What Car? says...
The Volkswagen Caddy Cargo has traditionally been based on the best-selling VW small family car model of the day, usually the Golf.
That’s still the case with this latest Caddy Cargo, and while the connection is looser, it still shares one important thing with the VW Golf – a cult following. And it’s well deserved. This is widely considered to be one of the best small vans out there, which is quite a feat when its rivals include the Citroën Berlingo van, the Ford Transit Connect, the Peugeot Partner and the Vauxhall Combo Cargo.
Over and above all those vans, the Caddy Cargo’s popularity boosts the values of used examples, which means that while it costs more to buy, you’ll probably make more money back when the time comes for you to sell it on.
This fifth-generation Caddy Cargo is based on the same floorplan (known as MQB) as the very latest Golf. It also shares it with the Audi A3, the Seat Leon, the Skoda Octavia… we could go on. Why does that matter? Well, the theory goes, if you stick a car platform under a van, you’ll make it more car-like, and therefore easier and more comfortable to drive.
Certainly, the modern 2.0-litre diesel engine in the Caddy Cargo is more refined and less polluting than ever before. It can be had in two different power outputs, with a manual or automatic gearbox, and even with the rare option (for a small van) of four-wheel drive. There’s also a 1.5-litre petrol engine available.
Basing the Caddy Cargo on a car hasn’t hampered its flexibility. You can choose between a short-wheelbase version and a long-wheelbase one (called the Maxi), and there are three equipment packages available: basic Commerce, mid-range Commerce Plus and plush Commerce Pro. There’s also an MPV model – called the VW Caddy – which has its own review.
This, in short, is a van you probably want to know more about. And that’s exactly what we’re here for. Over the course of the next few pages, we’ll give you the lowdown on this particularly popular small van, detailing the way it drives, how much it’ll haul, how smart it feels inside – and most importantly, how much it’ll set you back.
On that note, don’t forget that we can probably save you a packet on the cost of your next lease vehicle if you search our What Car? Leasing pages.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The steering, for example, responds quickly to your inputs, body lean is always kept in check and there's a surprising amount of grip. The latest Caddy gets coil suspension (a more advanced rear suspension design than most vans), so it rides lumps and bumps with real sophistication, regardless of whether the rear is loaded or not.
Another highlight is the integration of the 2.0 TDI diesel engine. There’s a small grumble when it starts up, but on the move it’s so quiet that you’d be hard pressed to say you were driving a van. It’s available with 101bhp or 120bhp, and because it's turbocharged, there's plenty of grunt across a wide spread of revs. We reckon the sweet spot is the 101bhp engine.
A six-speed gearbox is standard across all models – a rare and welcome feature for a small van, because many entry-level models are assigned a five-speed by default. The gearbox itself is a great match for the engine and the shift action is slick and purposeful.
If your van is destined to spend a lot of time in cities, you might want to look at the optional seven-speed DSG automatic. It delivers super-smooth gear changes that also happen to be lightning-quick, and is available on the highest-powered diesel model or the petrol.
In terms of overall refinement, the diesel Cargo is remarkably hushed at a cruise, but you hear more road noise than you might expect. We’d stop short of calling it properly intrusive, but at motorway speeds you find yourself having to turn up the radio to hear it clearly.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The interior of the Volkswagen Caddy Cargo looks thoroughly modern and is packed with technology. All models get some form of central infotainment touchscreen, whether it's the standard 6.5in unit on Commerce and Commerce Plus trims (which can be upgraded to an 8.3in screen for a reasonable price) or the full 10.0in one on Commerce Pro models. While the 6.5in screen is sufficient for choosing music and making phone calls, the crystal-clear 10.0in version is an eye-catching carry-over from the VW Golf.
As with the passenger car, you get an eSIM, which enables wi-fi and emergency calling, and the We Connect app for vehicle reports, breakdown calls and service planning. It ensures the Caddy is a truly connected van, and an even more advanced services package called We Connect Plus (standard on all Caddys with sat-nav) enables anti-theft warnings in the event of a break-in attempt, as well as media streaming, live traffic information and a parking position finder.
