Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life review
The Caddy Maxi is a perfect example of how far van-based MPVs have come. It’s big, practical and surprisingly good to drive
Take one commercial vehicle. Add a couple of rows of extra seats in the back and, hey presto, you have a cheap and cheerful MPV. It’s a simple formula, but the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi adds something different to this no frills approach with its desirable badge. Although it’s more costly than its mainstream rivals from Peugeot and Citroen, with seven full-sized seats, a selection of diesel engines and VW interior quality, the Caddy Maxi doesn’t feel like a simple van with windows.
Our choice: 1.6 TDI (102) BlueMotion Technology
There’s no escaping the van roots of the Caddy Maxi, but its neat design and over-sized proportions result in a very tidy looking people carrier. All models feature alloy wheels and roof rails as standard, and those sliding rear doors boost practicality by making it easy to climb in and out of the wide body in tight parking spaces. Interior quality is full of familiar VW switches and displays, so it has a surprisingly car-like feel inside.
In years gone by, van underpinnings would have been bad news. The latest generation of commercial vehicles is different and the Caddy Maxi is surprisingly good to drive. There’s no getting away from its size. The VW is nearly five metres long and pretty wide, so negotiating tight car parks and twisty roads are not its forte. However, the light and accurate steering, reassuring brakes and composed suspension make for a reasonable driving experience. There’s lots of body roll if you get carried away, though, and performance from the entry-level 1.6 TDI is modest – especially with a full load of passengers on its seven seats.
Front and side airbags feature as standard equipment, along with electronic stability control, but you won’t find the kind of state-of-the-art drive assistance systems that are typically available on the latest mainstream MPV alternatives. At least VW has a wide dealer network, fixed-price servicing and a decent reputation for reliability – the brand posted a solid mid-table finish in our 2011 Driver Power survey.
In terms of pure space it’s hard to fault the Caddy Maxi Life. Even with all seats in place there’s 530 litres of luggage space available behind the third row. Unfortunately, the rearmost seats are supplied as a bench, which doesn’t fold flat into the floor like on conventional family MPVs so you have to wrestle it from the car to liberate more space. The van-based underpinnings are also apparent in the second row of seats, which are split 60/40 and tumble out of the way rather than fold into the floor. Still, take them out and there’s a huge 3,880 litres of space available.
You get a choice of three diesel engines, starting with a 101bhp 1.6-litre TDI, providing a claimed economy of 48.7mpg. It’s available in BlueMotion Technology trim with start-stop technology among fuel saving measures, pushing economy to a claimed 54.3mpg. If you want more power, there are 108bhp and 138bhp versions of the 2.0-litre TDI. The lower output model is only available with 4MOTION all-wheel drive, and official economy of 43.5mpg, while the flagship diesel registers 46.3mpg. Both it and the 1.6 TDI are available with DSG twin clutch manual gearboxes. The Caddy Maxi isn’t cheap, but it’s one of the biggest of its type, air con and twin sliding rear doors as standard.