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Volkswagen Caddy Life review 2020

Looking for a practical yet affordable van-based MPV? The Volkswagen Caddy Life could fit the bill.

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1
Out of 5

Pros

  • Spacious interior
  • Well-built
  • Frugal engines

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Beginning to feel dated
  • Limited choice
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model review

Creating MPVs based on existing van models is an easy way of maximising a model’s potential, and it’s something many manufacturers do with a lot of success. One such brand is Volkswagen, with its Transporter and Caravelle proving very popular. 

But you can’t forget about the brand’s smallest van – the Caddy. This compact model offers plenty in the way of quality and space and lends itself perfectly to be an MPV – being the brand’s most affordable new model in this respect. 

In MPV form it’s called the Caddy Life and it’s been around in its current generation since 2004, with Volkswagen debuting the more spacious and longer ‘Maxi’ model in 2007.

Latest model

With a new Caddy due in 2021, the outgoing model is beginning to start feeling its age. It received its last major update in 2015. Volkswagen called this a new generation, but in reality, it was more of a facelift, which introduced a more modern front end design, as well as a comprehensive range of driver assistance technology, which was really quite impressive for the time – including autonomous emergency braking, park assist and adaptive cruise control, though these aren’t included as standard. 

Efficiency was also enhanced through the introduction of a cleaner diesel engine. Like before, the regular Caddy Life is still sold alongside the more popular Caddy Maxi Life. 

Value for money

Given the Caddy Life is starting to feel a bit long in the tooth, it’s quite pricey for what it is, with models available from £23,025 (including VAT). If you want the Maxi model, which is around 45cm longer and more spacious, it is quite a bit more expensive, though – costing from £26,011. 

Standard equipment is quite generous – including a touchscreen, cruise control and autonomous emergency braking. But with no trim levels as such to choose from, you’re left to revert to traditional optional extras, which can prove pricey, given how many are available. 

If you’re looking to save money, though, you should look at used examples. As the Caddy Life is a popular model to convert into a wheelchair accessible vehicle, values do remain quite high, especially for older examples. A 10-year-old model with around 200,000 miles on the clock could still cost £4,000. Expect to pay around £6,000 for something with a more reasonable 100,000 miles on it. If you fancy something nearly-new, we saw a one-year-old Maxi Life available for £17,000 – a saving of almost £10,000 off list price. 

Looks and image

Van-based MPVs are never especially stylish and that’s true of the Caddy Life. Despite Volkswagen’s best efforts to improve the look of the model in 2015, it’s still quite a plain piece of design, though far from offensive. The stretched look of the Maxi model also makes it look a bit awkward next to the standard version. 

That said, the interior is a more pleasant place to be, with a solid and more pleasant-feeling interior than you might expect, with a car-like interface on the dashboard. All versions feature a touchscreen and leather steering, too. Its van-based roots ultimately shine through, as it’s not particularly high-quality, but feels as if it’s built to last, which is important on a model such as this. 

It’s decent to drive for a van as well, with a good choice of engines making it a good motorway cruiser and largely comfortable, though it can feel a touch bouncy on rougher bits of road – a sign of its van-based underpinnings. 

Space and practicality

MPVs are renowned for their practicality, and despite the Caddy Life being Volkswagen’s smallest van, it’s still very useful and versatile – especially the Maxi model. 

Standard Caddy Life versions come with five seats (you can upgrade to seven), though the Maxi Life features seven seats as standard. There is the option to delete the third row of chairs, though. There’s an impressive amount of headroom throughout, along with cubby holes and storage areas dotted throughout the cabin. Sliding rear doors are another big bonus, too. 

The boot is also huge across all versions and could measure up to 3,880 litres with the second and third row removed, though this isn’t a particularly easy task. Autonomous emergency braking is also included as standard on the safety front. 

Engines

Today the Caddy Life is available with just one petrol and one diesel engine. The petrol is a 101bhp turbocharged 1.0-litre, which comes mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. The diesel continues to prove the most popular, and is a 2.0-litre TDI unit producing 101bhp. It’s also available with both a five-speed manual or six-speed DSG automatic gearbox. 

Other engines available across the Caddy Life’s time have been a 123bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine, an 83bhp 1.2-litre unit (which the turbocharged 1.0-litre replaces), along with the 2.0-litre diesel available with an underpowered 74bhp and a punchy 148bhp output. The latter is the quickest engine of them all – reaching 60mph in 10 seconds and capable of a top speed of 119mph. 

Running costs

Regardless of whether you go for a petrol or diesel model, you can expect relatively low running costs. The 101bhp diesel with a manual gearbox is the most efficient of them all – returning up to a claimed 51.4mpg, with CO2 emissions of 144g/km. 

Meanwhile, you can expect around 40mpg from the 1.0-litre petrol, though CO2 emissions are quite high at 164g/km. 

Things to look out for

Given the Caddy has been around for some time and is especially popular in van form, it should prove a relatively dependable choice and robust. Given it’s a popular choice with taxi drivers, you’ll notice plenty for sale with 200,000 miles or more on the clock, showing its worth when it comes to reliability. 

Rivals

While the van-based MPV sector isn’t hugely popular, there are plenty of manufacturers that offer vehicles in this segment. Worthwhile alternatives include the Ford Transit Connect, Peugeot Rifter, Citroen Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo Life – the latter three all being based on the same platform. All of these models are also available in an ‘XL’ size to match the Maxi model, too. 

Depreciation

Given the Caddy Life’s limited desirability, it is hit by heavy initial depreciation. That means you should try and negotiate hard on a new example or look at the used market for a steep saving off list price. As the model gets older, values tend to remain firmer, though. 

Trims Explained

Just one trim level is available on the Caddy Life, after which you’re encouraged to add optional extras.

Caddy Life

Standard equipment is quite generous and includes automatic lights and wipers, autonomous emergency braking, cruise control, electric front windows, climate control and electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors. It also comes with a leather steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels (Maxi Life only), a full-size spare wheel, front fog lights and a five-inch media system with DAB radio and Bluetooth

From £23,035 / £26,011 (Maxi Life)

Summary

  1. Two body sizes available…
  2. The Maxi Life being the most practical
  3. Seven-seater
  4. Loads of rear space
  5. Starting to show age next to rivals
  6. Robust interior
  7. Plenty of standard kit
  8. Expensive optional extras
  9. Cheap to buy new, but a great used buy
  10. Great if you value practicality over styling

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