Caddy Maxi is a work­ing class hero with room to spare

The Star Early Edition - - ROAD TESTS - JA­SON WOOSEY

THERE are many things we love about the Volk­swa­gen Caddy Maxi long-term-test bus that’s been part of our lives for about a year now, but what stands out most is the space. So as you could imag­ine, our ed­i­to­rial team of­ten had that stereo­typ­i­cal squab­ble over the keys while blurt­ing ex­cuses like: “need to help my cousin-in-law’s step-un­cle move a bed and twenty pi­anos across town”, “go on hol­i­day to Twee­buf­felsme­teen­stoot­mors­doo­dgeski­et­fontein”, or “hang out with my blow-up sheep”.

Our ve­hi­cle had the op­tional barn-style doors and they opened up to one barn of an in­te­rior, ex­cept it was a lot smarter in there and it didn’t smell of hay and ma­nure. Sure, you don’t get all the touchyfeely plas­tics and satin chrome dec­o­ra­tions that VW Golf own­ers like to gloat about, but for what is es­sen­tially a panel van turned MPV, the Caddy’s in­ner quar­ters are very neatly styled and well fin­ished. The plas­tics might be hard and the seat trim more durable than plush, but it has a qual­ity about it that still feels more sedan than van.

Re­cently it was my turn to fight my col­leagues for the Caddy’s keys when my wife and three fur chil­dren de­cided it was time for a trip to the coast.

The Caddy Maxi can seat seven in rel­a­tive com­fort and still swal­low some lug­gage. The boot is not ex­actly huge with all seven seats in place, but you’ll still get a few big bags in there. We didn’t need seven seats, but our spoiled brats - a husky and two pugs - tend to en­joy a big boot and so we found our­selves re­mov­ing the third-row bench, which was a quick and pain­less ex­er­cise. Not so much all the pooch-proof­ing that I had to per­form with all sorts of sheets and things be­fore the trip, mak­ing me wish they’d fit­ted the panel van’s rub­ber floor­ing rather than car­pets, but in the end the Caddy proved to be a re­mark­ably dog friendly ve­hi­cle. The split doors make load­ing and un­load­ing the hooli­gans par­tic­u­larly easy - in that Char­lie’s not jump­ing out al­ready while you’re try­ing to get Mag­gie in and the mad exit rush at your des­ti­na­tion has a very use­ful bot­tle­neck.

While the seat­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion is fairly flex­i­ble in that the sec­ond and third rows can be folded, dou­ble­folded or re­moved com­pletely, the seats do lack a slid­ing func­tion which would make the in­te­rior a whole lot more ver­sa­tile. With a fam­ily of four or five go­ing on hol­i­day, you’d end up with way too much lug­gage space and - if the kids were big - not quite enough legroom for them to stretch out.

Back to my N3 ex­pe­di­tion, what stood out was the ef­fort­less per­for­mance pro­vided by the Caddy’s 2-litre TDI tur­bod­iesel, which pro­duces 81kW and 250Nm when mated to the five-speed man­ual gear­box, as is our test ve­hi­cle’s case. If you go for the DSG, which costs R442 200 ver­sus the man­ual’s R410 400 sticker price, you get bumped up to 103kW and 320Nm. That might seem tempt­ing, given that 81kW doesn’t sound like enough power to move such a big bus, but I was pleas­antly sur­prised by how strong the lower-out­put en­gine feels. You can re­ally just stick it in fifth and for­get about it, even up steeper hills. But while the box and its ra­tios make the en­gine seem more flex­i­ble, a sixth cog would have made for qui­eter and more ef­fi­cient cruis­ing, given that the en­gine hums along at 2400rpm in fifth at 120km/h - which is a bit high for a diesel. The Caddy is still very eco­nom­i­cal, our ve­hi­cle av­er­ag­ing around 6.4 litres per 100km, but it could per­haps have been even frugler.

The ride is com­fort­able too, par­tic­u­larly sur­pris­ing given that the Caddy is fit­ted with bakkie-like leaf­spring sus­pen­sion at the back. But this is still a sugar-coated panel van and even apart from the ride, it’s never go­ing to of­fer quite the same sound in­su­la­tion or over­all smooth­ness as one of VW’s nor­mal pas­sen­ger cars, yet it’s still per­fectly tol­er­a­ble in any sit­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing a lengthy road trip.

Com­fort­line mod­els come with all the ba­sic com­fort ameni­ties, such as air con­di­tion­ing, elec­tric win­dows and a 12.7cm Com­po­si­tion Colour touch-screen au­dio sys­tem with Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity and steer­ing-wheel con­trols. Safety kit in­cludes ESP sta­bil­ity con­trol, post-col­li­sion brak­ing as well as front, side and cur­tain airbags, al­beit only for those up­front. VER­DICT At R410 400 the Caddy of­fers lots of space for the money, and is nicely fin­ished, styled and equipped by van stan­dards. It’s a work­ing class hero with a touch of VW class.

Big­ger is bet­ter as the VW Caddy Maxi has space for the whole fam­ily and more.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.