2021 Volkswagen Caddy Life road test review

The 2021 Volkswagen Caddy Life on a suburban street

Craig Duff

Posted February 15, 2022

Volkswagen is lifting its game, and its prices with the new Caddy range. But is the versatile people-mover worth the extra cash?

The VW Caddy is a favourite among couriers, but the people-mover version is also an alternative to cars like the Kia Carnival and Honda Odyssey.

The van is typically associated with small business owners and tradies but there are two variants that cater to families.

The range-topping Caddy Life looks sharp, drives like an oversized Golf and is practical, with all three rows of seating relatively easy to access for kids and adults alike.

The 2021 VW Caddy Life is a hugely versatile vehicle for large families.
The 2021 VW Caddy's second and third row seats can be removed to carry bulky items.
The huge sliding doors are designed for one-hand opening and closing.
The 2021 VW Caddy Life is expensive but worth it.

Its party trick, though, is the ability to remove the second and third row seats and transform the people-mover back into a cargo van.

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How much does the VW Caddy Life cost?

The petrol version of the VW Caddy Life starts at $50,640 before on-road costs. The diesel-powered variant costs another $2000.

That’s not cheap, but you are buying a comprehensively equipped vehicle with a very composed drive and the capacity to mix business and pleasure via the removable second and third row seats.

Standard gear includes and 8.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, digital audio, a digital driver’s display, dual-zone air-conditioning, auto lights and wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a pair of USB-C ports in the front and second rows.

Semi-automated park assist (you apply accelerator and brake, the car works the wheel) is also a welcome feature on a vehicle approaching 4.9 metres in length.

Service intervals are 12 months/15,000km and there’s a limited offer on a five-year service plan for $1300. That’s liable to change in the near future, so check the VW website.

The competition is fierce in this segment, with the class-leading Kia Carnival starting at $47,480 for the petrol and $49,480 for a diesel, while the petrol-only Honda Odyssey is $47,800.

How safe is the VW Caddy?

Caddy owners can relax knowing they’re driving a five-star family vehicle. ANCAP’s rating applies to all people-mover versions, though the cargo models have yet to be tested.

Adult occupant protection earned an 84 per cent score, child safety came in at 86 per cent, vulnerable road users came in at 69 per cent, largely due to the fact the Caddy doesn’t have autonomous emergency braking in reverse, and safety assist technology scored a 79 per cent rating.

That technology includes frontal AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and driver fatigue detection.

What’s the VW Caddy like inside?

The sliding doors on the Caddy Life are massive and provide easy access to the rear seats. Thankfully they’re also designed to glide open and shut with very little effort, which is appreciated when you’re carrying a child in one hand.

Storage space is impressive throughout the cabin, though if buyers option the panoramic sunroof they’ll lose the overhead storage bin that stretches the width of the cabin.

The outer seats in the second row have airline-style tray tables. They’re not hugely sturdy but the built-in cupholders will happily hold up a large drink and tablets can be propped up on the table itself.


The 2021 VW Caddy Life drives like a very large Golf.
The VW Caddy Life is composed on bitumen and gravel.

What’s under the VW Caddy Life's bonnet?

We tested the diesel version of the VW Caddy Life. It’s good for 90kW and 320Nm, courtesy of a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. That power is transmitted to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

There’s also the option of a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine that cranks out 84kW and 220Nm. It does require the more expensive 95RON fuel but it also comes with the advantage of owners not having to try and source AdBlue, which is required in the diesel to help minimise exhaust emissions.

Is the VW Caddy Life efficient?

Volkswagen says the diesel Caddy uses 4.9-litres/100km on the combined cycle; we saw 6.5 litres/100km in predominantly suburban running, which is close to the claimed urban usage of 5.8 litres/100km.

Petrol versions have a claimed combined consumption of 6.2 litres/100km and benefit from cylinder deactivation, which shuts down two cylinders when the Caddy is cruising on light throttle applications.


The interior of the 2021 VW Caddy Life follows the company's car design.
The VW Caddy Life's quilted seats are stylish and supportive.
The infotainment display is clear but not as large as some.

How does the VW Caddy drive?

The Caddy sits on VW’s MQB platform, which was built to accommodate the company’s passenger vehicle range.

Turning it into a basis for a light commercial vehicle (and the Caddy Life is essentially a work van with a lot of windows, more seats and an upgraded interior) involved using a rigid rear axle to keep the load space low and flat.

That hasn’t had much of an effect on the drive, with the people-mover handling like a very big Golf.

There isn’t much noise from the diesel engine, though those sitting in the back may hear a thrum over coarse-chip roads.

The VW Caddy Life is also reasonably responsive. At 1740kg the VW isn’t unduly heavy, meaning the engine isn’t stressed even when it’s loaded up with cargo or people.

The seven-speed auto shifts quickly and does a good job of holding the revs to ensure maximum torque is on tap most of the time. Owners can even entertain themselves with a Sports mode and paddle-shifters if they’re in the mood to pretend the Caddy isn’t a big shack on wheels.

The steering isn’t overly heavy and offers some feedback (unusual in this class) and it is impressively composed over bumps.

Should I buy one?

There are other dedicated people-movers that provide more interior amenity, but what they don’t do is offer the versatility of the Volkswagen Caddy.

That capacity to pull the seats in and out of the car ensures owners can use this vehicle as a family runabout during the week and then lift the requisite number of seats out to accommodate mountain bikes, kayaks or whatever on weekends.


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