- It’s tough to find a decent seven-seater with poke for less than R500 000, but the Caddy hits a sweet spot on all three fronts.
- 2.0TDI engine is a masterpiece and can be frugal, but it’s noisy when cold.
- It drives well, but it’s not the refinement you expect when you’re paying half a million rand f.
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Priced at R476 800, the new Volkswagen Caddy is a compelling alternative to a crossover or SUV if you need space for seven people. We spent a week living with the 2.0TDI Kombi version, which only comes with a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive.
The allure of the Caddy comes in the form of dual sliding doors that make getting into and out of the car’s rear a cinch. Even in the tightest parking bays, you don’t have to worry about wide-opening rear doors while shuffling the kids in and out. It also has a reasonably sized boot with all seats upright at 191 litres so that you can stuff small bags in there for weekend getaways.
While our time with the Caddy was well spent and pleasurable, the vehicle could not hide its light commercial vehicle underpinnings regarding day-to-day ride quality, noise, vibration, harshness, and much more.
It’s based on a van, what do you expect?
The Caddy is a van underneath, and this is highlighted the moment you fire up its engine and hear that diesel engine clatter to life. There’s minimal engine noise damping, so you will be forgiven for thinking you’re sitting in an Amarok.
Push the clutch to the floor, and you’ll feel its weight. And then, when you’re pulling away, you have to nurse the clutch out gently to avoid stalling the engine. It takes a bit of getting used to, as you expect a car-like bite from the clutch as they’re marketing it as a family vehicle for moms and pops. Fortunately, the gearbox is beautiful with a light throw and accurate gate, so you don’t miss shifts.
The vehicle is also boomy inside, as the road noise grows louder and louder on poor surfaces. On some of the bad roads around Johannesburg, with potholes and uneven, broken tarmac, the car gave me a slight headache due to the roar from the road echoing in the bus and the sound of the tyres scrabbling for grip. You also get wind noise across the side and over the roof of the Caddy, and due to its very thin insulation and rood lining, this can become irritating on a long road trip.
Fortunately, you can drown out some annoying sounds with the kicking audio system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And the car is fitted with a powerful aircon that can keep the cavernous interior perfectly cool or warm and snug.
It feels a bit too top-heavy around town
Driving the car at its launch earlier this year on the open road was lovely in terms of handling and dynamics. It glided along majestically on the highway and felt planted at the national limit. But, around the suburbs at low speed, having to negotiate with speedbumps, the ride is not as pleasant as it would be in a smaller T-Cross or larger Tiguan.
There’s a top-heavy feeling around traffic circles and too much body roll. But again, it’s a commercial designed to carry pallets of goods. They’ve done a respectable job, but the suspension thunking sounds combined with the firm springs make it a deal-breaker in terms of comfort.
Worth considering if you need seven seats
We like the Caddy Kombi as a long-distance driver, but for day-to-day use, we reckon you’ll be much happier and more comfortable in a vehicle designed as a passenger car in the first place. VW’s Polo is a great alternative, although it won’t be able to carry as many people. You could also consider a new Taigo or a T-Cross or spend a little bit more money and spring for the forthcoming Tiguan Allspace.
If you run a boutique hotel and you require a shuttle for guests. If you run a business that requires efficient staff transport. If you want a fleet bus that can move people around the country. The Caddy makes sense.
But as a family car, it’s just a little bit too unrefined and cannot hide its commercial vehicle underpinnings. Our car was priced at R476 800 as standard. Still, it came with options such as a removable towbar, opening rear window, park distance control front and rear, front fog lights with cornering functionality, a Composition Comfort Radio with AppConnect and a rear view camera. All tallied, you’re looking at more than half a million bucks.
We can’t fault the Caddy for providing reliability and excellent fuel consumption of 7.5 litres per 100km around town. But, we think VW should refine it further if they want to charge these prices. Some added body insulation to prevent engine, road and wind noise and perhaps a revised suspension tune for passengers would go a long way in making it more people-friendly. We also think a DSG gearbox is a must and that the manual should only be available on special requests as more people prefer auto boxes as standard these days.
Good luck finding one
Regardless of the criticism of the car, it will sell like hot cakes, as it has been since launch. Volkswagen says the waiting list can extend to one year, depending on the exact Caddy model you want. The war in Ukraine affects the plant that builds the Caddy and some of its components, such as engines, which adds pressure on supply.
Interestingly, the semiconductor crisis also affects the Caddy, as you can’t have it with an electrically operated towbar and electric windows. You have to have one or the other. So VWSA kept electric windows standard and opted to launch the Caddy with a manual release towbar.
Nevertheless, the Caddy comes with a two-year or unlimited-kilometre mechanical warranty and a three-year or 60 000km Easy Drive Service Plan. Service intervals are annual or every 15 000km.