When a pile of rusty VW parts needed to be transported over 250km, the 2018 Volkswagen Maxi Crewvan Caddy stepped up to the challenge.
You may or may not know that I have an unhealthy obsession with classic Volkswagens. It’s something that has driven my parents a little crazy for over a decade while using their garage space to store cars and parts.
So when my folks decided to move house, those accumulated dusty car parts had to somehow make their way to my place. Only thing, there was so much of it, a ute wasn’t ever going to be big enough, I didn’t want grease and spiders all over the floor of a wagon, and hiring trailers are just yuck.
So what better way to do it than in a 2018 Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Crewvan?
This jigger is larger than the standard-size Caddy that florists and the like typically drive, and is much smaller than the Transporter used to move much larger items. The Maxi Crewvan is 470-millimetres longer than the standard Caddy, measuring 4478mm, and as the name suggests it can take a crew with second-row seating.
Starting at $35,490 drive-away, until 30th June 2018, the Caddy comes with a 1.4-litre petrol engine and a seven-speed DSG transmission.
Standard features include rear park distance control, forward collision warning, city emergency braking and driver fatigue detection. Although the rear-view camera is an option, it is a box worth ticking because, well, it’s a van and vision is always going to be limited.
There isn’t a lot of competition for the Maxi Crewvan, with the Renault Kangoo Maxi Crew at $32,968 drive-away being its closest rival. The Renault is only available in manual and diesel, whereas the Volkswagen has petrol only, and the choice of a six-speed manual and automatic transmission.
As most of these Caddies will be used as an office for many of their owners, cabin comfort is vital.
The seating position is well designed. It feels like you’re sitting in a comfy lounge chair, great for long journeys. Strangely, there is no height adjustment, available on every other Caddy model except this one. And annoyingly, the slider lever sticks out so much it hits you in the left ankle.
Although the passenger seat will be empty for the majority of the Caddy’s driving, I had two different passengers in the front seat on two-hour drives, and they both commented on how comfy they felt. One did mention the wheel arch gets in the way of stretching out the legs though. A centre armrest would’ve been a bonus for that little bit of extra comfort.
There is plastic everywhere in the cabin, with no sign of fabric materials except on the seats. Floor mats have even been left out, with a soft rubber floor in its place. In saying that though, everything feels strong and sturdy.
The Caddy’s infotainment system is presented on a 5.0-inch touchscreen and does not feature Android Auto. You will have to option Apple CarPlay and satellite navigation, which might be worth the spend, considering the distances van drivers travel.
If you decide to purchase a portable GPS unit instead, there is a perfect place for it to sit on a nifty shelf on top of the dash. A 12-volt socket is available there, with another next to a solitary USB connection in the centre console.
We would prefer the position of the climate control and touchscreen to be swapped around, leaving the touchscreen higher on the dash and reducing the low eye-line for the driver.
Storage. So much storage. Door pockets can fit a two-litre bottle and more. There are drawers under the front seats and a shelf as wide as the car on the ceiling. While the latter is handy, we feel a lot of things could get lost up there, especially after some cornering around roundabouts.
The front passenger has a cutout shelf above the lockable glovebox for a phone or wallet, but there are no other closed storage areas for valuables.
As mentioned, what makes this Caddy unique is the ability to carry backseat passengers. It’s perfect for people who unknowingly volunteered to help pack those old VW parts, or perhaps just to drop the kids off at school on the way to work.
Rear passengers sit higher than front seat occupants, and enjoy a great view through the windscreen and side windows. The back row is comfortable enough for three adults, plus there are ISOFIX points for bub.
As there is a sliding door on each side, there are no door pockets, nor are there map pockets on the front seats, so back seat storage is limited to two foot storage compartments.
When extra loading room is needed, the back seats can be folded flat to create a solid base, or completely removed via three pull-straps. In this case, I folded the seats flat to load up the car parts, with a cargo volume of 3950 litres. With rear seats in play, it decreases to 1650L.
Loading the Caddy full of Volkswagen parts was a relatively easy process. The rear loading doors open 90 degrees, which does add an extra obstacle to get around when handling bulky items. The low load height of 581mm is excellent, as I was loading gearboxes on my own – don’t worry, I used my knees. Meanwhile, its four-foot roof height was great too. I only banged my head once!
One small addition that would help protect the Caddy from loading damage is the scuff plate above the bumper. It is made of black plastic, and when loading heavy items, it can easily be scratched. Perhaps a metal plate could prevent this.
The floor appears to be made out of the same stuff as the floor in the cabin, with plastic covering unavailable in the Maxi Crew, but the rubber floor can help with sound deadening with an empty load.
Six tie-down latches can be found, and it comes with a full-size spare and jack.
The 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine produces 92kW of power and 220Nm of torque. The Caddy has sports mode, but I see no reason to have it in a van, as all it does is rev harder and undoubtedly chew through the petrol faster.
Once laden, it can take a second or two for the VW to get moving from a standstill, but both of my passengers noted how well it performed for a van when put through its paces.
On its way to 100km/h, the seven-speed DSG does its best to keep the revs down to 4500rpm. With mostly freeway driving, the Caddy’s fuel reading was 6.3L/100km unladen and increased by only 0.7L when laden. It wasn’t far off Volkswagen’s claimed combined reading of 6L/100km.
Cruise control is no doubt an important feature for many van drivers who clock up a lot of freeway driving, and we had no issue with this system. Adaptive cruise control will need to be optioned as part of the Driver Assistance Package.
Some vans can feel light and loud when unladen, but the Caddy is surprisingly insulated and grounded. Road noise isn’t bad, considering the open cabin, although we did hear some minimal noise coming from the left sliding door. There are no shakes or thrums either.
Its tyres are wrapped around 16-inch rims and fitted to leaf springs with a load-dependent damper on the rear axle. It handles bumps and ruts without too much drama. Volkswagen suggests optioning the reinforced rear suspension if you plan to regularly carry over 200kg.
I did, however, run into a small pickle when manoeuvring out of a gravel driveway on an ascent. The hill holder did its job, but with all the weight at the rear and, being front-wheel drive, the Veedub struggled to move with the front wheels spinning. It took a few attempts with some different angles before we were on our way. If I was in my rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive Beetle, the story may have been different!
Apart from no rear-view camera, vision is pretty good, with the extra rear side windows helping with head-checks, and the tall left mirror gives you added confidence. Also, the rear wing doors are asymmetrically split, so the door frame doesn’t obstruct what’s in the rear-view mirror too much.
ANCAP has not yet tested the long-wheelbase Caddy, but in 2015 short-wheelbase versions received a four-star rating. Front and side/head airbags protect the driver and front seat passenger, but rear-seat passengers have none. And that makes it nigh on impossible for us to recommend this Caddy if you plan on regularly ferrying backrow passengers.
Volkswagen offers a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with three years’ of roadside assistance. The first service is due at 15,000km/12 months at the cost of $356, with each service at 15,000km/12-month intervals.
The Maxi Crewvan did the job of hauling Beetle parts from its distant Volkswagen cousin just fine. On long hauls, the van is as comfortable as a car, but it wouldn't hurt for a diesel to become part of the line-up.
There is something about the quality of the Volkswagen that keeps tugging at you. It feels like a long-lasting workhorse, and isn’t that what a van is all about?