By Miles Downard

The de facto choice for a family car in this day and age is an SUV or crossover. It’s a fact that I’ve questioned on many occasions since the SUV/crossover’s rise in popularity. Here we have a great answer to the family vehicle conundrum – a van. 

You see a van is a great starting point for a family vehicle – they are built to be tough, cheap to run and to have a lot of space. Just throw in some seats and bob’s your uncle. That’s exactly what Volkswagen did with its Caddy MPV, which is based on the commercial van of the same name and ticks all of these boxes. 

The problem is convincing buyers that the obvious strengths outweigh the simple fact is that vans aren’t in any way trendy. The Caddy looks like a van with windows and that can be quite a hurdle for some buyers to overcome despite the fact that it’s far more practical as a family vehicle than whatever crossover said buyer is likely considering.

Another stumbling block is that the Caddy isn’t quite as cheap as you might imagine it should be. I mean it’s just a van after all, right? Well at R380,000 before options it’s competing at the price point of many crossovers. You can get a 7 seater Maxi version but that’s another R30,000 odd.

What you do get with the Caddy is seats for 5 adults and a massive boot. In fact the boot is so big it puts most full sized SUVs to shame. Then it gets even bigger when you start to remove the rear seats. The storage theme continues throughout the cabin with nooks and crannies here, there and everywhere, even above your head and below your seat. It’s by far the most practical non-commercial vehicle I’ve driven in a long time.

From the driver’s seat the Caddy is much like a Mk5 VW Golf in the appearance of the dashboard – which makes sense as the Caddy still uses that same platform. It’s a nice enough place to be, though, with a neat touch screen infotainment system as standard and a few goodies on the options list like park distance control (front and rear) with rear view camera and cruise control.

Under the bonnet lies a 1,0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine with a five-speed manual gearbox. It produces 75 kW and 175 N.m of torque – which may not sound like a lot – but that torque is available from 1 500 rpm through to 3 500 rpm, making it very usable. It’s economical, too. Performance and economy will suffer when the car is fully loaded, though.

The Caddy feels a couple of notches above what you’d expect from a van-based MPV but I feel the price reflects that. Considering how competitive this price bracket is for ‘family car’ offerings, the Caddy’s van-like appearance and relatively basic interior and options list makes it a tough sell. The 7-seater option may set this apart for some, as it’s one of the cheaper ways to carry a big family.

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