When space, like power, cor­rupts

The Star Early Edition - - ROAD TEST - DE­NIS DROPPA

EVER since Volk­swa­gen’s new 2016 Caddy Maxi came to our of­fices for a long-term test it has be­come our go-to car when­ever we need to move large amounts of peo­ple and/ or cargo, and it’s been roped-in as a hol­i­day car on more than a few oc­ca­sions.

Most re­cently we joined the Gaut­eng hordes de­scend­ing on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast in De­cem­ber, load­ing up the Caddy Maxi with five peo­ple and their hol­i­day lug­gage, along with two small dogs and their ken­nel. As we’ve be­come ac­cus­tomed to over the last few months with the Caddy, it all fit­ted in with­out fuss, with room to spare.

The seven-seater Caddy Maxi, which is longer than the stan­dard five-seater Caddy, has three rows of seats in a 2-3-2 con­fig­u­ra­tion and takes five adult pas­sen­gers very com­fort­ably, with lots of stretch room. The two-seater third row also takes full-sized peo­ple, but it’s a bit of a squeeze and not rec­om­mended for longer jour­neys.

This vo­lu­mi­nous VW has wowed us with its abil­ity to swal­low big loads, and its ver­sa­til­ity. The sec­ond and third rows can be flipped down to ex­tend cargo space for those ma­jor shop­ping ex­pe­di­tions, and if you need to turn this into a panel van, the mid­dle row folds for­ward and the two-seater rear bench can be re­moved by tug­ging a cou­ple of levers. In this mode we were able to fit in two thick mat­tresses and a bi­cy­cle stand­ing up­right – not some­thing achiev­able in any reg­u­lar car or SUV.

The Caddy doesn’t just have the space to schlep a lot of stuff, but the urge to carry it. The two-litre tur­bod­iesel en­gine, not­with­stand­ing VW’s “Diesel­gate” saga, is a gem with loads of torque and an un­thirsty na­ture.

With out­puts of 81kW and 250Nm, this five-speed man­ual ver­sion is the less pow­er­ful of the two tur­bod­iesels avail­able in the Caddy range – the au­to­matic de­riv­a­tive makes 103kW and 320Nm. This 81kW ver­sion never strug­gles for pace, how­ever, feel­ing brisk off the mark, cruising with min­i­mal ef­fort, and dis­play­ing fairly lusty over­tak­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion, too.

The best part is the 6.4 litres per 100km our test car is av­er­ag­ing, and from time to time we’ve even man­aged un­der six litres when con­cen­trat­ing on driv­ing with a light foot. Cu­ri­ously, the man­ual gear­box has only five speeds, and we reckon a sixth gear could bring down the fuel thirst even fur­ther.

The Caddy Maxi Trend­line man­ual sells for R403 200, which in­cludes a three-year or 120 000km war­ranty and three-year or 60 000km ser­vice plan, with 15 000km ser­vice in­ter­vals. Spec levels for the money are fairly plen­ti­ful and in­clude most of the ex­pected push-but­ton con­ve­niences, along with sep­a­rate air­con vents and con­trols for front and rear pas­sen­gers, and a touch­screen au­dio sys­tem that pairs to smart­phones via Blue­tooth or USB port. It’s all pre­sented in a clean set­ting with un­clut­tered con­trols.

The heav­ily up­dated Caddy range was last year en­hanced with added safety and fea­tures. It comes in four body styles with three en­gine choices. The Caddy Panel Van and Crew Bus de­riv­a­tives cater to com­mer­cial buy­ers with needs for loads of pack­ing space. The more fam­ily fo­cused Caddy Trend­line comes in five-seater short-wheel­base or seven-seater Maxi vari­ants, while the All­track ver­sions re­place the pre­vi­ous Cross Caddy as the flag­ship ver­sions.

Dual rear slid­ing doors make eas­ier work of stuff­ing pas­sen­gers or cargo into the rear in tight park­ing spa­ces.

Front and side airbags, along with ABS brakes and a sta­bil­ity-con­trol sys­tem, com­plete a gen­er­ous safety pack­age. A hill-start sys­tem also pre­vents roll­back when pulling off on in­clines.

One thing I missed in the test car is hav­ing a cruise con­trol func­tion, how­ever, as long trips (like the speed trap-in­fested drive along the N3 be­tween Joburg and Dur­ban) re­quired a con­stant eye on the speedo. That torquey two-litre very eas­ily creeps over the speed limit when you’re not con­cen­trat­ing.

Another stick­ing point is the styling. With its panel van-like looks the Caddy Maxi doesn’t ex­actly rate high on ev­ery­one’s vis­ual ap­peal me­ter, par­tic­u­larly some of my friends and fam­ily mem­bers who say I look like Dan the handy­man be­hind the wheel.

I don’t care. Space, like power, has a cor­rupt­ing in­flu­ence. Af­ter get­ting used to all this roomi­ness and ver­sa­til­ity, most other cars seem cramped and claus­tro­pho­bic.

The new Caddy Maxi has the space to schlep stuff, and the urge to do so.

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