Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life review

The van-based Volkswagen Caddy Life MPV is available with petrol engines but diesel is the better choice

If space and versatility are your top requirements of a new car, van-based MPVs like the Volkswagen Caddy Life make a lot of sense. Their commercial origins tend to make them more affordable and more spacious than purpose-built MPVs, but you may have to compromise on style and driving experience. The Volkswagen Caddy Life is a rival to the Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Rifter and Ford Tourneo Connect but it’s a little more expensive because of the desirable VW badge on its nose.

The Volkswagen Caddy Life isn’t one of the company’s best-sellers, so there isn’t a choice of trim levels. Instead, the options are the five-seat Caddy Life or the seven-seat Maxi Caddy Life, and we’re testing the latter here. It’s 470mm longer than the five-seater, and offers 340 litres extra boot space. The price for the longer body and extra seats feels a bit steep - the Maxi is about £3,000 more than the standard Caddy Life - although it’s a good option if you need maximum space and versatility.

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Choose the Volkswagen Maxi Caddy Life and you get alloy wheels instead of steel wheels with plastic covers, but otherwise the five- and seven-seat models offer the same equipment. Both come with cruise control, air conditioning, electric front windows, automatic wipers, hill-start assist, Bluetooth, DAB radio and fog lights. The Caddy Life does well for practical features thanks to its van roots - both models offer six load-lashing rings, overhead storage nets, three 12V sockets and storage under the front seats. There’s a choice of two ‘free’ colours, plus 10 metallic colours and a pearl-effect colour as optional extras.

In the options list, you can also choose faux leather upholstery, parking sensors, larger alloy wheels, heated seats, App-Connect smartphone mirroring and a larger 6.33-inch infotainment screen with sat nav and European mapping. You’ll need to spec the larger screen if you want App-Connect.

Most buyers will use the Caddy as a tool and a family workhorse, and its driving style reflects that. It’s forgettable to drive - few buyers will drive it for fun - but it is at least quiet on the motorway. The ride is mostly comfortable, thanks to soft suspension that soaks up a lot of road imperfections, but hard bumps and potholes will remind you that you’re in a car with commercial-vehicle origins.

Its shortcomings aren’t helped by the engine choice, either. Volkswagen has slimmed down the Caddy Life’s engine range and now there’s just one petrol and one diesel. Whether you go for the 1.2-litre petrol or the 2.0-litre diesel, both serve up 101bhp and have a five-speed manual gearbox (or a six-speed automatic that’s optional on the diesel model). The petrol’s slightly quicker, but acceleration from 0-62mph still takes 12.5 seconds. We recommend the diesel if you’re set on the Volkswagen Maxi Caddy Life, as it returns up to 50mpg and will better cope when the car is fully laden.

The standard Volkswagen Caddy Life is very spacious but the Maxi model adds almost half a metre to its length. It comes with a third row of seats as standard, but they can be removed if you need the extra carrying capacity. In fact, take out these seats and you’ll have a massive 1,650 litres to fill. The sliding doors make access a doddle, even in tight car parks, although the middle seats could be more flexible.

Verdict - 3/5

A car like this tends to be bought out of necessity rather than desire, and the Volkswagen Maxi Caddy Life is a good option if you need the huge space and practicality that it offers. However, rivals are now better than ever, and the Caddy Life is no longer the best in class. The Citroen Berlingo XL, for instance, is almost as practical but features styling that’s distinctive instead of conservative. Its engines are more economical and slightly quicker, and there are more to choose from. The Volkswagen also suffers from a slightly utilitarian interior and a smaller standard kit list than newer alternatives. If you only test-drove this car you’d probably be very happy with it but we’d recommend testing some of its rivals before you make a decision.

Read our review of the five-seat Volkswagen Caddy Life for more information.

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