2012 Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life 4Motion DSG Review Photo:
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What's Hot
Spacious cabin, AWD traction.
What's Not
Commercial roots evident in the cabin furnishings, jerky DSG.
Operate a ski resort? The Caddy Maxi Life 4Motion is the corporate bus you?ve been looking for.
Tony O'Kane | Jan, 14 2012 | 2 Comments


Vehicle Style: People mover
Price: $45,490 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.8 l/100kml/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 7.2l/100km



It’s easy to drive, easy to get in and out of, and it boasts a torquey turbodiesel engine. And while it won’t win any beauty pageants for its ungainly silhouette, as a small corporate bus the Caddy Maxi Life makes sense.

Add in the security and grip of an otherwise transparent all-wheel-drive system - at a hefty price premium, it has to be said - and the Caddy 4Motion also makes sense as an alternative choice for a growing family.



Quality: The dash and front-cabin plastics are shared with the Caddy Van commercial, so don’t expect much in the way of soft surfacing.

Build quality is quite good though, and the plastic panels in the back half of the cabin line up well. The cloth seat trim feels durable too, which is an essential quality for a people mover.

Comfort: The driving position is very upright, but an abundance of headroom as well as a tilt/reach adjustable steering column make it comfortable for the driver.

Both front seats adjust manually for height.

The back seats are roomy and can seat four adults in good comfort (five at a pinch), but getting to the third row can at times be difficult, thanks to the shorter section of the 60/40 split middle-row being on the driver’s side of the car.

Folding the wider section of the middle seat takes considerably more effort, although it does at least make getting in the back a lot easier.

There are plenty of cupholders and storage pockets throughout, as well as air-outlets for the middle row.

Headroom is even more generous in the back of the Caddy, which is fantastic if your passengers insist on wearing top hats.

Equipment: Reverse parking sensors, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, trip computer and 16-inch alloys are standard on the Caddy Maxi Life.

Storage: Being based on a high-roofed commercial van endows the Caddy Maxi Life with a sizable luggage capacity, even with the third row seats in place.

There’s 530 litres of cargo space behind the third-row seats, while removing them frees up a full 1350 litres - enough for four large suitcases.

Remove the second-row bench and the Caddy turns into a capacious van, with 3880 litres of room.

There are a number of storage nooks dotted around the cabin, offering plenty of space for magazines, food containers, bottles and cups - even in the third row.

An overhead storage compartment above the driver and front passenger, and netted overhead pockets in the rear, also provide space for maps and ‘stuff’.



Driveability: The AWD-equipped Caddy Maxi Life 4Motion is powered by a 103kW/320Nm 2.0 litre turbodiesel, and comes standard with a six-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic gearbox.

Peak torque is available from as low as 1500rpm, but a combination of throttle lag and snatchy low-speed engagement from the DSG means it doesn’t exactly jump off the line.

However there’s plenty of low-end torque; enough to maintain speed up hills without downshifting, or to get around slower cars when overtaking, even with a bit of a load up.

The DSG gearbox however is far from perfect. The hill-hold assist feature (a help for hill-starts), can sometimes be a hindrance during low-speed parking manoeuvres. It’s snatchy when moving away from a standstill, which can be especially irritating when stuck in stop-start traffic.

Refinement: It’s not as boomy inside as you’d expect for a big boxy van, although there is some cabin resonance on coarser road surfaces and over more-pronounced bumps.

Wind noise is evident - particularly around the large wing mirrors - but, as far as van-based people movers go, the Caddy Maxi Life is one of the more refined options around.

Suspension: The Caddy’s suspension layout is not terribly sophisticated, with MacPherson struts up front and a leaf-sprung live axle at the rear.

Despite this, ride comfort is more than acceptable and it gets better when more weight is carried over the rear axle.

Unladen, the Caddy can feel a bit light in the rear at speed, but feels reasonably well planted at other times.

Braking: The pedal has a bit of grabbiness in its initial engagement, but the all-disc brakes feel strong, and stability under hard braking is good.



ANCAP rating: 4 Stars

Safety features: Driver and passenger front airbags, front side airbags, three-point seatbelts on all seats, pretensioning front seatbelts, ESP, ABS and traction control.



Warranty: Three-years/unlimited kilometres

Service costs: Regular service costs range between $350 and $530, with maintenance intervals set for every 15,000km/12 months.

A major service is due at 60,000km/48 months, and costs roughly $730



Kia Grand Carnival Si diesel ($44,990) - In diesel form, the Kia Grand Carnival blitzes the competition for power and torque. No less than 143kW and 429Nm is pumped out by its 2.2 litre turbodiesel engine, and it will lug heavy loads with absolute ease.

While the interior isn’t as nicely furnished as the Caddy, there’s plenty of room for seven people plus their luggage. (see Grand Carnival reviews)

Hyundai iMax CRDi ($42,490) - Like the Caddy, the iMax is based on a commercial van.

Unlike the Caddy, the iMax can seat eight people in reasonable comfort. Its 2.5 litre turbodiesel has more grunt too, with 125kW and 392Nm.

As a corporate bus, the iMax wins over the smaller, less muscular Caddy. (see iMax reviews)

Volkswagen Multivan Comfortline TDI340 ($49,990) - The Caddy’s own stablemate could also be considered a worthy rival, with the entry-level Multivan boasting more torque and a more commodious passenger compartment.

It can be rather cumbersome to drive in tight quarters and lacks AWD in base trim, but the increase in passenger comfort makes it worth the extra expense over the Caddy. (see Multivan reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.



Some may find it too utilitarian as a family vehicle, but the Caddy Maxi Life 4Motion is nicely configured for anyone needing to shuttle small passenger loads about, and is more than a half-decent drive.

The versatility offered by its AWD drivetrain (a relative rarity in the people mover segment) makes it a good pick for ski resort operators and for other businesses located in out-of-the way places.

For most others though, we’d recommend opting for the cheaper front-wheel-drive variant: it drives just as well, but retails for $3500 less.

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