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New VW Caddy Life 2015 review

We get behind the wheel of the van-based VW Caddy Life to see if it's a worthy alternative to the usual MPVs and crossovers

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

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What the Caddy Life lacks in trend-setting styling and crowd-pleasing design features it makes up in cabin space and raw practicality. It’s well built and feels like a Volkswagen passenger car on the surface, although its van origins are betrayed a little by a driving experience that’s slightly rough around the edges. Pricing is likely to make it more expensive than most van-based rivals but none have the Caddy’s sheen of quality.

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With the all-conquering crossover having comprehensively turned the heads of fashion conscious family car buyers in recent years, the MPV has felt the squeeze. But if you want big space coupled with kid-friendly versatility and don’t really care what the neighbours think, the good old people carrier is still hard to beat. 

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The Volkswagen Caddy Life is a vehicle that seems to take this MPV ethos to its logical conclusion. It’s compact, with a 4,506mm length and 1,793mm width giving a footprint similar to a VW Golf Estate, yet there’s serious amounts of space and the option of seven seats on the long wheelbase Maxi models. 

The interior is robustly built but designed with adaptable seating and a total of 17 storage compartments. The latest Volkswagen technology also makes an appearance on the options list with City Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control and a neat 360-degree parking aid all offered. 

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Best crossovers

Yes, the Caddy Life ticks the MPV boxes in some style and to please those MPV buyers for whom keeping up appearances couldn’t be less of a priority, it’s based on a van. 

The Volkswagen Caddy has served as the brand’s compact van since 1978 and it’s the latest Mk4 version that spawns this Caddy Life MPV. There’s no escaping the fact that it looks like (and is) a van with windows but engineering and technology wise it feels as though it’s out of VW’s current passenger car top draw. 

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The dash design and switchgear will be familiar to Golf owners as will the build quality. Hard plastics on the dash and door inserts betray the commercial vehicle origins but there’s a toughness and solidity that family buyers will appreciate. 

The big draw, however, is the big space inside. The standard Caddy life has space for five adults and towering headroom for all of them. A third row, making the vehicle a seven-seater, is an option on the Caddy Maxi Life versions that increase the wheelbase by 470mm for an even bigger boot. 

The Caddy doesn’t share VW’s latest MQB passenger car platform tech, instead riding on an updated version of the previous generation Caddy’s underpinnings. In general it rides comfortably but things can get unsettled over larger bumps and the vehicle’s height makes itself felt through corners and sharp changes in direction. 

A range of Euro 6 compliant 2.0-litre TDI diesel engines are offered with power outputs of 74bhp, 101bhp and a meaty 148bhp. We’re also likely to get a small TSI turbo petrol variant in the UK by the end of 2015. 

The middle-ranking diesel will take around 80 per cent of Caddy sales and feels both strong and quick to react to throttle inputs. That engine also powers the super-efficient BlueMotion variant that will lower fuel consumption from around 55mpg in the standard car to nearer 70mpg with an engine remap, eco-tyres and aerodynamic improvements. 

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Head of digital content

Steve looks after the Auto Express website; planning new content, growing online traffic and managing the web team. He’s been a motoring journalist, road tester and editor for over 20 years, contributing to titles including MSN Cars, Auto Trader, The Scotsman and The Wall Street Journal.

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