VW Caddy Maxi

Walk into a Volkswagen showroom, and you will see five MPVs on display.

Walk into a Volkswagen showroom, and you will see five MPVs on display. As well as the new Caddy Maxi Life, buyers have the choice of the Golf Plus, Touran, Sharan and Caravelle. So, what does this boxy model add to the range?

Certainly not style. Even though it comes with alloy wheels and colour-coded bumpers, there’s no disguising the slab-sided van shape. Only the Touran-like nose appears familiar; the overall shape of the Caddy Maxi is rather dull.

With such a square profile, the VW struggles to hide its height and length, and looks quite bulky as a result. Lined up next to the Roomster, it’s clear the Czech model is far more distinctive.

The VW is 670mm longer, and that means it offers loads more room inside – enough for seven seats in fact. Passengers in the middle row will find less knee space than the Skoda, yet there’s masses of headroom, thanks to a roof that’s more than 200mm higher than its rival’s. The middle bench only splits 60/40, but it’s more comfortable with three abreast.

The real difference between these two is the extra seats in the Caddy, which offer decent space and a good view forward. It’s just a shame the third row is a fixed bench, and so is short on flexibility. While the seatback can be folded to increase the boot capacity, if you need more space, the whole chair has to be removed, which is an awkward and cumbersome procedure.

Treat the Maxi as a five-seater, and its commercial origins help it to a comfortable victory in the practicality stakes. The VW is an excellent load-lugger, with its wide and square rear opening making storing even the bulkiest objects easy. There’s no load lip, and the boot floor is wider than the Roomster’s, too.

We hoped the Caddy’s van underpinnings would be less obvious from the driver’s seat. But while the layout will be familiar to VW owners, it’s not particularly inspiring. Gone are the soft-touch materials of the Golf, with hard plastics that lack sophistication taking their place. It certainly doesn’t feel like an £18,000 vehicle.

Our test car is the 2.0 TDI with 138bhp. The Caddy is also available with the same 1.9-litre TDI as the Roomster, although in terms of refinement, the two units are evenly matched – that is, they’re both too coarse and a bit noisy.

Despite the fact the 138bhp VW has 34bhp more power than the Skoda, it trailed by one-tenth-of-a-second from 0-60mph, with a time of 11.3 seconds. It feels sluggish on the move, too, even though the Caddy has 80Nm more torque, at 320Nm, and was quicker in-gear. Only on the motorway does the Maxi edge ahead, with less noise at 70mph – at 69dB, it was 4dB quieter than its competitor, and is a comfortable cruiser.

As you’d expect, handling isn’t a strong point. While the steering is precise, the body rolls in corners, and the seven-seater feels heavy at the rear. It’s no match for the nimble Skoda.

Nor can the Caddy Maxi range compete on price – usually one of the key advantages of choosing a van-based MPV. There’s only one trim level, and with the 2.0 TDI engine it comes in at a hefty £17,995. Opting for the 1.9-litre diesel cuts the price by £2,000, but that’s still more expensive than the top-of-the-range Roomster.

Details

Price: £17,995Model tested: Caddy Maxi Life 2.0 TDIChart position: 2WHY: Thanks to its van origins, the Caddy has a huge cabin and comes with seven seats as standard.

Economy

OUR Caddy Maxi averaged 37mpg exactly – not far behind the Skoda. The larger fuel tank gave it a slightly longer 488-mile range. And we’d expect economy to improve with a higher mileage

Residuals

While our experts have yet to work out the Caddy’s residuals, VW’s excellent second-hand reputation means they are likely to be strong. The Touran, for example, retains about 45 per cent.

Servicing

WHILE VW trades on its premium image, its garage network is failing to live up to that standard. In Auto Express’s Driver Power 2008 dealer survey, it finished a poor 23rd out of 30.

Tax

Neither of these cars is a common business choice, but the Caddy will cost more. It emits 169g/km of CO2, and lower-band owners pay £950 a year. Annual road tax is £50 more than the Skoda’s.

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