Pretoria: A few years ago, I drove down to Durban in a Volkswagen Caddy “panel van” to second my brother and a friend who were doing their umpteenth Dusi Canoe Marathon.
It was hard work being a second in high temperatures and energy-sapping humidity, having to speed ahead to meet them at specific points to check whether things were okay, hand out a quick bite to eat and then drive to the overnight spot to pitch tents and sort out dinner for the evening.
That means a lot of gear has to be carted around over three days, the Caddy coped admirably and was a comfortable, frugal drive throughout the time we were racing around.
I was reminded of this after driving the recently upgraded Volkswagen Caddy offering but, this time, I got to drive the Caddy Maxi 2.0 TDI, which is a comfortable people carrier. There wasn’t a trip to Durban but there were enough people and kit to carry around in the week we had it on test.
Its underpinnings are, no doubt, a workhorse that’s been converted to carry families rather than boxes or crates but it’s very much a VW that’s sadly underrated when it comes to choosing it as an option ahead of an SUV or double cab..
It is fitted with the tried-and-tested 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine, providing 103kW and 320Nm of torque and driving the front wheels via a six-speed DSG automated transmission.
The engine has a wide powerband and with five adults or three teenagers with luggage for a weekend, there was never strain, even up relatively steep inclines.
The DSG box easily switched gears without a hint of strain on the motor. With the comfortable driving position, I’m not sure the fatigue detection will come into play that often.
With a towing weight of 1 500kg, the seven-seater Caddy Maxi should have no problem towing a trailer fully loaded with the family and the occasional hanger-on.
Unloaded with only two of us in the car, the suspension leans towards the stiff side but not unbearably so, while loaded with five adults with cooler boxes and chairs for a night of oval track racing or three teenagers with their kit it eases out nicely.
The interior may not be as sophisticated as some of its stable siblings and feels a bit analogue if you’re used to VW’s digital cabins, but it does the job just fine. The switches, buttons and dials that do exactly as they’re told, without having to pull your hair out trying to drill down a touch-screen menu.
Not that it’s completely for luddites with a touch-screen infotainment system that’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, automatic parallel parking, a reverse camera and bi-xenon lights.
It’s fitted with emergency braking which comes into play when you’re not concentrating and stops the vehicle if you’re travelling slower than 30km/h, a feature that came in handy when a youngster with blaring music raced past in a parking lot while I was reversing.
Fuel consumption after a week of combined highway and urban driving stood at 6.7l/100km which for a vehicle of this nature and size is not bad at all.
The Volkswagen Caddy Maxi 2.0 TDI isn’t the most eye-catching vehicle on the roads. What it lacks in aesthetics it more than makes up with no-nonsense practicality, ease of access with two sliding doors and a comfortable driving experience.