Most recently we joined the Gauteng hordes descending on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast in December, loading up the Caddy Maxi with five people and their holiday luggage, along with two small dogs and their kennel. As we've become accustomed to over the last few months with the Caddy, it all fitted in without fuss, with room to spare.
The seven-seater Caddy Maxi, which is longer than the standard five-seater Caddy, has three rows of seats in a 2-3-2 configuration and takes five adult passengers very comfortably, with lots of stretch room. The two-seater third row also takes full-sized people, but it’s a bit of a squeeze and not recommended for longer journeys.
This voluminous VW has wowed us with its ability to swallow big loads, and its versatility. The second and third rows can be flipped down to extend cargo space for those major shopping expeditions, and if you need to turn this into a panel van, the middle row folds forward and the two-seater rear bench can be removed by tugging a couple of levers. In this mode we were able to fit in two thick mattresses and a bicycle standing upright – not something achievable in any regular car or SUV.
The Caddy doesn’t just have the space to schlep a lot of stuff, but the urge to carry it. The two-litre turbodiesel engine, notwithstanding VW’s “Dieselgate” saga, is a gem with loads of torque and an unthirsty nature.
With outputs of 81kW and 250Nm, this five-speed manual version is the less powerful of the two turbodiesels available in the Caddy range – the automatic derivative makes 103kW and 320Nm. This 81kW version never struggles for pace, however, feeling brisk off the mark, cruising with minimal effort, and displaying fairly lusty overtaking acceleration, too.
The best part is the 6.4 litres per 100km our test car is averaging, and from time to time we’ve even managed under six litres when concentrating on driving with a light foot. Curiously, the manual gearbox has only five speeds, and we reckon a sixth gear could bring down the fuel thirst even further.
The Caddy Maxi Trendline manual sells for R408 400, which includes a three-year or 120 000km warranty and three-year or 60 000km service plan, with 15 000km service intervals. Spec levels for the money are fairly plentiful and include most of the expected push-button conveniences, along with separate aircon vents and controls for front and rear passengers, and a touchscreen audio system that pairs to smartphones via Bluetooth or USB port. It’s all presented in a clean setting with uncluttered controls.
The heavily updated Caddy range was last year enhanced with added safety and features. It comes in four body styles with three engine choices. The Caddy Panel Van and Crew Bus derivatives cater to commercial buyers with needs for loads of packing space. The more family focused Caddy Trendline comes in five-seater short-wheelbase or seven-seater Maxi variants, while the Alltrack versions replace the previous Cross Caddy as the flagship versions.
Dual rear sliding doors make easier work of stuffing passengers or cargo into the rear in tight parking spaces.
Front and side airbags, along with ABS brakes and a stability-control system, complete a generous safety package. A hill-start system also prevents rollback when pulling off on inclines.
One thing I missed in the test car is having a cruise control function, however, as long trips (like the speed trap-infested drive along the N3 between Joburg and Durban) required a constant eye on the speedo. That torquey two-litre very easily creeps over the speed limit when you’re not concentrating.
Another sticking point is the styling. With its panel van-like looks the Caddy Maxi doesn't exactly rate high on everyone’s visual appeal meter, particularly some of my friends and family members who say I look like Dan the handyman behind the wheel.
I don’t care. Space, like power, has a corrupting influence. After getting used to all this roominess and versatility, most other cars seem cramped and claustrophobic.
Volkswagen Caddy Maxi 2.0 TDi Trendline
Engine: 2-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
Power: 81kW @ 4200rpm
Torque: 250Nm @ 1500-2500rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 12.8 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 170km/h
Consumption (tested): 6.4 litres per 100km
Price: R408 400
Warranty: Three-year / 100 000km
Service plan: Three-year / 60 000km