2015 Volkswagen Caddy Life 2.0 TDI review

Volkswagen adds windows and rear seats to its Caddy van to produce a practical five or seven seater, the Caddy Life. How does it compare with car-based rivals on UK roads?...

04 November 2015

2015 Volkswagen Caddy Life 2.0 TDI review

Those of you looking for an MPV are spoilt for choice at the moment. Just take a look at the Volkswagen line-up alone - there are four different models to choose from. The Caddy Life is the latest MPV from the German firm.

So why would you pick this over a VW's own Touran or Sharan? For a start, it works out significantly cheaper than either of the car-based models. It also provides a vast cargo area with a low floor to ease loading. Five seats are standard but you can add an optional third row too.

Previous Caddy based MPVs have always felt a little workmanlike and haven't had some of the safety features you’d expect from a modern family wagon. Can this fourth generation change that?

What’s the 2015 Volkswagen Caddy Life 2.0 TDI 102PS DSG like inside?

At first glance, the interior appears to be everything you’d expect from VW. There’s some well-placed chrome trim, leather trim for the steering wheel and gearlever, and a modern looking infotainment system. Look a little closer, though, and you may be disappointed.

The familiar grey plastics are all hard to the touch with no softer materials anywhere. The switches and dials also feel a little cheaper than you’d expect for the money too. It’s all solidly put together and will no doubt stand up to years of abuse but once again, it ultimately feels like the van it is.

Safety kit is a little disappointing when compared with some rivals, although there are now curtain airbags for front and rear seat passengers and city braking is standard. It's a shame that other safety features such as lane keeping assist aren’t available as an option.

Still, look behind to the rear seats and the Caddy Life plays its ace. There’s decent leg and head room for rear seat passengers while a third row of seats is a reasonable £546 option. The rear seats can also fold flat, fold forward for tall loads or be removed altogether.

With just the front seats in place, load space is a huge 3030 litres. Helping practicality further is a low floor that is completely flat, which makes loading heavy items much easier.

What’s the 2015 Volkswagen Caddy Life 2.0 TDI 102PS DSG like to drive?

Despite having a 2.0-litre diesel under the bonnet, this particular variant has just 101bhp. Even without a load, it has a 13sec 0-62mph time. This isn’t an issue if you’re pottering around town, but the motor can feel strained accelerating and maintaining motorway speeds.

Not only does it struggle to get up to speed, it becomes very noisy. The engine settles into the background hum at a cruise, but the diesel drone never fully goes away.

Not helping refinement is the dual-clutch automatic gearbox which can be quite jerky at lower speeds and an engine stop-start system which is noisy in operation. At least the steering is well weighted and acceptably precise.

However,  ride comfort on the 16in steel wheels is better than many cars out there. As the Caddy Life doesn’t even attempt to be sporty, there’s a softness to the ride that is very appealing. True, at times this can give a slightly floaty feeling while there is some bounce from the back end, but it's never uncomfortable. 

Should I buy one?

The Caddy Life does little to hide its commercial roots and may feel a little rough around the edges if you’ve come from a car-based MPV. However, it's a genuinely practical proposition should you need to carry large loads regularly, the trouble is that there’s a lot going against it.

Refinement and interior quality are poor when compared with car-based rivals and this 2.0-lite diesel has fairly high CO2 emissions of 133g/km with the automatic gearbox, dropping to 122g/km with the manual gearbox. Claimed official fuel economy is a similarly unremarkable 55.4mpg (61.4mpg with a manual).

Furthermore, we could forgive the Caddy Life plenty if it was cheap but, unfortunately, it isn’t. Opt for the auto gearbox and you’re looking at spending more than £21,000. Even with a manual, you won’t get much change from £20,000. At that price, we’d look elsewhere unless you desperately need the carrying capacity.

Alan Taylor-Jones

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Volkswagen Caddy Life 2.0 TDI 102 DSG

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

Price from £21,305

Power 101bhp

Torque 185lb ft

0-62mph 13.0 seconds

Top speed 106mph

Fuel economy 55.4mpg

CO2 133g/km