The latest Volkswagen Caddy people carrier offers a more upmarket feel and a driving experience that's a good deal more spirited than the previous version could ever deliver. It's suitable for wheelchair conversions and available with seven-seats too. With its practical sliding doors and car-like handling the new fifth-generation Caddy Life is a great option for Motability customers who value practicality, performance and affordability.
The Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life can't currently be ordered (section updated October 2023).
The problem with van-based MPVs is easy to identify. It's the lingering feeling that no matter how much glazing you have around the outside, when you're behind the wheel you'll still feel as if you're delivering pizzas. No matter how hard many manufacturers have tried to get away from the light commercial origins, these vehicles can't shake off the faint whiff of deep pan pepperoni. But if you were to lay odds on anyone to crack this thorny issue, it would be Volkswagen.
With a range of increasingly sophisticated passenger cars, Volkswagen has decided to sprinkle a little of that urbane charm onto the fifth-generation range of its compact Caddy people carriers, van-based MPVs that aim to be cut above the norm. The challenge is to do so while still keeping prices in the ballpark that van-based MPV customers expect. It's a tougher brief than you might expect.
No previous Caddy model has been better prepared to function like a car. Because no previous model has used car-like coil-sprung suspension, older generation Caddy MPVs having shared the same van-like leaf-sprung suspension as their LCV cousins. A much more sophisticated chassis also helps, the much stiffer Modular Transverse Matrix platform used on all Volkswagen's current Golf, Passat and Tiguan-sized car models. Plus there's a fresh electrically assisted power steering rack with a more direct feel. All of this is the same of course as you get with the rejuvenated current Caddy Cargo van model, though the payload of this MPV version is 100kgs lower (506kgs).
The engines on offer are the same as those in the Caddy Cargo of course too. There are three - a 1.5-litre TSI petrol unit with 114PS, offered with a 6-speed manual gearbox with the Caddy and with a 7-speed DSG auto with the Caddy Life. Alternatively, there's a choice of 2.0-litre TDI diesels, one with 102PS only offered with that manual gearbox; and the other with 122PS which comes only in DSG auto form with a Caddy but can be had with either a manual or an auto with the Caddy Life.
Bet you weren't expecting a van-based MPV to look as good as this? The fifth generation Caddy Cargo van's sleeker looks translate well into this MPV model. It's available in standard 'Caddy' and plusher 'Caddy Life' forms (the latter recognisable by 16-inch 'Wien' alloy wheels and black roof rails). And, as with the van, you get a choice of standard short wheelbase or 'Maxi' long wheelbase body styles. You'll want the 'Maxi' version you need seven seat version of the Caddy.
All variants get twin side sliding doors, but those on the 'Maxi' version (844mm wide) are 143mm wider than the ones on the short wheelbase version. The ambiance up-front is very car-like. And further back, there'll obviously be a lot more seating room in the second and third rows with the Caddy Maxi's long wheelbase, which gives you an extra 353mm of length with a larger luggage area. Even with all three seating rows in place, a Caddy Maxi can offer 446-litre of space. In five-seat format, you're looking at 1,720-litres of space in the Maxi - or 1,213-litres with the standard version. Fold the second row seats and it really does get van-like, 3,105-litres of space in the Maxi - or 2,556-litres with the standard version.
There are two spec levels, a basic minibus-type version (that the model badged merely 'Caddy'); or a smarter MPV that really feels much more like a car (the 'Caddy Life'). Either way, as we said in our 'Design and Build' section, Volkswagen offers a choice of either a short wheelbase model with the option of seven seats or a seven-seat long wheelbase 'Maxi' body style.
The 'Life'-spec is marked out by 16-inch 'Wien' alloy wheels and black roof rails, plus you get LED rear tail lamps. You also get power-folding mirrors and all-round parking sensors, while inside, there's a removable waste bin and the seats get smarter 'Trialog' upholstery and at the front, feature lumbar support and sliding drawers. 'Life'-spec gets you a bigger 8.25-inch 'Composition' central infotainment screen with 'App Connect' (enabling 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring), along with 'We Connect Plus' preparation (so that you can interact with the screen and the car using your smartphone).
As you'd expect, this Volkswagen delivers a frugal set of running cost returns. In standard Caddy form, the short wheelbase model in 2.0 TDI 102PS manual form manages up to 58.9mpg on the combined cycle and up to 126g/km; for the 2.0 TDI 122PS DSG auto version, the figures are up to 55.4mpg and up to 134g/km. With the 1.5 TSI petrol manual model, it's up to 44.1mpg and up to 144g/km. These figures are only fractionally reduced if you choose either the 'Maxi' body shape and / or the 'Life' model spec.
As an exercise in managing compromise, the Caddy people carrier is a triumph. Volkswagen has managed to keep prices reasonably competitive for this type of vehicle, while at the same time injecting enough sophistication to distance it from its van roots. That it has done this without compromising practicality in any significant manner marks this Caddy MPV as one for the shortlist if you're after really sensible family transport.
With its neat styling and rugged utility, this a proper multi-role vehicle, and in seven-seat guise it has more passenger space in the third row than you'd get from most seven-seat SUVs. In short, if you need a vehicle that can discharge some arduous family responsibilities and emerge unscathed, this one's well worth a look.
People with a disability and carers who choose a new Volkswagen Caddy through Motability will receive a brand new car, delivered by a Motability Specialist at a local VW dealership, complete with insurance, servicing and maintenance, full breakdown assistance, replacement tyre cover, windscreen repair or replacement cover plus a mileage allowance of 60,000 miles over three years.