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Ken Walker with the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi (copyright image)

Ken Walker, in suburban Sydney,
with the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi

ROAD TEST:   Volkswagen Caddy Maxi

by Ken Walker

26th April, 2009

Home > Road Tests > Volkswagen

This Volkswagen is one of the biggest little vans on the market today. Known as the Caddy Maxi, the wheelbase and body is longer than the well known VW Caddy. It has barn style rear opening doors with a 60/40 split. A lift-up tailgate is available as a no cost option. Our test package was also fitted with a sliding door on the drivers’ side. This is a feature that I appreciate, not only for the flexibility it provides, but also because it allows a higher degree of safety when unloading from the right (for example whilst in a one way street).

Powered by a 1.9 litre turbo diesel and matched to VW's highly acclaimed 6 speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), the Caddy Maxi has gear changes so smooth that the driver has to check the electronic gear indicator to see where it’s at. Around the city at 60 km/h or less the transmission stays in 4th gear, push the foot down to 70 km/h and the DSG slips into 5th or even 6th if going downhill. Yes, the DSG is a 6 speed automated manual gearbox. Some may ask, what is or how does a direct shift gearbox work? We will try to explain. A DSG is a manual gearbox with the up or down changes controlled electronically and has 2 separate gear sets, each with a multi-plate clutch. The benefit of this system is that one gear set and clutch is engaged and driving the vehicle with the 2nd set having pre-selected the next gear. When the power shift occurs, because the next gear was selected before power was applied, the gear shift is executed within 3-4/100ths of a second without any noticeable loss to power, traction and acceleration. The DSG also offers Tiptronic gear selection and sports mode. Both Tiptronic and sports mode are not really necessary in this type of vehicle, but it is part of the package.

Our test package retails for $31,740 plus the usual dealer and statutory charges. Others versions of the Caddy Maxi include a 1.6 litre petrol engine with a 5 speed manual transmission selling at $24,740 plus on-road charges and a 1.9 litre turbo diesel engine with a 5 speed manual transmission retailing at $28,740 plus 'on-roads'.

Over the past few years Next Car have been unable to fault the build quality or finish in any of the vehicles we have tested from this highly successful European marque and nothing has changed in this regard with the Caddy Maxi.

For the technically minded, maximum power of 77 kW is reached at 4,000 rpm and maximum torque of 250 Nm is developed at 1,900 rpm and delivered to the front wheels via the fabulous DSG transmission. The Caddy Maxi has a fuel tank capacity of 60 litres and figures supplied by VW indicate fuel consumption at 6.7 litres 100 kms with CO2 emissions at 177 g/km. Load carrying is limited to 813 kg; a braked trailer with a load of 1,500 kg is towable (provided the vehicle is fitted with an electric brake controller).

The front suspension is Independent MacPherson struts, lower wishbones, subframe, coil springs and anti-roll bar, whilst the rear end has a rigid axle, longitudinal leaf springs, anti-roll bar and gas dampers. The turning circle of 12.2 metres seems too big for a small vehicle. Disc brakes are fitted front and rear with ABS, EDL and EBD as standard. ESP is a $690 option. Two front airbags are a standard, whist side airbags are a $490 option. Our test package was fitted with standard steel 15” rims and had a full size spare wheel slung underneath at the rear of the van. One would expect nothing less on a vehicle designed primarily for commercial use. The wheel rims were sporting Italian made Bridgestone 195/65R15 tyres which handled well on wet and dry bitumen surfaces. The package was a little noisy on the concrete sections of the F3 freeway although it was unloaded and this was a factor at the time.

A commercial package it may be, but it offers a lot of creature comfort for the driver and to a lesser extent the passenger. For starters, the steering wheel has adjustment for reach and rake (up/down & in/out), cruise control (TDI models only), centre console with 4, yes 4, cup holders, whilst storage pockets on the front doors have an integrated bottle holder, semi-automatic climatic air conditioning, storage bins under the front seats, a large storage area above the driver and passenger, and to top it off electric front windows with auto up/down function on both. There is also an AM/FM radio with a single CD player that is MP3 compatible. The external side mirrors are electrically adjusted and have a heater function to clear the lens. You have to enjoy a vehicle with heated rear view mirrors. Volkswagen Caddy Maxi has a simple to read instrument panel for speedometer, tachometer, electronic odometer and a trip meter. It also features a digital clock, fuel gauge, low fuel warning light and the outside temperature is also displayed. Gear position for the DSG is shown in the instrument panel too.  Additionally, there are electric demisters in the rear doors and the 3rd brake light is mounted high on the left hand rear door.

Overall, this is a practical small van with a lot of possibilities for different uses, and only limited by one’s own imagination. And the Caddy Maxi is more akin to a passenger car than the commercial vehicle it is. We travelled just a little short of 700 kms in about 9 days and we were unable to find any detrimental qualities or gripes with the Caddy Maxi and, therefore, concluded our test impressed with this big little van.


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