What is the most important thing in a car for your family?
No – it isn’t safety. All modern vehicles these days have the new minimum occupant protection: ABS brakes and airbags. Gadgets?
No – they are toys to while away the time. Pose value? Well, now we’re getting closer to why so many families buy with their hearts and not their heads when acquiring new wheels.
And why they show buyer’s remorse not long afterwards. The most important characteristic in a family car – by far – is space.
Anyone who has tackled the long road to the sea in December, with kids in the back, knows that a large boot or luggage area is essential. If your boot is not big enough, you’ll be squeezing the tennis rackets, the skateboards and the rest of the holiday kit in and around the car’s four occupants.
The only bit of space that will be spared will be the driver’s footwell, because you can’t compromise safety.
Mind you, I developed a knack of sliding the map book (remember those?) between the driver’s seat and the transmission tunnel.
And if the luggage is jampacked, the two “are we there yet?” whiners in the back seat are going to be even more frustrated, dividing their time equally between trying to slap each other or kicking the seats occupied by dad and mom.
For many years, our growing family travelled in style up and down South Africa, as well as through Namibia and Zimbabwe – courtesy of two VW Jettas, a Mk2 and a Mk3.
Each had one of the best boots on the market – both in terms of outright sizes and usability, which was excellent because of the straight sides of the compartment.
We could even put our large coolbox in the boot when we were going to self-catering places and also carry camping equipment (which we did on many occasions).
We moved the coolbox to the back seat, not for safety reasons, but as an improvised “Berlin Wall” between the back seat combatants. On top of that, both Jettas had fine aircon systems, although the Mk3’s factory-fitted one was one of the best I have experienced in any car.
The seats were comfortable which meant that I really loved being behind the wheel, feeling every time, as we pulled on to the highway, that the holiday was about to begin. So, I think Volkswagen’s new Caddy family vehicle has plenty going for it.
The first – and biggest – plus is that it has an enormous boot, as you’d expect from a vehicle which has its roots in the commercial sector as a delivery van.
It’s so big you can pack the family’s holiday kit and probably section off part of it as a punishment “dog box” for naughty kids.
Just kidding … I think. The back space in the five-seater Caddy (there’s also a 7-seater available) is getting on for twice as big as in my old Jettas, meaning it’s the best in the family transport sector currently – and by a long way.
If that space is still not enough for you, the second row of seats can be removed completely to provide more usable space than in the back on any double-cab bakkie, for example.
Need to move a fridge? Done. A bookcase? Done.
Another thing: the sliding doors left and right reduce the possibility of parking lot dings.
Although the Caddy may have started life as a workhorse, it is based on VW’s global platform, which is also used in a host of other cars. So driving it is not different to driving a Jetta.
Which means it’s great.
I’ve taken the new Jettas on long trips to the coast on a few occasions and there’s not much to touch them (even in the luxury market) when it comes to long-distance comfort.
In the case of the Caddy AllTrack 2.0TDi, which we have on a long-term test, the fuel consumption is also amazing, given the load carrying, and ground-covering ability: You’ll get less than seven litres per 100km around town and about five per 100km on the open road.
With a 55-litre tank, you’ll be able, theoretically, to cover 800km. Theoretically?
The car won’t need a break, but the kids will … At a starting price of R436 200, the Caddy is not cheap – but what is these days?
But it is all-wheel-drive which is an added “peace of mind” factor if you venture offroad any distance and even on tar in bad weather.
What we are going to be doing with the Caddy is to use it to do what it excels at: taking a family on a memory-making holiday.
So, our journos and their kids will be finding those real family places, and writing about them, as well as about the Caddy.
I only hope they enjoy it as much as I did our Jettas when the kids were younger.
Volkswagen doesn’t really make cars, it makes memories. And we’ll share some of ours with you in the weeks and months ahead.