2016 Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Crewvan TSI220 Review

Rating: 8.0
$19,520 $23,210 Dealer
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LWB compact vans are handy around town and a practical alternative to larger commercial vehicles for tradies who need a multi task vehicle. The Caddy Maxi Crewvan even suits family duties.
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So, you need a compact van, with plenty of room, as well as second-row seating? Volkswagen may have just the answer you’re looking for in the form of the 2016 Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Crewvan TSI220.

On paper at least, the compact van segment to which the Caddy Maxi Crewvan belongs makes all kinds of sense for the city-focused courier, tradie or family buyer who needs more room luggage area than a traditional sedan or SUV will allow. More car-like than larger vans - especially when you’re the driver - the compact segment delivers user-friendly ergonomics, some measure of comfort and exterior dimensions that make manoeuvring around the city a breeze.

The long-wheelbase Caddy Maxi Crewvan is as much a work vehicle as it is a family conveyance, and if the kids are into something like BMX, or any of the sports that require the lugging of larger equipment, there’s a lot to like about that cavernous section behind the second row. It will easily house full-size bikes, for example.

On test, we have the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Crewvan TSI220 with DSG and metallic paint. The starting price for the model is $29,690 plus on road costs for the manual and $32,690 plus on-road costs for the DSG. Our DSG-equipped test vehicle has an added $890 for the metallic paint, bringing the price to a still very reasonable $33,580 plus on-road costs. We’re not sure you really need the metallic paint when your vehicle rides on steel wheels, but regardless it does look good in a colour other than Kelvinator fridge white.

Read more in our Volkswagen Caddy pricing and specification guide.

The 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine - here’s a scoop - doesn't generate 220kW! It does generate 220Nm, though, following the VW Commercial vehicle range, so the badging does make some sense. There’s 92kW to go along with that. Peak power is made at a reasonable 4800rpm, while peak torque - the crucial figure really - is delivered between 1500 and 2500rpm. In theory, that should be right where you need it around town.

The Caddy Maxi requires 95RON premium and uses an ADR-claimed 6.0 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. On test, we used 8.3L/100km. The DSG as tested here, is the most frugal of the Caddy lineup. You might think the DSG is a bonus in this segment and it is, except at low speeds, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

The cabin, while spartan compared to a Volkswagen Golf, does have one advantage for van owners used to more tradesman-like surrounds. It’s comfortable and more car-like than you might expect. The seating position is excellent, as is visibility. The second row windows (with sliding sections for ventilation) assist here. They add rear three-quarter visibility that you would miss if you had a solid-sided panel van.

The relationship between driver and the leather-trimmed steering wheel/controls is the main reason the Caddy Maxi feels so car-like. It’s really easy to get comfortable and you never feel like you’re driving a truck.

The entertainment system is adequate without being exceptional. Fellow CarAdvice tester Matt Campbell liked the clear instrumentation and digital speedo, but thought the pixellated, small media screen couldn’t match that in either the Polo or Golf. He’s right too, the screen conveys the information you want it to, it just isn’t particularly advanced.

The cabin is otherwise reasonably tough and hard wearing with plenty of hard plastics, but still very well put together. No squeaks, rattles or strange noises emanating from behind the dash in the Caddy Maxi.

The second-row seats, which don’t slide forward and back, do flip forward to allow the Caddy to carry longer items, and there’s enough room in the second row for adults. Importantly, ‘stadium style’ seating means passengers in the second row get a really good view forward over the top of the front seat passengers. There is an ISOFIX child seat anchor-point, but no second-row airbags; it does have dual front and front-side airbags.

The rubber-lined footwells will be perfect for building sites or the post-football ride home in winter and the backrest isn’t too upright either. We had second-row passengers for some shorter trips on test and they reported being comfortable. They appreciated the windows and sliding sections in the second row too, while double sliding doors makes getting in and out of the second row a breeze.

You’ll find plenty of storage space in the Caddy Maxi, especially the very handy overhead section, which keeps valuables away from prying eyes. It’s not lined though, so objects can slide around up there, which can get annoying. We loved the underfloor storage in the second row, too, and the big door pockets.

Where the Caddy Maxi definitely isn’t car-like is in an acoustic sense. There is plenty of road noise, wind noise and general booming entering the front of the cabin. As with any van, that noise is reduced as you load more gear - or people for that matter - into the cabin.

Driving the Caddy Maxi around town is a cinch. The turning circle is tight, the steering light at low speed and the general manoeuvrability excellent. We liked the non-matching external rear view mirrors too - the driver’s side is square, while the curb side is rectangular to give a better view.

The fact the steering is so direct is yet another feature you expect from a car not a van. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is an engaging piece of kit to use. You can absolutely picture a courier driver loving this van if they spend most of their time in the city confines.

The ride is plush enough for a load-lugger - even with no weight on board.

The engine is willing enough around town to get up to speed in sprightly fashion, but you can’t describe the Caddy Maxi as rapid - even unladen. Add an extra three adults to the equation and it definitely isn’t rapid.

The 1.4-litre is happy enough to be worked right up to redline, but it never feels excessively powerful. Matt noted that climbing longer hills, he started to feel the weight of the Caddy Maxi pulling the engine back a little. We reckon if you loaded the Caddy right up to it’s GVM, the 1.4-litre would be working up a sweat.

Now, back to the DSG. Our love/hate relationship with this gearbox design continues and numerous CarAdvice testers who drove the Caddy reported similar issues. Once up to speed, above 40km/h or thereabouts, the DSG is fine. It always chooses the right ratio, never seems to make the engine work too hard, and is never tardy shifting up or down.

The problem is at low speeds. It’s jerky, annoying and uncomfortable at crawling speeds, which is quite often if you’re in a major metro city. Matt reported the same issue when he was testing in the city and, combined with brakes that have a tendency to grab, it makes for a jerky drive in traffic.

We called the urban ride comfortable, but it does err on the side of firm if we had to pick a definitive assessment. That would obviously settle down as you load more weight into the Caddy Maxi, but if you spend most of your time running around with very little on board, you will notice harsher speed humps and potholes.

The Caddy Maxi benefits from the plan that sees all Volkswagen commercial vehicles getting a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and six years of capped-price servicing at 12-month/15,000km service intervals.

Is the 2016 Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Crewvan the best option in this segment? Quite possibly. It might even seduce buyers who were looking at more conventional ways of moving the family around. There’s no doubt the Caddy feels more premium than other Euro fare, and it delivers on the promise of being a usable, functional city-focused crossover between mini people-mover and compact van.

More: Volkswagen Caddy launch review

Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Volkswagen Caddy images by Mitchell Oke.