As a compromise between relative sophistication and solid common sense, the Volkswagen Caddy people mover has always worked extremely well, which is why second-hand examples that have been converted into Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) are so popular.
Van-based MPVs have often failed to disguise their utilitarian roots. This Volkswagen Caddy Life MPV, built between 2015 and 2020, offers a rather more upmarket feel and a drive that's a good deal more spirited than most. You could have seven seats, yet in a vehicle that's easy to park in the tightest multi-storey - and all the technology a family could want.
There were two versions produced – the Caddy Life and the larger Caddy Life Maxi – and it’s the latter that we’re looking at here. The Maxi version is longer and has extra boot space, so it’s a good option if you need more room and maximum versatility.
This WAV is based on the Volkswagen Caddy Life MPV. After the vehicle was originally built by Volkswagen, it was sent to one of the specialist WAV converters here in the UK. There, skilled engineers using the latest technology converted it for safe, practical and comfortable wheelchair use and finished it to an incredibly high standard.
No previous Caddy model had been better prepared to function like a car. Because no previous model had 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 the Volkswagen Golf, Passat and Tiguan-sized models from the same era. Plus, there was also a fresh electrically assisted power steering rack with a more direct feel.
The engine? Well, most second hand Volkswagen Caddy WAVs come with Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 102PS, and you can find versions with either a manual or, if you prefer, an automatic gearbox.
The vehicle we have here is a typical 2018 Caddy Maxi WAV with an automatic gearbox and a 2 litre diesel engine beneath the bonnet. The fuel efficiency figures quoted at the time were around 56 MPG combined.
It’s an efficient vehicle to run, but you’ll need to bear in mind that vehicles converted into WAVs are heavier because of their interior conversion, which will slightly affect the standard model’s efficiency figures and acceleration. Always check specific details on the used vehicle you are looking to buy with your WAV Supplier.
When the wheelchair user wants to access the vehicle, the wheelchair ramp pulls-out from the rear to become a strong, low-gradient ramp with a high traction, non-slip surface so that wheelchair tyres and carers can safely access the WAV through the large rear tailgate. This particular Caddy Life has also been fitted with a powered wheelchair winch that makes accessing the vehicle via the ramp even easier. Once sat inside the vehicle, the ramp can then be folded back into the WAV behind the passenger. This particular ramp can also be folded down into the floor whenever the vehicle is not being used as a WAV, maximising the storage space in the back of the vehicle.
Once inside, the wheelchair is secured by high-quality restraints, while the seat belts ensure maximum safety for the passenger.
The number of standard passenger seats in different WAVs does vary, but on the vehicle we’re looking at here there’s enough space for the wheelchair user, the driver, one front passenger and 3 additional passengers behind them. You’ll also find versions of this vehicle with room for just one or two additional seated rear passengers, which gives the wheelchair passenger more space, and also makes transporting a mobility scooter easier.
Specialist used WAV dealers can often add or remove seats to second-hand wheelchair vehicles like this, so if you see a vehicle that you like but the seating layout isn’t quite right, they may be able to easily adjust the seating by adding or removing seats for you.
They will also be able to help if you need additional driving or access adaptations fitting to the vehicle.
As an exercise in managing compromise, the Caddy Life is a triumph. Volkswagen managed to keep prices reasonably competitive for this type of vehicle, while at the same time injecting enough sophistication to distance it from its commercial vehicle roots. That it managed to do this without compromising practicality in any significant manner marks this vehicle as one for the shortlist if you're looking for a used WAV that ticks almost every box.
Used examples tend to be more expensive than most rivals, but on the plus side these WAVs do hold their value better.
In short, if you need a quality WAV that offers maximum space and versatility, and you can afford to pay a bit more, this one's well worth a look.
Choosing a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle might seem like a big step, but it could make a huge difference to your life. Make sure you ask the WAV specialist you’re purchasing from all the right questions and do your own thorough checks before choosing a vehicle.
The answers to these questions will help you to choose the WAV that’s right for you. Select the ideal vehicle for you via the MotaClarity used WAV search.