06 November 2017

Full Volkswagen Caddy (15 on) Model Review

by CJ Hubbard, Vans Editor

VW Caddy 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrol review on Parkers Vans
  • VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - rear
  • VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - side
  • VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - badge
  • VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - rear
  • VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - rear doors
  • VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - rear doors open
  • VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - load area
  • VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - side door
  • VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - front grille
  • VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - air conditioning
  • VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - driving
  • VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - optional infotainment system
  • Petrol-powered three-cylinder Caddy tested
  • Can such a small engine really work in a van?
  • 102hp and 175Nm versus 727kg payload rating
Volkswagen Caddy (15 on) 1.0 TSI (102ps) C20 BlueMotion Tech Trendline (AC) Van - Road Test
Petrol-powered vans are few and far between these days, but Volkswagen offers more choices than most. Here for review we have its smallest model, the standard-wheelbase VW Caddy, combined with a 102hp 1.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine that promises over 50mpg.

Petrol-powered vans are few and far between these days, but Volkswagen offers more choices than most. Here for review we have its smallest model, the standard-wheelbase VW Caddy, combined with a 102hp 1.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine that promises over 50mpg.

That’s the middle of three Caddy petrol engine options.

Read the full VW Caddy review on Parkers Vans

What’s the Caddy like versus its rivals?

Launched in 2015, the fourth-generation Caddy is perhaps the discerning small van buyer’s choice. It’s not necessarily the most practical, and it’s certainly not the cheapest – but it’s got that trendy VW image, impressive build quality and an appealing sense of modernity.

VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - rear

In this sense, it makes the Renault Kangoo-based Mercedes Citan feel like a rather bad experiment, and although the best-selling Ford Transit Connect has plenty to recommend it overall, it lacks the Caddy’s premium appeal. The Citroen Berlingo / Peugeot Partner twins are like cardboard by comparison.

But does it make sense with a tiny petrol engine? We’re here to find out.

Changes for the VW Caddy in the 2018 model year

This example also represents our first chance to review the 2018 model year Caddy, which went on sale in July 2017.

The update didn’t bring any changes to the looks, which were already among the smartest in the small van segment, but it did make autonomous emergency braking a standard feature – as it now is across all VW’s vans.

VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - air conditioning

The mid-spec Trendline trim level we’re testing here also got an upgrade to standard-fit air-conditioning. Which is nice.

What’s the VW Caddy like to drive with a 1.0-litre petrol engine?

Better than you’re probably imagining.

Even in our increasingly ‘downsized’ world, a single litre sounds a bit extreme for a van – it’s half the capacity of every diesel-engined Caddy now, after all.

But, this is a very modern turbocharged engine – and with 102hp, it outguns the older 1.2-litre TSI petrol’s 84hp at the entry-level to the Caddy range quite comfortably, while also being lighter and more fuel efficient.

VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - driving

Both of these factors are helped by the 1.0-litre TSI having just three cylinders instead of the more common four, which not only saves weight but reduces friction to improve efficiency. Like most triples, it sounds good, too, with a kind of thrummy hum that’s packed with character.

In other words, it sounds much more pleasant than a diesel Caddy. You do still get quite a bit of road noise inside, however – especially with the standard part-mesh bulkhead – so don’t expect it to be whisper-quiet.

You’re also restricted to a five-speed manual gearbox, which seems a bit tight (it’s the same for the diesel equivalent). Gearchanges aren't especially precise, but the 1.0-litre Caddy’s enthusiastic power delivery means you tend to row along the road in a rather sprightly fashion, helped by the light but sure-footed handling.

VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - load area

An official 0-62mph of 11.3 seconds reflects this enthusiasm – though combine the 727kg payload maximum with the engine’s modest 175Nm of torque, and you’re in for a slow and laboured journey if the going gets hilly.

Surely a diesel Caddy is still more efficient?

Helpfully VW also makes a 102hp Caddy diesel, so we can do a direct comparison.

VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - badge

On paper, the 102hp petrol claims 51.4mpg – making it the most efficient of any petrol Caddy. The 102hp diesel claims 60.1mpg in standard guise, while the efficiency-optimised BlueMotion version raises this to 64.2mpg. You don’t need to be a genius to see that’s a big percentage difference.

The diesel also produces 250Nm of torque – 75Nm more than the petrol – suggesting it should make easier work of a full load, which in turn ought to be better for real-world fuel economy.

So why buy a petrol-powered VW Caddy?

It’s cheaper, for starters – by at least £1,000 before VAT.

That’s quite a few tanks of petrol – and miles – the diesel has to make up before its better economy starts to actually reduce your running costs.

VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - side

What’s more, the trip computer in the 1.0-litre TSI we were testing was indicating a 49mpg average at a gentle dual-carriageway cruise. Suggesting that petrol power can be pretty efficient after all.

Add to that the quieter engine, and the reduced levels of harmful NOx and particulate emissions you get from a petrol (at the expense of higher CO2), and you can see that this could be a good choice for low-mileage operators. Especially those who spend a lot of time driving in town.

VW Caddy 1.0-litre TSI petrol load area dimensions and payload

The Caddy panel van comes in two body lengths – standard and Maxi – but just one roof height. This is a standard model, with the following load area dimensions:

  • Maximum load length: 1,779mm
  • Maximum load height: 1,244mm
  • Maximum load width: 1,556mm
  • Width between the wheelarches: 1,170mm
  • Load volume: 3.2 cubic metres

The payload rating for the 1.0-litre TSI Trendline is 727kg.

VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - rear doors

The 3.2 cubic metre volume tells you this is not a big van – but the level of fit and finish available in the load area is a class above every other rival in this sector.

The asymmetrical rear doors come glazed as standard, aiding rear visibility – and if you take the precaution of emptying tools from the van every night probably aren’t a bad idea from a security perspective either.

VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - side door

There is a single side door on the passneger side.

VW Caddy Trendline standard equipment and value

The Caddy’s cab is sensibly laid out with plenty of adjustment in the seating position, lots of storage, high-quality materials and a good level of standard equipment – including a comprehensive amount of safety gear.

These are the VW Caddy Trendline standard equipment highlights:

It’s also worth noting that the VW Caddy typically scores very well for reliability – so although it may be more expensive than most rivals, it may cost you less in unplanned downtime, too.

VW offers fixed and variable service intervals.

The most reliable vans in the UK according to the FN50 van reliability survey

VW Caddy 102hp TSI petrol verdict

So does the Caddy make sense with a tiny petrol engine? Largely, yes.

If you’re planning to do mega miles, a diesel will still have a running costs edge that’s hard to ignore. But the 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrol is quieter, cleaner and characterful – and not that inefficient if you drive it sensibly.

A niche choice for now, sure. But not a bad one. And if diesel continues to be lambasted in the press, it could be a smart, potentially futureproof move as city centres start to crack down on air quality emissions.

Also consider:

Ford Transit Connect

Peugeot Partner

Mercedes-Benz Citan

Also read

Cooking on gas: VW Caddy TGI review

Best small vans for mpg

Best small vans for payload

VW Caddy 1.0 TSI turbo petrol review - front