Although there’s plenty of choice when it comes to conventional seven-seat MPVs, many force you to choose between carrying passengers and carrying luggage. With their third row of seats in place, there’s often less boot space than you’d get in a typical supermini.
Volkswagen might have the answer to this dilemma in the shape of the Caddy Maxi Life. At 47cm longer than a regular Caddy Life, it has an extra 340 litres of luggage space plus seven seats as standard. Add in a pair of sliding doors for rear seat passengers and it seems a very sensible option.
Remove all but the front seats and you’re left with a generous load area - all 3370 litres of it. Furthermore, the load area is completely flat and with a very low floor, which is one of the advantages of the model being based on a van. A range of petrol and diesel engines are offered with either manual or automatic gearboxes. We're driving the mid-range 1.4-litre TSI petrol with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
What is the 2016 Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life 1.4 TSI like inside?
One of the first things you notice from behind the wheel of the Caddy is just how airy it feels. Big windows and a high driving position give you good visibility while the square sides make it easy to place, despite its sizable length. Parking sensors and a rear-view camera are welcome options, though. It’s just a shame the steering wheel can’t be tilted a bit lower for shorter drivers.
The high roofline means head room isn’t an issue in any of the three rows, even though each is set slightly higher than the one in front. There’s a decent amount of leg room for middle row passengers although those in the rear may not be quite as happy. An adult will fit, but longer journeys are best left to children.
With all rows in place, there’s easily enough room for two or three large suitcases, but start to remove chairs and the rear cabin becomes cavernous. For instance, a full-size fridge freezer will lay down inside with room to spare. A word of warning though, you’ll want two people to carry away the benches – they are heavy and bulky.
Sliding doors at the rear make entry and exit easy for rear seat passengers even in tight spaces. Those getting into the very back will certainly appreciate a middle row that tilts well out of the way, making access surprisingly simple. There are also plenty of cubbyholes, pockets and cupholders spread around the cabin. It’s all very practical.
Where it does fall down is with perceived quality. At a distance, it looks typically VW with textured surfaces and chrome trims, but up close you realise it's all hard and unyielding plastic. Everything still works with precision but it’s much more workmanlike than, say, a Touran. It might be fine for a van, but for some, spending more than £22,000 on the Caddy may leave them disappointed.
What is the 2016 Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life 1.4 TSI like to drive?
The engine may only be 1.4 litres in capacity but it's turbocharged to give 123bhp. It’s a smooth powerplant that works well with the dual-clutch auto ’box if you’re driving sedately. Should you need to travel more briskly or have the Caddy heavily loaded, you do have to work it quite hard, which in turn generates a fair bit of engine noise.
Ride comfort is generally pretty good thanks to the Caddy's soft suspension and the relatively small wheels of our test car. Potholed roads can catch the Caddy out though, with its simple rear suspension proving to be both bouncy at the rear when unloaded and noisy in operation.
The Caddy's handling is predictably uninteresting. The steering is precise enough and has a decent weight to it while there’s plenty of grip. Unsurprisingly, though, there’s plenty of body roll, while the seats are too flat to offer decent support.
Should I buy one?
If you need maximum space from your seven-seat MPV, the Caddy Maxi Life is a tempting option. Only other van-based MPVs, such as the Ford Grand Tourneo Connect or oddities like the Ssangyong Turismo, can offer the same sort of practicality for similar money.
We would advise trying one before you buy. The Maxi's commerical vehicle roots are very apparent, while its CO2 emissions are also on the high side at 133g/km. You’ll also struggle to average 40mpg in the real world with this 1.4 TSI.
If you need the practicality the Caddy offers, the Grand Tourneo Connect is a cheaper and better-to-drive alterantive. That said, If you don’t quite need the sort of room these van-based MPVs offer but still want seats for seven, a Citroën Grand C4 Picasso or VW’s own Touran are both more civilised options.
What Car? says...
VW Caddy Maxi Life 1.4 TSI Engine size 1.4-litre petrol, turbo Price £24,647 Power 123bhp Torque 162lb ft 0-62mph 10.9sec Top speed 115mph Fuel economy 48.7mpg CO2 133g/km