Despite its impressive looks, the 10.0in screen is far from faultless: the menus are very confusingly arranged and, to make matters worse, there are no physical shortcut buttons to take you quickly from one feature to the next. Even changing the volume of the radio can be quite fiddly, especially when you consider that this is a working vehicle and might require occupants to be wearing gloves (or have dirty hands to muddy the screen and sensitive slide controls).
Infotainment niggles aside, it’s a really modern and smart interior, and you get the sense that you are sitting in a vehicle of quality. It even has USB-C connectors, and there’s the option of adding wireless phone-charging and a wireless connection to Apple CarPlay.
In terms of the driving position, there’s plenty of reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel and a reasonable range of movement for the seat, so finding a comfortable position is relatively easy. Commerce Plus and Pro vans get a driver’s armrest and electrically adjustable lumbar support to make longer journeys more comfortable.
To help relieve parking worries, the Commerce Plus model comes with rear parking sensors, with Pro models adding front parking sensors. A rear-view camera is on the options list, as is a system called Park Assist that will steer the van into a parking space for you.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
At its core, the Volkswagen Caddy Cargo remains a functional small van. The short-wheelbase model is 1885mm wide, 4500mm long and 1856mm high, giving you a load space length of 1797mm, a width of 1613mm and 1272mm in height. The long-wheelbase (LWB) Maxi adds 353mm to the length, making it 4853mm long and increasing its load length to 2150mm.
That equates to 3.1m3 of load space in a standard Cargo, with a maximum load space length of 1797mm, width of 1613mm and 1272mm height. The Maxi, meanwhile, can transport up to 3.7m3 due to its increased maximum load space length of 2150mm. That makes the Maxi quite a bit more practical than the Ford Transit Connect but not quite as capacious as the LWB versions of the Citroën Berlingo van, the Peugeot Partner, the Toyota Proace City and the Vauxhall Combo Cargo.
When it comes to payloads, the Cargo is a little less impressive, because the maximum weight a standard version can move is 687kg, with Maxi models restricted to 700kg. To put that in perspective, the Transit Connect can carry up to 967kg, while a Combo Cargo can carry more than a tonne.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Volkswagen vans are often thought of as being rather expensive, but the Caddy Cargo has a starting price comparable to small van rivals. It’s also predicted to hold on to its value well, with depreciation expected to be slower than for the equivalent Ford Transit Connect, Peugeot Partner, Toyota Proace City or Vauxhall Combo Cargo.
In terms of trims, we rate mid-level Commerce Plus trim as the best-value option, because it gets some genuinely useful options over the sparsely equipped Commerce, including climate control, rear parking sensors, storage compartments under the seats, an armrest for the driver’s seat and a leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel.
While you have to go for top-spec Commerce Pro trim to get the 10.0in screen from the VW Golf that’s no major loss. Instead, we’d simply tick the box for the optional and very reasonably priced 8.3in touchscreen – a perfectly adequate system for most users.
The model is available with a staggering number of safety aids – most of which have been borrowed from the Golf. Automatic emergency braking (AEB) comes as standard, while adaptive cruise control, road-sign detection (which adjusts the cruise control to the speed limit) and lane-keeping assistance are all optional. It’s little wonder that, once you master the technology, this is possibly the easiest van to drive on the market.
A Thatcham Category 1 alarm system can be added to Commerce and Commerce Plus vans and is included as part of the Business Pack, along with rear parking sensors and air conditioning for the Commerce trim level.
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It's best to size your van’s engine to your needs, rather than trying for a ‘one size fits all’ approach. If you don’t need to haul heavy loads, for example, a smaller, more economical engine might work better – and if most of your work is around town, a petrol engine might suit you better than a diesel.
Pretty reliable, but not quite up there with the best, if its reputation is anything to go by. One thing to watch out for is that the Caddy’s servicing and repair costs can be a little higher than those of rival small vans.
Yes – but only if you choose the Commerce Plus or Commerce Pro models. The entry-level Commerce model only comes with a very basic stereo that features a black-and-white screen, although it does at least get Bluetooth connectivity.
The biggest Caddy is the long-wheelbase Maxi model, which measures 4.9m in length, 2.1m wide and 1.9m tall.