Caddyshack for Seven
Why yes, it has van roots, but this Caddy is no gopher of a vehicle. It has the same 1.4 TSI that powers our recently tested Golf Variant, and the same quick-shifting DSG transmission powering its wheels. In the past, Volkswagen Caddys were a little noisy, a little chatty with the older 1.9 turbo diesel, or even a little soggy with the old petrol 1.6 unit. Its replacement was quite a different car, with more space and more power.
While it may be a name quite familiar to us, this time round, the Caddy is being sold with private plates, with a cat A COE, instead of the goods vehicle plate which the old ones were registered with.
As with other "Wolfsburg-mobiles" there is plenty of quality, fit and finish, surprising for a car with van roots. There are disc brakes all around, 17" alloy wheels, equipped with rather thin 205/50R17 tyres. Daytime running lights in the bi-xenon headlamp units, with cornering lights, and you do get a fine selection of funky colours. While the height is a little higher than some small 7 seater MPVs, visual proportions for the Caddy makes this a very pretty vehicle (for what really is a van in disguise).
Anything from the B-pillar forward looks car-like, while the rear sports large side windows which cover the C-pillar, giving an impression of a near-seamless large window. The large rear single door opens upward, which may prove a little odd when trying to gain access to the rear when there are constraints in space.
Perhaps a more left-field approach to the common MPV, VW terms this as a Multi-Purpose Car. The more angular pressed metal that the VW presents itself with makes it something that is actually visually appealing and unique as an everyday car for the family.
With a wheelbase of 2,682mm, the Caddy is 45mm longer than the Golf between the wheels, and it houses 7 seats, in the usual 2,3,2 combination.
In the driver's seat, one can see that there is quite a bit of carrying-over of quality from more mainstream VW models. Plenty of shiny plastic greets you, quite similar to the Golf, with quite a flat centre panel which houses the touchscreen infotainment unit, which displays your radio station selection, sound settings, mobile device pairing with Bluetooth and minimal car settings. The air-conditioning unit is a dual climate control one in front with blowers for the middle row, situated at the rear of the centre console.
While most cars would now attempt to hide the CD player, some in the glove box, the Caddy's CD player is located just above the touchscreen for ease of access. Good if you are someone who still believes in a good old CD. If not, there is a USB port together with a 12V ciggy socket in front of the gearshift lever, and an SD card slot is also available on the dash.
The six speaker sound system on the car comes integrated with a one-way voice amplifying system, so that rear passengers can hear what is happening up front, hence not feeling left out in conversation. If you feel like, turn up the mic sensitivity and you can pretend to be James Corden doing your own episode of Carpool Karaoke! Ok I do admit, I did sing to myself while on the road, but because insulation was rather good, and someone had left me a CD in our test car.
Front seat comfort is near excellent, with manual seat adjusters and there is some width for shifting yourself around. The centre console features a height-adjustable armrest and two cup holders. The steering is adjustable for rake and reach, but still comes across as angled too high for me, then again, I sit lower, making the seat feel like a slouchy armchair. A higher seating position is preferred if you were to drive this car, as you will get good all round visibility from the abundance of glass that surrounds the cabin. Look above and you will see two overhead storage compartments, just some of the many places which you are able to stash all the things which you will need for your trip, like chips and perhaps salsa dip.
After the B pillar, the story is different. Opening the sliding doors exposes the middle row seats, which feel a little too upright, and backrests do not adjust rearward. Legroom is decent in the middle, and the all-around Alcantara seat material is soft and slightly furry to the touch. Access to the back row is done by way of flipping the middle row forward, entry and exit are easy, with ample room to manoeuvre. Rear seat passengers are not so lucky sitting taller than the rest of the car, their chins and chests are almost all you see in the rear view mirror. There is however some wriggle room for the legs for short journeys. The rear row can be folded down to create some immediate space, but you get what looks like a large trunk in your way from what used to be the rear seats with that done.
Both middle and back row seats are removable, turning what was a people carrier into a full-fledged van. Unfortunately, we were unable to remove the last row, as they were mounted tight. While this might be a welcome thing for some users, the bulk may find that there is not much of a use, given that there will need to be a space to store the seats when not in use. High-rise Singapore makes carting large seats around a very tricky thing to do. While the seats might be heavy, we would still have preferred them folding flat instead.
How it drives
While the Caddy may be car-like, one must not forget its van roots. There is quite a bit of suspension travel, and quite a bit of body roll. But in most cases, this isn't a bad thing, as the ride is soft and comfortable. There were however a few moments that I could sense that the car became a little uncomfortable being whipped. The way the front seats and cabin are designed, promotes a more relaxed style of driving, which is rewarding if you are not someone who is looking for something of a driver's car.
The 1.4 TSI engine, mated to their signature 7-speed DSG is the same as the one found in the Golf Variant which we had tested recently, but producing 220Nm starting at 1,500rpm, versus the Golf's lower 200Nm at 1,400rpm. The added torque comes in handy when hauling more people around. Century sprint timing for the Caddy comes at a rather leisurely 10.9 seconds, 1.4 seconds slower than the Golf. Lesser driver aids and more torque made it easy to spin the wheels when taking off.
Quick gear changes from the DSG transmission also ensure that there is minimal power loss during shifting. While there is no Sport, Normal and Economy mode on the familiar VW touch screen, selection of sport mode is done by pulling the shift lever one step down. Doing so, holds on to the gears longer, which I did find unnecessary, as the reactive DSG did the job well.
The cabin is well insulated, but there is minor road noise emitted from the tyres, and does become very audible under hard braking.
While we do love the responsive engine and transmission, as much as other VW's in their range, and the little Caddy shines here, one cannot ignore the elephant in the room. In this case, they are the middle and rear seats. We would have wanted them to be able to recline more, and that instead of being removable, have them made to fold flat. While I may have a few good uses for the removable rear bench other than being what they were initially intended for. Removing them would have been a chore, and we know that they are mighty heavy.
The means to justify the Caddy in this case would be one of driving pleasure versus what a Toyota Wish may be able to offer.
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