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Road Trip With VW's People Carriers

BY Azfar Hashim

We headed up North to Melaka with the range of people carrier in Volkswagen's local line up

Photos by Low Fai Ming

For our local market, Volkswagen is one brand with an extensive model line-up in the people carrier segment. If you have a small family but want space, they have the Touran 1.4 TSI for you to consider. Need more space for the growing tweens and family helper? There’s the Sharan 2.0 TSI. Then if you require something that’s slightly more functional with a touch of style, the Golf Sportsvan should be right up your alley. But if you do not need a people mover and more of a ‘stuff-mover’, the Golf Variant is up for the takings. So there you have it, four different models for you to list down.

As if Volkswagen’s product assault isn’t enough, the German brand recently added two new models to spoil local buyers even more: Meet the new Caddy and Caddy Maxi. Volkswagen consider these two new models ‘MPC’, or multi-purpose car; but come on Volkswagen, an MPV is an MPV…

Moving along… So to get us even more acquainted with these two new models, Volkswagen organized a driving trip for some of us press folks recently.

We were tasked to drive up all the way to Melaka, Malaysia; that is a total distance of about 500 kilometers to and fro. On top of that, there were two twists to this trip: Firstly, we would get to swap between the Touran, Sharan, Golf Sportvan, Golf Variant, Caddy and Caddy Maxi – so that everyone will get to experience every people carrier. Secondly the entire drive consisted of 40 percent highway with the remaining 60 percent via b-roads, which also cuts through small villages – for once us urban dwellers got to see a more laidback environment, which is a good change!

It was a leisurely drive for the entire convoy, cruising at speeds of 110 – 120 km/h most of the journey. When traffic eased and there was enough space, we did get to… ahem… breach the legal speed limits; at the same time, this is when I managed to notice how stable and brisk all the people carriers were, despite how far away they stood from the ground.

An overnight trip, the first day concluded at Casa del Rio Melaka (88, Jalan Laksamana, Taman Kota Laksamana, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia), a Mediterranean-inspired 5-star hotel located in the heart of Melaka town itself. After checking in and taking a short rest, we then went on a tour of nearby tourist attractions before heading to Restoran Nyonya Makko (123, Jalan Merdeka, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia) for our Peranakan dinner. As most of us brought along our family and loved ones - encouraged by Volkswagen, as their theme for this press trip was ‘Family’ - it was definitely a good opportunity for everyone to be introduced to each other (e.g. at least my significant other know the other journos I always hang out with) and have a ball catching up.

The return trip consisted of more b-road drives and along the way, Volkswagen brought us to a fruit farm in Tangkak, Johor for a tropical fruit buffet (Durian Hub at Lot 2038, Jalan Industri, Taman Perindustrian Tiara, Tangkak 84900, Johor). Well known Asian fruits like rambutan, pulasan, mangosteen and most importantly, durian, came our way non-stop – it was too good to be true for most, looking at how calorie count were thrown out the window. It was then summarized with a round of fresh coconut drink; one word to describe it best would be, ‘yummehhh’.

Well, it might only be an overnight one, but for most - myself included - this trip is definitely enjoyable. Not only did we get to experience the different VW people carriers in different driving environments and come away impressed, but being spoilt silly with food along with our loved ones in tow made it a priceless memory.

Volkswagen Caddy MPC

Volkswagen put in lots of effort to hide the fact that the Caddy MPC share the same chassis and suspension setting as their commercial Caddy van model. Aesthetically, this passenger-focused variant gets more windows, a stylish colour code, nicer 17-inch rims wrapped in Goodyear Excellence rubbers and a handsomer face thanks to the highly detailed front bumper. Inside, the rear gets two rows of seats – perfect for young family that needs flexibility. Fold the third row away and you get even more boot space.

Power comes courtesy of VW’s widely deployed 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, paired to the 7-speed DSG; this combination resulted in a power output of 123 bhp and 220 Nm of torque. Standstill to 100 km/h takes 10.9 seconds while top speed is 183 km/h. Along the North-South Highway, road holding along straight sections remained respectable despite standing 1,858 mm tall. Occupant comfort was another focus in VW’s list and it showed very clearly; besides the comfy seat, the cabin is well suppressed against engine, wind and road noise.

Volkswagen Caddy Maxi MPC

Similar in concept as the Caddy, this one gets the ‘Maxi’ suffix all thanks to the fact that it is the bigger variant; it’s 470 mm longer, 10 mm taller and in terms of wheelbase, stretched by 324 mm. But mind you, it is also 60 kg heavier. This Caddy Maxi gets power from the same 1.4 TSI powerplant and transmission as the Caddy, with equally similar power output; due to the additional load it lugs, the century sprint is achieved some 0.4 second slower though. Not only that, but you do need some extra effort to get it moving for overtaking maneuvers and body roll is more obvious with this one.

The upside? More legroom for passengers in the rear two rows. Surprisingly because of the outstanding practicality and usefulness, I somewhat have a soft spot for this car.

Favourite Car on trip: Volkswagen Golf Sportsvan

Although the Golf Variant offer fun and sportiness along with practicality to boot, I found the Golf Sportsvan the best car overall for this trip. The 123 bhp and 200 Nm is easily deployed, and despite that taller stance next to the wagon Golf, it remain poised and confident along fast corners and a series of bends; in fact whenever the convoy gets broken up, this car play catch up rather effortlessly.

The cabin is brilliantly put together with welcomed additional headroom; the large sunroof added extra airiness. Large 500-litre/1,520-litre (rear seat stowed) boot capacity is the last impressive point.

Yours truly packing the rear of the new Caddy

Yours truly packing the rear of the new Caddy

Managing Editor, Joel brought his wife and kids along for this trip - you can see how his two boys are enjoying the space in the Touran

Managing Editor, Joel brought his wife and kids along for this trip - you can see how his two boys are enjoying the space in the Touran

EVO Singapore's Sheldon Trollope brought his wife, twins and helpers along - the Sharan here more than ready for the task to carry them all along with their bags, strollers and other 'accessories'

EVO Singapore's Sheldon Trollope brought his wife, twins and helpers along - the Sharan here more than ready for the task to carry them all along with their bags, strollers and other 'accessories'

The Peranakan (Straits Chinese) spread for dinner - tantalizing and spicy, but no one's complaining!

The Peranakan (Straits Chinese) spread for dinner - tantalizing and spicy, but no one's complaining!