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Disadvantages: Lacks the seating adaptability found in more traditional MPVs, on the expensive side to buy, the safety script has holes in it, engine choice limited and what exist lack refinement
Summary: The Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life bridges the gap between commercial loaders/shifters and the brave new world of MPV ownership with a degree of success, and goes some way to dispel the theory that it’s just an extended van with windows. It seats seven people in relative comfort, bears a brace of strong, dependable diesel engines, wont hit the pocket too hard and promotes a rewarding driving and occupant experience. It’s just a shame that it’s not as useful as its stable mate the VW Touran then.
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It’s common knowledge that if you want a fractionally more spacious – yet equally as stylish - supermini of German origin you exchange your Mini for a Clubman. Whilst if you’re after a marginally more practical MPV with an aspirational lifestyle outlook then you upgrade to an SUV. What’s more – considerably so - if you lust after a slightly longer luxury car, then you treat yourself to a stretch limo if the coffers allow. But what choice have you got when you come to the conclusion that your Teutonic-built van-like car has outstayed its welcome and you’re after something a little more, useful?
Well, fret no more as Volkswagen has a solution to your problem in the shape of its Caddy Maxi Life. Which in essence is but an elongated version of the VW Caddy Kombi, albeit with a further two thrones and the one choice of ‘take it or leave it’ trim.
A 104bhp 1.9-litre TDI PD – with VW’s much applauded DSG transmission or five-speed manual tiller – or the new 140bhp 2.0-litre TDI PD complete with a Diesel Particulate Filter sewn in are what’s on the table in terms of power plant for the VW Caddy Maxi Life. Despite the selection being as thin on the ground as something Cadbury’s might proffer.
When it comes to forecasting running costs, the overheads omens appear to be kept in check. Between 40 and 44mpg average fuel returns and 166 and 185g/km of CO2 exhalant messing up the climate means that both chief motoring tax enforcers won’t be doing you over quite as much as you might have thought.
Rooted humbly in the commercial load carrying/small business delivery sector, the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life’s ride quality reminds you of this when the opportunity (and pockmarked road surfaces) arises, although never to the point of conjecture. Rather surprisingly it corners well given its rake, and stopping short of suggesting it takes bends as if it’s on rails, the Caddy Maxi Life doesn’t suffer body swaying foolhardiness gladly. Nicely balanced steering too, with an assuring amount of communication.
Sadly old habits die hard, and the Caddy Maxi Life lets its new improved passenger friendly guard slip when building up a head of steam. That said, it never sounds overly agricultural even when pressed into serious action so remembering its ‘P’s’ and ‘Q’s’.
Where the VW Caddy Maxi Life would have done its new image no harm at all would have been in relation to price, carving out its very own insular niche. Unfortunately this was never part of Volkswagen’s masterplan, and instead the transformed van labours under a hefty price tag compared to rivals. In fact, bearing in mind Vee-Dub’s very own Touran – itself an accommodating seven-seater MPV – can be bought for less, is more versatile and holds on to a better long-term residual. Foot. Shooting. In. Yourself. The. Spring to mind.
Obviously attention to build detailing is something that Volkswagen pride themselves on, and the Caddy Maxi Life is no exception to the unsurpassed quality rule, yet function has usurped originality, which – when acknowledging the entire dashboard has been coerced from the VW Touran - has been cast to the wind on this occasion.
Safety is a bit of a low point too, as curtain airbags are conspicuous by their absence, with occupants having to take their chances with just front and sides, while stability control is but an option. That’s said, the Caddy Maxi Life scored a more than a clean bill of NCAP health, and justifiably awarded four stars for its provision to serve and protect.
The blatant MPV undercurrents hinted at previously continue once ensconced inside the Caddy Maxi Life. Which is nothing to be ashamed of. Although bland to look at, everything is in its place and all buttons, switches, levers and pulleys do something practical. Like the child-friendly sliding doors for instance – a real plus point. And an elevated driving position, plenty of cubby holes, air-con, electric front windows, sliding windows and child locks on both sliding doors, climate, ABS, EBC, EBD, TSC, CD player…you name it. Add labels like stability control, leather, cruise, multi-function steering wheel and rear parking sensors to the optional spec list and it’ll just about be the complete package.
But what is annoying and decidedly un-VW, is the bothersome seating arrangements which might put some less nimble fingered, muscle-bound buyers off. Yes the Caddy Maxi Life seats seven in near perfect accord, but should you want to turf the rear-most occupants out to make room for something more awkwardly assembled then you’re going to struggled. And cuss. Removing and disposing of the third row of seats is tricky and therefore will be peppered with colourful language which will entertain the kids, but not the wife. Tipping the scales at nearly five stone wet through they can’t be folded into the floor, so you’ll have to discover somewhere else to store a row of seats. Good luck with that.
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