Long Term Test: VW Caddy Maxi Kombi - November 2011

Date: Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Our new light van has made an assured start to life on the What Van? fleet, but the onset of an Indian summer did cause us to get hot under the collar. James Dallas reports

Now that our Caddy Maxi Kombi has a few miles under its tyres we are getting to know the new addition to the What Van? fleet a bit better.
Driven on routes consisting of a lot of city streets and a little dual carriageway, the 1.6-litre, 102hp TDI engine is reasonably frugal, so far returning an acceptable 35.2mpg for city driving. It adapts easily to both driving environments, coping comfortably enough with open-road cruising in fifth gear once it gets beyond 50mph – although it may prove to be more of a strain when there’s a heavy load on board and the lack of a sixth gear becomes noticeable – and proving itself to be a perky performer in urban settings. The van, however, does occasionally flag at low speeds, requiring the driver to change down a gear to keep revs at the optimum level. It’s a good idea to take speed humps at a steady pace too, as the impact can be a tad unforgiving.
The driver’s seat and steering column can be adjusted to fit a range of preferences and the driving position is well supported and comfortable.
As intimated, our van has spent most of its time on the road unladen, apart from when carrying the weekly supermarket shop or transporting bicycles, scooters, footballs and rollerskates to the park, but nevertheless the ride quality has so far been smooth and consistent and the handling steady.
There’s been no complaints from the kids travelling in the Kombi’s rear bench seat – there’s plenty of legroom, lots of storage space in the doors and a couple of easily reached drinks holders.
Interior noise seems to be fairly well suppressed, although we have been regularly using the rudimentary but effective iPod connector lead, so a long run on a motorway should prove more illuminating. The Maxi is not overburdened with standard equipment, the iPod lead and adapter costs an extra £34, while the audio upgrade to the RCD 510 costs a substantial £355 but gets you an integrated 6 CD changer and four rather than two speakers.
The leather multi-functional steering wheel with trip computer would set you back £280 but it definitely adds to in-cabin comfort and convenience, especially the easy to use controls mounted on the steering wheel.
A display between the speedometer and rev counter gives useful information such as real-time fuel consumption, journey time and distance travelled as well as how many miles you have left in the tank.
If you’ve become accustomed to relying on a rear parking sensor then watch out – the Maxi Kombi doesn’t have one as standard. The manufacturer’s website lists a Reversing Aid Kit for £111 excluding VAT, which seems a reasonable outlay if you regularly need to squeeze the van into tight spots. The plate-like wing mirrors provide good vision when backing up but the view through the rear view mirror is restricted, particularly when it comes to any obstacle close to the ground.
The onset of winter should ensure that we don’t regret the absence of air-conditioning too much, but our experience in the autumn heatwave suggests operators expecting drivers to put in a shift during a long hot summer may have to bite the bullet and fork out the £785 required for an air-conditioning pack. Satellite navigation can also make life a lot easier, but to get it installed you’ll have to budget for an extra £770.
The load space looks surprisingly generous even with the rear seats in use (it ranges from 1.6-4.1cu/m) and is accessed by a top-hinged tailgate incorporating a window. This opens high but a handy strap is attached to pull it down if reaching up is a bit of a stretch.
Our Kombi has ample amounts of storage space to accommodate all manner of files, folders and refreshments including a couple of cavernous shelves above the windscreen. The drawback is that none of the compartments are covered so it is difficult to conceal any contents from prying eyes.



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