17 May 1996

Identical twins? Take your pick

By Andrew Faulkner

INTERESTING dilemma: Two very similar vehicles with seemingly only a manufacturers badge to separate them. So which is the one to buy?

Back in March (FW, Mar 22), Seat launched its VW Polo-derived Inca van with a rear load bay area of 2.9cu m (102cu ft) and a 1.9-litre, 64hp indirect injection diesel up front. This month Volkswagen, Seats sister company in the VW Group, introduces a dimensionally identical van, powered by the same diesel motor and badges it Caddy. Hence, the dilemma.

Yet, this decision is more than a mere toss-up between a silver "S" or "VW" on the grille.

For the discerning buyer, there are differences – albeit subtle ones. Whereas Seat offers just the one model with an admittedly generous standard spec – power steering, radio cassette, drivers air bag and load bay liner – VW tops this up with a list of options and choice of engines: The shared 1.9-litre unblown diesel, a more expensive but less thirsty direct injection unit and a 1.4-litre petrol. And by Dec 95/Jan 96 VW also plans to offer the 90hp, TDI turbocharged motor from its ubiquitous Golf hatch.

Countering that VW extras list, the Inca comes with a three-year warranty against VWs 12-month package. And even more interestingly, VW insists on a 5000-mile oil change while Seat quotes a 10,000-mile interval for the same diesel engine.

Pricing, again, separates the two. Not surprisingly VW charges a premium (2.5%), largely for its name and more extensive dealer network, over the equivalent spec 1.9-litre Seat. However, VW says any initial premium should be more than recovered by better residuals when the vehicle is sold.

&#8226 In farming, the Caddy name is still best remembered from the tailgate of VWs popular little 0.5t, 2WD pickup – the MkI Golf derivative which ceased production in the late 80s when its Yugoslav factory was mined.

Six years on, there is talk of a new Caddy pickup. Based on the Skoda Felicia pickup (FW, May 10) and built in the Czech Republic, the new Caddy would probably be Skoda – VW-owned, like Seat – from the cab back but with a VW nose, trim and diesel engine. Should the as yet unconfirmed deal go through, the Caddy pickup could arrive in the UK by the end of the year. &#42

&#8226 Model: Seat Inca/VW Caddy.

&#8226 Engine: 64hp, 1.9-litre direct injection diesel.

&#8226 Transmission: Five-speed manual.

&#8226 Load length: 1728mm (69in)

&#8226 Load capacity: 2.9cu.m (102cu.ft).

&#8226 Price: Seat £7895/VW £8080.

&#8226 VW option summary (not available on Inca): Choice of engines, twin airbags, air conditioning, ABS, traction control, central locking/electric windows, heated front seats.

With so few 2WD pickups left on the UK market, some farms are turning to vans. This VW Caddy has a payload of 625kg and is priced at £8000.