Volkswagen Caddy SDI Van Review
Facts At A Glance
ENGINE: 69bhp2.0 SDI
PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 20.5s / MaxSpeed 88mph
VolkswagenCaddy SDI - SOMETHING OLD,SOMETHING NEW
TheSDI Engine isn’t The Most Accomplished In Volkswagen’s Caddy Range. But If Cutting Costs Is Your Number One Priority, It Could Be The Sensible Option.
It’s reassuring to know that £900 can still buy you quite a lot, even in this day and age. It’s a sum that would land you a viable, if slightly elderly, used supermini or a fairly impressive wide-screen television. With a wedge of those proportions, you could pack yourself off on a foreign holiday to any number of far-flung destinations, fill your boots at Harrods and Harvey Nicks or carry out a 900-item sweep of yourlocal pound store. As it happens, £900 is also the difference betweenthe 2.0 SDI and 1.9 TDI engine options in the Volkswagen Caddy range.
Volkswagen’s Caddy van presents buyers who are attracted by its sturdy charms withan interesting dilemma. Should they opt for the mid-range 1.9-litre TDI powerplant with its 103bhp output and variable geometry turbocharger or should they settle for the entry-level 69bhp 2.0-litre SDI and pocket £900 to do with as they will? It’s a tricky one. There’s absolutely no doubt that the TDI is a better engine from a driving perspective. The SDI develops 140Nm maximum torque at 2,200rpm but the TDI can almost double that figure with 250Nm coming on song lower in the rev-range at1,900rpm. Compared to the TDI, the SDI feels laboured underacceleration and inflexible at higher speeds. It’s noisier too with alow clatter on start-up and a gruff note entering the cabin when it’s extended. The performance figures tell their own story. The TDI makesthe 0-60mph sprint in a nippy 13.3 seconds and can hit a 103mph top speed. The SDI drivers had better hope there’s something good on the radio because they’ll be detained for 20.5s on their trip to 60mph and then there’s a modest 88mph maximum velocity to look forward to.
"Committed cost-cutters should be warming to the SDI option"
On this evidence, the SDI engine should have been consigned to the scrap heap years ago but, as you may have guessed, the issue isn’t quite that simple. Yes, the SDI engine is comprehensively hammered in many key areas by the TDI alternative but it still has something to offer. The draw of that £900 saving is not to be underestimated and people who succumb to it will also benefit from the SDI’s fuel economy - which, at 53.3mpg, is only fractionally inferior to the TDI’s 55.4mpg. The SDI isn’t the most modern diesel engine you’ll encounter, it featured in the previous generation Caddy van, but it is tough and reliable. At this point, committed cost-cutters should be warming to the SDI option.
Under normal driving conditions, the Caddy SDI’s lack of oomph isn’t too noticeable. It can keep up with traffic quite happily and you soon become used to the extra noise. Sharp inclines are not its forte, however, and if there’s a large load on the back the treading-water effect is magnified as the van struggles against the gradient. The Caddy SDI will cruise comfortably at 70mph although, once again, the noise level is quite high. Part of the SDI’s problem is that it’s being offered alongside the Volkswagen TDI unit which is no spring chicken itself but happens to be a very strong light commercial vehicle engine. If you look at other entry-level powerplants in UK-market small vans,the SDI fares much better as all suffer from a similar lack of guts. Inthe end, the choice between TDI and SDI comes down to how highly youvalue performance. If it’s less than £900, the SDI it is.
The current Caddy sports a pleasingly cohesive shape with curving lines around the rear, along the roof and down the bonnet representing a moveaway from the boxy construction of many equivalent small vans. Overall, the dimensions have increased when compared to the old model. The Caddyis now 17cm longer and 10cm wider, with the wheelbase measuring in at 8cm longer. Inside, with the aid of the space efficient design, this translates to a 3.2m3 load volume a big increase on the 2.9m3 thatowners of the previous Caddy have to play with. The payload capacity of just over 800kg is on a par with direct competitors but a braked trailer of up to 1,500kg is within the Caddy’s remit and pulling potential of this magnitude is rare in this sector. It’s the Caddy’s mass that allows owners to hitch-up such a big trailer. With a gross vehicle weight of over 2,200kg, it’s a much heavier vehicle than anydirect competitor – few vans of this size even approach the 2,000kg barrier.
The Caddy is kept in check by disc brakes on all four wheels controlled by the standard ABS system. There’s traction control too and not many small vans can offer that as standard. The whole package rides on suspension based on that of the MkV Golf at the front but the rearset-up has been beefed-up to cope with the Caddy’s more taxing load-lugging duties. The rigid rear axel is mounted on leaf springs,while there are anti-roll bars fore and aft to keep everything nice and rigid for more composed cornering. When driving hard, the rear end sometimes feels like it’s doing its own thing but overall the Caddy is a composed handler.
Hopping behind the steering wheel, you’ll see the cabin is typical Volkswagen and very similar to the Golf. Neat and unfussy with dark grey plastics prevailing on every surface. In passenger cars this tried and tested VW decor occasionally comes in for criticism on the ground that it’s lacking in visual flair but it’d be rude to turn your nose upwhen you get an interior of this quality in a humble van. The layout issimple but effective with the dials and buttons you need feeling solidand falling easily to hand. The extra weight that the Caddy carriesover its competitors might not be obvious in the van’s driving dynamicsbuy it certainly manifests itself in the cab where there’s an air ofsturdiness that’s uncommon in small LCVs.
One slightly odd problem with our Caddy SDI test vehicle was that the windscreen wipers interfered with the medium waveband on the stereo. Listening to Radio 5 in the rain became a grating experience as the‘swoosh swoosh’ crackle cut through Steve Claridge’s rambling observations on an England Under 21 international with Austria.
There’s nothing seriously wrong with the SDI engine. It’s just that by offering it in the Caddy range with their 1.9 TDI unit, Volkswagen inviteunfavourable comparisons. There’s even a 2.0-litre TDI option with138bhp for those who really want their Caddy to fly. Plenty of buyers will be swayed by the substantially lower list price of the older unitand its strong fuel economy. If that’s the case, our advice would be togo for the SDI but don’t allow yourself a test drive in either of the TDI options first. In this instance, ignorance will be bliss.