The Caddy rides on a derivative of the Mk5 Golf platform, albeit one that ditches that car's complex multi-link independent rear suspension. Instead, there's a much simpler and tougher beam axle that is better suited to the hard life many vans will lead and therefore the norm for most LCVs. Out back, the loading height is between 560 and 594mm, depending on model, with doors that are 1181mm in width and 1116mm in height. The standard panel van's load area length is 1781mm, meaning a single Euro pallet will go in but not much else. The Maxi version increases this to 2250mm, with volume increasing from 3.2 to 4.2m3. The standard model comes standard with a single sliding side door and half bulkhead behind the seats. The Maxi adds a full height bulkhead and twin side sliding doors. Both get a loadspace width of 1552mm, narrowing to 1172mm between the wheelarches.
Although a 2.0 petrol engine with the ability to run on compressed natural gas was available, the overwhelming majority of Caddys sold have been diesels. Two sizes were offered for the version we're looking at here: a 1.6 TDI with either 75 or 102PS, or a 2.0 TDI with 110 or 140PS. '4MOTION' variants only received a 110PS version of the 1.6-litre unit.
The styling still looks fresh today, making for an attractive little van, even with black bumpers and steel wheels. Plenty of buyers still decided to spruce things up, with optional metallic paint, alloy wheels and body coloured bumpers. Cabins are well made, with plenty of storage and also received improvement for 2011.
There are three basic spec levels to look out for if you're restricting your search to post-2011 facelifted variants. 'Startline' trim comes with a radio/cd player with AUX-IN socket, a reach and rake adjustable steering wheel, a rubber load area floor covering and load lashing rings. 'Trendline'-spec adds a better stereo with Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, electric windows, electric heated door mirrors, parking sensors, body coloured bumpers, mirrors and doorhandles plus wheel trims. Top 'Highline' trim gets air conditioning, a leather steering wheel, front foglights and alloy wheels. Some models you'll find will have been fitted with pricey extras like satellite navigation and a multi-function steering wheel. Others may have the 'BlueMotion Technology' pack fitted for extra efficiency. Those after the ultimate in economy should seek the stand-alone 'BlueMotion' model, which features further changes that push MPG up further.
The Caddy often tops lists for being the most reliable LCV out there, so you're mainly looking at condition and service history in seeking the best one out. For every Caddy that's spent the last few years having heavy items chucked carelessly into the back, they'll be another that's been cherished by someone who never troubled the maximum load capacity. Check the load bay for any deep marks or dents, along with the rest of the bodywork outside. If there's damage everywhere with burns or rips on the seats, then it's time to look elsewhere. Post-2011 models should have all service stamps in place from either a VW main dealer or at least a specialist. If any are missing, you'll have to wonder why.
(approx based on a 2013 Caddy Maxi 1.6 TDI 102PS Trendline) A search online found a clutch for around £120 and less than £10 for an air filter. A set of brake pads are around £50, whilst a new starter motor is less than £200.
The 1.6-litre 75PS diesel variant may be fine if you're not planning on carrying much weight, but bear in mind the glacial acceleration time of nearly 17 seconds to 62mph. This drops markedly to 12.2 seconds if you opt for the 102PS 1.6-litre variant while keeping combined cycle fuel economy at the same 49.6mpg. If you're looking specifically at post-2011 models fitted with the 'BlueMotion Technology' pack, the higher power 1.6-litre model is actually more frugal, returning 55.4mpg on the combined cycle, 2.1mpg better than the 75PS motor. Fans of efficiency should really look out for the stand-alone BlueMotion model however. This squeezes 61.4mpg out of the 102PS 1.6-litre TDI diesel, with no performance penalty.
If you carry really heavy stuff or tow a trailer regularly, then the 2.0 litre 140PS TDI diesel is the engine for you. Speed freaks may appreciate the 10 second dash to 62mph but it's just an added bonus of the extra grunt. As you would expect given the extra 400cc under the bonnet, economy does drop (to a best of 50.4mpg on the combined cycle), but for some users it's a price worth paying, especially given the greater towing capacity of up to 1500kg for a braked trailer.
Handling is sure-footed and better than a number of competitors, whilst still offering a comfortable ride. If ease of use is important to you, then Volkswagen's excellent dual clutch DSG automatic gearbox is worth seeking out. Unlike traditional autos, the DSG set-up comes with little-to-no efficiency penalty.
Although not the biggest or most efficient LCV out there, the third generation Caddy van has proved exceedingly popular with operators for years now. The 2011 model year updates made sure this popularity remained, keeping the model competitive against tough rivals like Citroen's Berlingo and Ford's Transit Connect. Load capacity isn't class-leading, but it'll be more than enough for the majority of users. And there's also the long wheelbase Maxi bodystyle as an option for those who need more space but don't want to trade up to a Transporter.
Whatever your need is in buying a reliable small but spacious van, this one can probably deliver it. If you're looking for an LCV of this sort that can soak up abuse on a building site, make an impression as you drive down the road or confidently tackle a snowy journey in the middle of winter, there's a Caddy that should fit your needs. Add in a quality interior and decent road manners and you can see why business people like it. As a secondhand buy in this segment, it'd always be amongst our top choices.