Volkswagen Caddy Maxi van review

By: Gary Worrall


Even the littlest work vans are getting bigger, as Gary Worrall found out driving the new Volkswagen Caddy Maxi.

Volkswagen Caddy Maxi van review
Volkswagen Caddy Maxi.

 

For many years the standard theory on delivery vans was they had to be big to be effective, with lots of space for cargo and taking up plenty of space on the road.

The tide started to turn when Suzuki introduced the Carry van, followed some years later with the Citroen Berlingo and Holden’s Combo. But it seems it took until the release of the Volkswagen Caddy for the little commercial craze to really take off.

Now, three years later, VW has stretched the Caddy to create the Maxi, with an extra 47cm of length, increasing its internal capacity to 4.2 cubic metres and opening the doors to a whole new market.

Visually, the Maxi is virtually identical to its smaller sibling, with a semi-bonneted nose, stretching up to a high roofline, creating plenty of room for cartons and other tall items.

The semi-bonneted design, which is taking off around the world, offers a couple of advantages, including the obvious one of improved occupant safety via the extended crumple zone.

On top of that is the access to the engine bay, which means daily maintenance checks are carried out simply and quickly, and more in-depth servicing is less of a problem than in cab-over designs.

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Engine

The test vehicle was fitted with a 1.9-litre four cylinder turbo diesel which proved both frugal and gutsy, putting its power to the ground through the front wheels.

Transmission

The Volkswagen Caddy Maxi range has two variants available, a five-speed manual and a 6-speed DSG automated manual transmission.

Cab and Controls

Inside the Maxi is so essentially car-like it is easy to forget what you are driving, with the seat and console straight out of the Golf passenger car the Caddy is based on.

Another advantage from this passenger car heritage is the seating position. The Golf is one of the most comfortable small passenger cars going, which makes the Caddy Maxi one of the most comfortable delivery vans on the market.

Standard fare includes height and reach adjustable steering wheel, as well as height adjustable driver’s seat and seatbelt.

There is also an AM/FM/CD stereo, air-conditioning and a driver’s airbag to make the most of a long day at work, while keeping the driver hydrated is easily taken care of thanks to the multiple drink holders, which can take up to a 1.5-litre bottle.

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Volkswagen has sufficiently redesigned the cab to include some extra storage space, while retaining the clever touches like the under-seat trays for those items that need to stay out of sight.

The front door opens wide to welcome the driver, making you feel right at home, with a nice wide field of view out the windscreen, although the thick A pillars can block pedestrians approaching from an angle.

Remote controls make the door mirrors easy, and they offer a good view down the sides, which means reversing the Maxi into tight spaces is a simple enough job.

The dash layout is clear, with all of the important information instantly available to the driver when it is required, with a large speedo and tacho, flanked by minor gauges for fuel and temperature.

Performance

Pulling up the Maxi is handled by the all-wheel-discs, which do a great job, easily washing off the speed when required with fade-free efficiency.

Despite the front drive configuration the Caddy exhibits virtually no signs of understeer; it has to be provoked by some really excessive manoeuvres before it bites, but in reality no courier driver with a load of parcels on board is going to put their cargo at risk by driving like Mark Skaife on a qualifying lap.

During the entire road test, covering over 600km, we only got the ABS brakes to trigger once — while it was empty — easily demonstrating how well sorted the suspension is.

Steering is direct, with no noticeable dead spots — years of suspension tuning by VW has ironed out all of the bugs, although stiff suspension settings can make for a bit of a jarring ride on rough surfaces.

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Putting some weight on board allows the suspension to work the way it was designed, and it transforms the handling as the springs take up the weight and push down onto the road surface.

The test van was fitted with the dual sliding doors and the standard barn doors, which meant access into the load space was simple, especially when working two-up or with the help of a storeperson.

VW deliberately set the wheel arches far enough apart to allow a 1.2-metre wide pallet to sit square on the floor, which also includes plenty of tie-sown points to make sure things stay where they were put.

The high roof line is a bonus for taller operators. While you will not be able to stand up straight you are not bent double either, but the reality is the twin sliding doors pretty much eliminate the need to climb into the back to retrieve freight anyway.

Phil Clark, Volkswagen Australia’s Head of Commercial Vehicles, says the twin doors came about as part of a push to broaden the market appeal of the Caddy, along with its stretched wheelbase.

According to Clark, the twin door configuration means parking in tight shopping centre loading zones is not a problem, nor is accessing the multitude of one-way streets in urban CBDs where it may be necessary to pull up on either side of the street.

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Verdict

The original Caddy was a clever response to a new market niche, and now the Caddy Maxi expands on that original premise without losing sight of the original design brief.

This is even more important than ever as a number of European manufacturers have recognised the growth of the market segment in Australia, and are sending out competitors by the boatload.

Let the games begin.

 

Likes:

  • Intelligent design
  • Twin side doors
  • Driver ergonomics and comfort

Dislikes:

  • Options can be expensive

 

Specifications

Make/Model: Caddy Maxi two door van

Engine: 1.6 litre four cylinder petrol engine; 75 kW@5600rpm/148Nm@3800rpm, 1.9 litre four cylinder turbo diesel with intercooler 77kW@4000rpm/250Nm@1900rpm

Transmission: 5-speed manual, diesel opt 6spd DSG automated manual driving through front wheels GVM: 2245kg (petrol)/2315kg (diesel manual)/ 2350kg (diesel DSG)

Payload: 813kg/808kg/813kg

Trailer/Weight: (braked/unbraked) 1,300kg / 710kg petrol; 1,500kg / 750kg diesel

Length: 4,875mm

Width: 1,794mm

Height: 1,841mm

Wheelbase: 3,002mm

Load Volume: 4.2m3

 

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