Drive – Volkswagen Caddy Review

23 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Drive – Volkswagen Caddy Review

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Strong yet thriftier engine

Improved cabin ambience

Swallows bodies of cargo with ease


No curtain airbags

Clumsy in car parks and city traffic

Lots of road noise

Oddball looks

The last time a Volkswagen Caddy Life visited our place, my daughters labelled it ”Postman Pat’s van”. They piled on board, thrilled this would be their school bus for the week.

But a few years on, the Caddy Maxi Life – despite a substantial midlife facelift – has fallen foul of teenage fashion.

”Mum tooted me in front of the whole of year 7, I was so embarrassed!” exclaimed my 13-year-old (going on 18) in high dudgeon. Admittedly, not the most objective of assessments. We’ll get on with that now.

Price and equipment

The Maxi Life is the long-wheelbase version of VW’s smallest people-mover. Based on the Caddy commercial van, it has new direct-injection turbo diesel engines, a fresh corporate face and a higher-quality interior.


The cheaper Maxi Life TDI250, from $39,990 (plus on-road and dealer costs), is powered by a 75kW/250Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine. However, we are testing the $41,990 TDI320 flagship, which comes with a 2.0-litre unit producing 103kW and 320Nm. The only transmission is a DSG dual-clutch automatic, with seven speeds for the TDI250 and six for the TDI320.


The Maxi Life has seven seats, arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration.


Standard equipment on either model includes dual-zone airconditioning, CD audio, reach- and rake-adjustable leather-rimmed steering wheel, cruise control, powered front windows, heated door mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels and roof rails. A full-size spare wheel is standard. Satellite navigation is a new $2990 option.


The TDI320’s pricing – the premium is for the better drivetrain – puts it up against substantial opposition, including Drive’s People Mover of the Year, the Honda Odyssey, and Citroen’s appealing C4 Picasso.


As a people-mover the Maxi Life has a fundamental issue: curtain airbags are simply unavailable. This omission alone would put plenty of people off.


A four-star NCAP crash test rating, albeit a European test on a left-hand-drive model, isn’t that reassuring either.


Surprisingly, given the lack of airbags, the Maxi Life has foglamps with an active cornering function. Stability control is standard.

Under the bonnet

The Maxi Life TDI320’s new direct-injection engine is a step forward from its 1.9-litre predecessor.


It’s quieter, more refined, much more powerful and slightly more economical.


Officially, it’s rated at 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres and our result came out at a still-respectable 7.3L/100km. That’s not bad considering it’s hauling 1715 kilograms.


That hefty kerb weight doesn’t seem to hinder performance too much, even when fully loaded. Having 320Nm kick in from 1500rpm certainly helps with that.


The dual-clutch DSG in our test car is a good example of the breed. There was little of the shuffling and jerking at low speeds apparent in some VWs, almost imperceptible shifts at speed and braking support down hills.


Turbo lag was noticeable, though, with full boost arriving with a kick at slow speeds.

How it drives

The Maxi Life’s size works for it as a load hauler but against it in town.


The extra 470 millimetres in length compared with the standard Life, plus small side windows, make it harder to reverse accurately into parking slots and to judge heavy traffic chicanes. Rear parking sensors are standard.


New electro-mechanical steering is easy to operate at low speed, positively returning to centre unassisted.


Combining the MacPherson strut front-end from the Golf hatch with a leaf-sprung solid axle rear gives the Caddy Life sharp handling. But there’s also a tendency for the back-end to bounce and bang around on the rough stuff.


Road noise is obvious inside on any surface. There’s also plenty of wind noise from the right-hand mirror once speeds reach about 100km/h.

Comfort and practicality

At nearly 1.8 metres wide, 4.9 metres long and more than 1.8 metres high, the Maxi Life is a big and spacious truck.


Adults will fit in all three rows, although it gets progressively tighter the further back you go.


Access to rows two and three is easy via sliding doors. The boot has a low loading height but a weighty tailgate requires muscle to close.


The middle row is a two-seat bench and single bucket that fold and tumble forward. Row three is a two-seat bench seat that folds forward. Both rows are removable but two people and some heavy lifting are required.

Make the effort, though, and luggage space opens to an astounding 3880 litres. With all seats in place it’s still a sizeable 530 litres.


Storage for smaller items is good. There are overhead and underfloor bins, six cup holders and door pockets. The lid of the centre console bin slides fore and aft to create a handy driver’s armrest on longer trips.


The cockpit is a nicer place to be, with the amount of exposed metal and hard plastics reduced. The build quality of the Polish-manufactured Caddy seems good.

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