By The Lenspeed Team
Lenspeed received an unusual assignment when Volkswagen called up one day to offer us the Caddy Maxi for a test drive. As it turns out, it was a wise decision on their part – we’ve been in the market for commercial vehicles before, firstly for their immense practicality and then more reasonable price (vans have a different COE). More recently, we were again on the prowl for a dependable van, this time for a family business. However, we had a slightly different buying decision compared to the typical corporation – we either wanted a diesel car or a van, so it wasn’t a choice between different vans. Why so?
The changing diesel vehicle landscape in Singapore was one of the reasons. Lowering of diesel tax surcharges on oil-burning cars meant that they make a lot more sense than they did before. That brought an influx of diesel cars into the market, albeit on a slew.
With this greater choice, one would not immediately go for a van when the car can offer the same fuel economy, but with greater freedom and features. Take the 70km/h limit on vans which do not apply on cars, for example, which turned out to be a very annoying thing in the Caddy (not through any fault of the van itself).
The other reason is the vehicle in consideration will be used more than just transporting goods. We need a do-it-all – to bring the dog to the vet, to bring the grandma for dinner and to buy groceries from the market. So a diesel car would immediately come to mind, although Volkswagen says the Caddy Maxi would be available with rear seats too, in due time. And, with all of those stickers of bicycles and sofas on the Maxi, one would be led to think it has a lifestyle purpose too. So it would be right up our alley when picking a vehicle.
You may have noticed this isn’t just a normal Caddy, with the ‘Maxi’ name tagged to it. With its staggering wheelbase, the Maxi is an enlarged Caddy specifically designed for tradesmen and deliveries. That explains its cavernous rear space, which feels unnervingly hollow when one first slams the door shut in the Caddy – it feels like one has just stepped in a huge room! After familiarising with the strange but not unwelcome sensation however, it doesn’t really bother as the Caddy is sufficiently quiet at speed.
It is very car-like too – at least from the front seats. The instrumentation gauges and major touch points are standard Volkswagen high quality fare, although you will get a steering wheel that is plastic instead of leather-wrapped (admittedly, it feels more hardy that way). The dashboard layout reminds of the Touran, although there are thoughtful storage areas everywhere in the Caddy that you wonder why they don’t have in the passenger cars.
Perhaps the most car-like association of all is the DSG gearbox. Seen in nearly every Volkswagen model, it works brilliantly in the Caddy, perhaps almost too well. It is so efficient and so quick, you get to 70km/h in no time and the built-in alarm starts beeping! The engine, however, is noticeably rougher than in the Touran TDI we tried previously.
The handling too, is a tad too van-like for our comfort. The rear suspension feels like a fixed beam, lacking a sense of fullness to the damping, although the front suspension seems to work a lot more familiarly. Perhaps putting a heavier load in the storage space may help to explain away some of the ride irregularity.
There are many thoughtful features in the Caddy that endeared it to us. From the rubber floors of the front row, to the double sliding doors, to the indented soft floors of the storage area, to the little hooks there and here to secure your loose items, it’s clear that the Caddy was built with utility in mind. Attention has been paid to its primary purpose.
Volkswagen will also offer a 5-year / 200,000km on any of its commercial vehicles, which should put your mind at ease if you’re calculating costs for your business. Servicing is done only every 20,000km, which is substantially less frequent than a normal car (half that of a typical Japanese car).
So would we buy one over a diesel car? We’ll have to see that version with seats at the back to be sure, but judging from its price, servicing proposition and extended warranty, it has a strong case for itself indeed, especially if one prizes value and utility over creature comforts. Just remember to tune your driving style to suit the speed limit, or just don’t get on long highway journeys…