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Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life mini MPV (2007-2015)

"If you want space above all else, the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life has it in abundance. There's room for seven people and their luggage."

Carbuyer Rating

2.0 out of 5

Owners Rating

3.5 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Enormous load area
  • Seats seven adults with ease
  • Quiet and comfortable cruiser

Cons

  • Frumpy styling
  • Not as affordable as rivals
  • Interior lacks versatility of proper MPVs

There's no disguising the commercial roots of the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life – it struggles to hide its height and length. However, in its favour, the VW boasts a huge amount of space inside and is easy to get into thanks to its huge rear door.

It's a shame that the third row of seats is a fixed bench, as this limits flexibility – if you want maximum space, you need to remove it completely. The cabin is well built, but its hard plastics feel unsophisticated next to more luxurious rivals. On the move, the Caddy is sluggish off the line but becomes a comfortable cruiser once you get up to speed.

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The steering is precise, although body lean is a problem in bends. The pick of the engine range is the 1.6-litre diesel with VW's fuel-saving BlueMotion Technology, although it struggles if you're carrying a full complement of passengers.

Yet the Caddy Maxi Life's biggest stumbling block is its price tag – the entry-level Volkswagen Touran is cheaper, also seats seven, is better to drive and has a higher-quality interior.

MPG, running costs & CO2

The 1.6-litre diesel BlueMotion promises fuel economy of 54mpg

The 140bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel has enough power to cope with most loads, but running costs will be steeper than for the 1.6-litre diesel. This engine returns 48mpg, while BlueMotion models (which have a stop-start system and cruise control) promise to return around 54mpg.

Engines, drive & performance

Precise steering but body lean is a concern

The diesel engines feel sluggish off the line, but are smooth once you're up to speed. Behind the wheel, the steering is precise, but you're aware of the car's bulk behind you and body lean in corners is pronounced.

Interior & comfort

Diesels can rattle, but Caddy is quiet at speed and has a composed ride

On start-up, noise from the clattering diesel engine disturbs the cabin. The door mirrors and roof rails can also create wind noise on the motorway, however overall the Caddy is reasonably quiet inside. A compliant ride helps to soak up imperfections in the road and a spacious interior means all occupants should be comfortable.

Practicality & boot space

Hugely spacious, although flexibility needs to be improved

With its commercial-vehicle underpinnings, the VW Caddy Maxi Life offers loads of head and legroom, easily accommodating seven adults. The cavernous 520-litre boot has a wide, square opening, which makes loading even the bulkiest items easy – although you need to leave enough space to swing the big tailgate open when you're parking. Closing it can be a bit of a struggle, too.

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With the second and third-row seats folded, capacity rises to a huge 3,900 litres. Unfortunately, there aren't any clever touches in the back. The third row of seats is a fixed bench, and although the seatback can fold down, the whole bench has to be removed if you need more space, which is an awkard and tiring process. Access to the second and third rows is easy thanks to sliding doors.

Reliability & safety

Excellent build quality, but safety could be better

Volkswagen has a decent reliability record, consistenly performing well in customer satisfaction surveys. The Caddy's solid build quality should also mean that trips to the garage are few and far between.

On the safety front, the Caddy Maxi Life has driver and front passenger airbags, but curtain airbags for the remaining occupants aren't included – a glaring omission on a model that's billed as a family car.

Crash-testing body Euro NCAP awarded the Caddy a four-star safety rating, plus it has anti-lock brakes and traction control as standard.

Price, value for money & options

Too expensive, even with decent standard equipment

Only one trim level is available for the Caddy Maxi Life, but it gets plenty of kit. Air-conditioning, alloy wheels, remote central locking, front foglights, a six-speaker CD stereo and electric front windows are all standard.

The Caddy is expensive to buy, though, and while its van-based rivals can't match the VW's build quality, most of them are much cheaper. There's also fierce competition from within the VW range – the seven-seat Volkswagen Touran is cheaper, better to drive and higher quality inside than the Caddy.

On the plus side, VW's excellent reputation on the second-hand market means Caddy Life Maxi residual values should be strong.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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