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Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life MPV (2010 – ) expert review

By Andy Goodwin, 16th January 2011

The verdict

Extremely spacious and practical, but the rear seats are heavy and don’t fold flat. Remove them and the boot is huge.

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Expert rating:

3.4

Pros

  • Interior space
  • Seven full-sized seats
  • Upmarket dashboard

Cons

  • Rear seats don’t fold into the floor
  • Ride less refined than most car-based MPV’s
  • Entry-level engines lack performance

Full Review

1. Exterior

This is an evolution of the outgoing Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life rather than a complete rethink, but that’s no bad thing as it has always been a handsome vehicle. The biggest changes are more modern headlight clusters and the strong horizontal three-bar grille shared with all new Volkwagens. To separate the Maxi Life MPV from its Maxi window van stable mate, it gets body-coloured bumpers, door handles and mirrors, alloy wheels, roof rails and opening windows in the sliding doors. Tinted rear glass is an attractive optional extra.

Our rating: 3

2. Interior

Don’t think for a second the Maxi Life’s van heritage means it has a cheap dashboard, it’s actually very good. Volkswagen has raided its extensive parts bin and decided to fit instruments, buttons and stereos you’ll more often see in its posher products. The extra space on offer has been utilised with huge door bins and an overhead cubby.

Our rating: 4

3. Practicality

Unlike many car-based MPVs, all seven seats are big enough for adults to sit in comfortably. Access to the rear row is gained by sliding back a side door and flipping forward one of the middle row seats. It’s reasonably quick and easy to do. However, unlike some MPVs, the rear seat design is quite basic and they are fairly bulky with no nifty fold-flat solution. If you want maximum loading space it’s a matter of unlocking the rear seats from their base and lifting them out of the vehicle. For most this should be a rare occurrence, as even with all seven seats in place there’s a 530-litre boot. With no rear seats at all this increases to a massive 4,100 litres.

Our rating: 5

4. Ride and handling

While the Maxi Life handles perfectly well, it can’t match the outright handling of smaller car-based MPV’s. Its long wheelbase gives it good stability, especially on the motorway, so its shortfalls are only exposed on more demanding roads where it’s less keen to change direction quickly. Despite advanced suspension borrowed from the Volkswagen Touran, the Maxi Life is a big vehicle.

Our rating: 3

5. Performance

There are two common-rail engines and four power outputs available, the smaller unit being a 1.6-litre TDI with either 74 or 101bhp. We tested the latter and found a narrow power band resulted in it having to be worked harder than is ideal to make good progress, making it hard to recommend. The 74bhp engine must really struggle, especially with seven passengers and luggage on board. We expect the 108bhp (fitted with 4MOTION four-wheel drive as standard) and 138bhp 2-litre TDI engines to suit the Maxi Life’s weight and size far better.

Our rating: 3

6. Running costs

With average 42.8 to 49.6mpg fuel consumption from best to worst in the Maxi Life range, economy is impressive considering its size. It’s better still if the BlueMotion Technology pack is fitted, which increases the model range’s economy between 53.3mpg to 55.4mpg. You won’t be spending too much on road tax either, with CO2 emissions staying below 140g/km.

Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

The Caddy Maxi Life is an evolution of a highly successful and proven model, which is fitted with engines and parts widely used in many Volkswagen’s. It should prove a trustworthy companion.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The previous 2007 Volkswagen Caddy scored four out of five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. There is a comprehensive Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) with Active Rollover Protection (ARP), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) and Traction Control System (TCS). There are also driver, passenger and front side airbags.

Our rating: 2

9. Equipment

Volkswagen has fitted a good level of equipment to the Maxi Life, including 16-inch alloy wheels, electric door mirrors, interior roof storage nets, roof rails, electric front windows, six-speaker audio system, fog lights and air-con.

Our rating: 3

10. Why buy?

If you need a large and affordable MPV the Maxi Life is a tempting proposition. It’s able to accommodate seven and luggage and has an interior which should stand up to years of use.

Our rating: 3

Expert review 3.4stars

  • Exterior3
  • Interior4
  • Practicality5
  • Ride and handling3
  • Performance3
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety2
  • Equipment3
  • Why buy?3

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:

Caddy Maxi Life 1.6TDI 74bhp

Best ecomony and entry-level price

Best seller:

Caddy Maxi Life 1.6TDI 101bhp

Better performance and still very economical

Blow the budget:

Caddy Maxi Life 2.0TDI 138bhp

Great pulling power suits this load lugger

Unlike many car-based MPVs, all seven seats are big enough for adults to sit in comfortably.

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