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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Caddy - Life TDI 250 people-mover

Our Opinion

We like
Cavernous interior, smooth engine
Room for improvement
Engine lacks responsiveness with manual transmission, compromised seating flexibility, cheap interior feel

7 Dec 2010

VOLKSWAGEN’S previous Caddy Life built on the notion that if a family must abandon itself to the people-mover market, they must also abandon any aesthetic considerations.

Not all that cheap, the Caddy was still a lot of metal for the money – too much metal for some, as even Volkswagen admitted that potential Life buyers were telling dealers to get a life as they thought the interior too commercial in appearance.

The new 2011 Caddy takes on the crisp corporate face that mimics the Golf VI (although it is in fact based on Golf V architecture as before) and adds spice to the previously bland engine offerings.

On this point, you may marvel at the claimed economy improvement of the TDI250 over the 1.9 but not its power and torque when matched to the five-speed manual. It is smooth and tractable, but does nothing to impress when hill climbing or overtaking. We can't imagine what it'd be like with a full load on board.

The seven-speed DSG transmission is a far better match, giving the TDI250 a chance to stay in its power band.

That the Caddy Life is no sports car is a given, but better chassis are available in the segment. Steering is light and direct, the cornering attitude surprising neutral for a tall vehicle, but tyre grip is average and ride quality deteriorates quickly.

The front end of the cabin generally exudes quality. From there, the cabin ambience changes from Boeing 747 economy class to Hercules troop transporter.

Sure, you may affectionately call the kids the troops, but you don't want them to feel like they're in boot camp in the shiny new family car.

Exposed turret rails with myriad holes are not what make people buy brands such as Volkswagen. Jeep, maybe.

The cabin has plenty of space but lacks design integrity. The second-row seat is 60-40 split, but the narrower side is on the traffic (right) side. If you've ever battled with child or booster seats secured in the second row while attempting access to the third row, you'll know how frustrating this is. The optional third row is bulky and heavy, requiring a strong back absent among many new parents (or old parents for that matter) to remove it.

Although it looks better and the engine is improved, this latest Life still resembles a delivery van with seats.

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