CAMPING. That recreational activity that every Australian undertakes at some point in their life, whether it’s heading to the beach or even just pitching a two-man tent in the backyard as a youngster to prove you were tough enough to sleep outside on your own.
It’s not for everyone. But what if there was a camping solution that wasn’t really a tent, more a car, that you could attach a cool tent to the back of? Or better still, that it came with the ability to convert the rear seats into a double bed.
Even if you weren’t a lover of camping, that might just be enough to spark your interest. The 2019 Volkswagen Caddy Beach offers all the creature comforts you might expect from a smaller van, with the added bonus of a car tent, and a bunch of other cool stuff too.
The Caddy Beach has a more than adequate spacious cabin with plenty of headroom, comfortable seats with plenty of adjustment, and good forward visibility, thanks to a large windscreen and deep side windows.
The sliding side doors also making getting in and out in tight spots an easy task. We could easily see the Caddy Beach parked up at a music festival, with the tent set up off the back door, and its occupants chilling to cool beats.
So what is the 2019 Volkswagen Caddy Beach? Well, to start with, it’s a long wheelbase Caddy Maxi Trendline van, with 17-inch alloy wheels, bi xenon headlights, auto wipers, autonomous emergency braking and lane keep assist.
It’s also loaded with an auto dimming rear vision mirror, a 6.33-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a colour multi-function display in the dash.
To make it a camper van, the Beach includes the fold out bed in the back which is just larger than a king single, a 2.3 x 2.0 metre walk through tent which slips over the tailgate when open, and tailor made storage bags which fit in the rear window cavities.
There’s also two plug and charge removable torches which double as LED cabin lighting, privacy glass around the rear, a bag of magnetic blinds which clip to the windows, and insect netted ventilation panels which snap onto the sliding rear windows.
There’s also a very cool little fold away table and chair set. Once you pack it all away though, unless you take note of the subtle Beach decal down the side of the van, it’s pretty much impossible to tell it’s not simply a standard Caddy.
Straight up though we need to point out it’s not the most comfortable vehicle to get around in as a passenger, as it’s original purpose is for carrying loads, not humans, so the suspension is pretty average.
It’s also missing the German car maker’s 4Motion all wheel drive system, and is offered in front wheel drive only, so it’s not fit for true off road camping. The Beach edition of the Caddy also has a nice little trick up its sleeve though.
Rather than committing 100% to existing as a camper, you can actually remove all the camper bits from the inside, transforming the Beach back into a regular Caddy. You can literally take everything out, even the rear passenger seats.
It gives the Caddy Beach the unique proposition of being a legitimate work vehicle alongside its adventurous aspirations. The only downside is you will need some room in your garage to store everything.
In the actual Caddy though, storage is not an issue, with decent cup and bottle holders in the centre console and doors, trenches for storage in the sliding doors, and even airline style tray tales on the back of the front seats.
Above the cockpit, the tall roof has a large storage trench extending across the width of the car too. It’s a smart move by Volkswagen. As is the storage trenches in the rear of the van, readily accessible when the bed is rolled out.
There’s a 12V power port back here too. The actual bed can cater for someone up to 6-foot tall, but if you are that tall, you’ll need to fold the bed entirely flat and push the front seats all the way forward.
Volkswagen’s 1.4-litre TSI220 turbocharged four pot petrol engine drives the front wheels through a seven speed DSG, putting out 92kW of power and 220Nm. Once you’re past a bit of turbo lag, using the available torque to maintain speed is achievable.
However, you shouldn’t expect to overtake anyone in a hurry. The lack of immediate power can make it feel as though it surges when pushed, but the transmission is a smooth shifter and does its best to smooth out sudden requests for power.
The Volkswagen Caddy Beach has a claimed fuel consumption of 6.0-litres/100km, but in a week long test, which included a 760km round trip to the north western NSW town of Tamworth, we could only manage a still reasonable 7.6-litres/100km.
While it has obvious limitations as a long distance or long term tourer, the Caddy’s ability to transform itself from a full camp set up to a trade vehicle in a matter of minutes offers a versatility that’s simply outside the scope of more committed factory campers.
The 2019 Volkswagen Caddy Beach is available in Candy White, Fortana Red Metallic, Indium Grey Metallic, Reflex Silver Metallic, Sandstorm Yellow Metallic, Starlight Blue Metallic and Viper Green Metallic. It’s priced at $46,990 drive away.
Our test vehicle was supplied by Volkswagen Australia. To find out more about the 2019 Volkswagen Caddy Beach, contact your local Volkswagen dealer.