REVIEW: Volkswagen Caddy Maxi 2.0 TDI
Johannesburg: The Volkswagen Caddy needs no introduction to South Africans but what you’re looking at here is the first completely new version since 1994. Granted, through seemingly thousands of facelifts, Volkswagen did a really good job of keeping the previous Caddy up to date and it was an impressive product right to the end.
Volkswagen offers it in three basic flavours. The range-topping spec on test is simply called Caddy, but there is a more basic passenger-carrying version called Kombi and a commercial version called the Cargo. All three are available in standard-wheelbase and long-wheelbase configurations, the latter once again called Maxi.
Despite all-new sheet metal that gives the newcomer a sleeker look, it’s instantly recognisable as a Caddy.
Same goes for the cabin because, at least in Maxi guise as per our test car, it’s huge and versatile, with the rear cabin easily accessible through dual sliding doors and the boot via (optional) barn doors.
The Maxi seats seven occupants but when you don’t want all the seats you can easily fold them flat or remove them completely, a process that is surprisingly easy although the middle double seat (the 60 in the 60:40 configuration) is pretty heavy.
Because the seats are removable they don’t have a mechanism to slide back and forth, so your rear legroom is fixed. In the middle row, it’s adequate for a comfortable journey but there isn’t a lot of stretching space.
You get to the third row by tumbling the middle-row seats forward and once you’re cocooned in there, the amount of space is not bad. It’s borderline comfortable for a regular-sized adult but a 1 000km journey might be stretching things a bit.
Whereas most seven-seaters have little luggage space when all seats are in place, there is 446 litres of boot room available. Remove the third row and you have a five-seater with an incredible 1 720 litres of space, and you’ll get as much as 3 105 litres if you remove the middle row too.
The Volkswagen Caddy Maxi is not exactly cheap at R601 100, although you could have the Kombi version for R503 400 if you don’t mind spartan specification levels. But you are getting a great deal of space and versatility for the money.
You’ll want to keep that in mind when looking at the cockpit area. Although it has a modern and ergonomic design, with hints of Golf 8 on the dashboard, the plastic surfaces look a bit utilitarian compared to VW’s passenger cars and SUVs.
But that’s easily forgivable in our book, given the practicality on offer here. You’ll also find plenty of stowage space at the front of the cabin, even in recesses behind the dashboard, and there are also drawers under the front seats of the range-topping model.
In terms of interior spec, the Caddy is not fancy but it does have all the bells and whistles you’ll need for a comfortable journey. Features include an 8.25-inch Composition colour touch screen infotainment system with app-connect and reverse camera, a multifunction steering wheel, cruise control and air conditioning with vents for the first two rows.
For some reason, Volkswagen has gone to a lot of effort to minimise the amount of buttons and switches on the dashboard. In fact, you need to operate the ventilation system via the touch screen, which is not as convenient as a normal analogue set-up, but at least there is a physical climate button beneath the air vents that takes you directly to the on-screen controls.
What’s it like to drive?
The Volkswagen Caddy Maxi is powered by a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine that produces 81kW and 300Nm, the latter accessible between 1 500 and 2 500rpm. Sadly, and due to international supply constraints, the Caddy is, for now, available with only a six-speed manual gearbox, which could be a deal-breaker for some buyers.
But for what it’s worth, this is a very smooth-shifting gearbox, and it’s one of the many things, along with relatively light steering, that makes this vehicle very easy to drive.
Thanks to all that low-down torque, performance is better than the engine’s meagre-sounding power output might suggest. It provides effortless power in just about any situation and it’s unlikely that you’ll find yourself wanting more power.
It’s pretty economical for its size too, with our test car having consumed 7.4 litres per 100km in mixed driving conditions.
What’s more, it handles rather nicely for a van and the suspension delivers a comfortable ride over most surfaces. On-road refinement is not bad for something based on a commercial van, but you will hear a few rattles and squeaks now and again. Welcome to van life!
The new Volkswagen Caddy is a very decent evolution of its competent predecessor, offering loads of space and versatility for the money and decent road manners.
Sure the cabin does feel a bit utilitarian in places, but that’s perfectly forgiveable given the practicality on offer.
It’s a great all-rounder, but its biggest problem is the lack of an auto gearbox option, which is something VWSA will no doubt solve as soon as the supply situation improves.
FACTS: Volkswagen Caddy Maxi 2.0 TDI
Price: R601 100 (June 2022)
Engine: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel drive
Power: 81kW @ 2750-4500rpm
Torque: 300Nm @ 1500-2500rpm
0-100km/h: 12.8 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 180km/h (claimed)
Fuel use: 5.5 litres per 100km (claimed, mixed use)
Fuel use: 7.4 litres per 100km (tested, mixed use)
Boot capacity: 446 / 1720 / 3105 litres
Kerb weight: 1758kg
Towing capacity: 1400kg (braked)
Fuel tank capacity: 60 litres
Warranty: 3-year/120 000km
Service plan: 3-year/60 000km