central locking and a full height bulkhead.
The Bluemotion starts at £15,195, but our test model also had reversing sensors at £240 (a must in my book), body-coloured bumpers and door mirrors at £210 (a definite no for fleets – stick to the plastic bumpers for lower repair costs) and manual air-conditioning at an expensive £810.
Our test vehicle arrived just a day after a Ford Transit Connect went, so we were given an ideal opportunity for some back-to-back testing.
While the Caddy can’t compete with the stylish curves of the Connect (the Caddy’s dash looks more like a solid slab of concrete), it certainly stands out in the quality stakes.
The van exudes that typical German efficiency and while the seats feel rather hard, they are incredibly supportive with lots of padding in the lumbar region.
We undertook a six-hour journey in this van during our test week and emerged with no twinges whatsoever.
You may imagine that a van tuned for ultimate fuel efficiency would be rather dull to drive, but the Caddy proved lively and a pleasure to handle, with nicely-weighted power steering and slick gearchanges.
My only complaint is that the bulkhead has a mesh top, which allowed a fair bit of noise through from the cargo area including a sloshing sound from the fuel tank when we accelerated or braked.
We would also eschew those colour-coded bumpers at buying time. As can be seen from the pictures they give the van a smart appearance but they’ll cost the earth to fix if they get scraped, especially with metallic paint
Black plastic will do nicely for fleet purposes.