So you thought the VW Caddy was a small commercial vehicle used by firms such as  florists for their deliveries, or the local repairman to fix your computer or TV. 

Well, you wouldn’t be wrong, but the Caddy is so much more, because it is now available in Camper form. Yes, that’s right, for camping at the beach or at the motor races, and most places in between.

Unveiled at the 2010 Hannover Commercial Vehicle Show, the extended Caddy Maxi offers a 30% increase in volume in the rear in which to stretch out after a hard day of surfing, cycling, hiking, or whatever your leisure pursuit may be. Powered by a range of engines, the Caddy has something for all, including 1.6 TDI with 75 PS or 102 PS (both engines available with Bluemotion Technology), 2.0 TDI 110 PS 4Motion or 2.0 TDI 140 PS. 

The two 1.6-litre engines come standard with a 5-speed gearbox, as does the 2.0-litre 110 PS, but the 2.0-litre TDI 4Motion and its 140 PS brother are available with a 6-speed manual ‘box. 

The Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) is optional on the 2.0-litre 140 PS and the 1.6 TDI. Standard features across the range include ABS, ESP, TCS (traction control), EBC (engine braking), remote central locking, CD player as well as height and reach adjustable steering. To this list of standard items has been added ESP (electronic stabilisation), daytime running lights and gearshift indicator, amongst other items.

So, what is the Caddy Camper like to live with? An overnight stay at the Goodwood Revival meeting in late September seemed a likely place to put the Camper to the test, especially as rain was forecast, and with autumn in the air, the temperatures could be surprisingly low. 

Having recently tested the VW California, one could similarly expect the Caddy Camper to be packed full of innovative storage facilities and novel ideas, and it certainly did not disappoint. 

From the foldout double bed/mattress to the detachable tent that clips onto the open rear door, the Caddy Camper produced one surprise after another. 

However, like the larger California, the Caddy needed a little getting used to and it would pay to take the time to learn how things are done properly because VW have invested a lot of time and effort in satisfying the needs of campers. 

Take for instance the plug-in refrigerator that transforms into a convenient portable cool box to take down to the beach, or the easy to fit curtains when you are ready to turn in that evening – the corners of the curtains are fitted with magnets in the corners and are easy to store away. 

Another great feature are the double sliding doors on either side of the vehicle. If you need to pack up after the first day and move to another surfing spot, the bed folds away neatly and the Caddy Camper becomes a 5-seater again. 

In the campsite at Goodwood I was approached by a young father with his son on his shoulders and asked where I had got my Caddy converted. 

When I said that it was a normal production model, we got talking and he said that he was looking to exchange his T4 VW for something a little smaller but which offered him the flexibility of camping out with the family when he went windsurfing. The funky green colour also ticked his box, and so the Caddy Camper seemed the right vehicle all round, and he went away enthused.

One negative aspect in my mind is the DSG ‘box, which on a Camper or even a Caddy used for commercial purposes, is a bit of a wasted feature. I found that the ‘box changed down too readily and I was all too frequently forced to knock it across into manual mode to hold a higher gear.  Despite this gearbox woe, a fuel consumption of 45.5mpg was achieved. On the plus side, the higher roof is a real bonus as one can sit upright in bed and not knock your head against the panelling. 

The Caddy Camper is a practical vehicle for the outdoor, leisure-seeking individual or young family. Interior space is generous and thanks to VW’s bulletproof mechanicals, it should provide its owner with many years of trouble free motoring.

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