The Freelander heads to Eastnor for a real test of its off-road ability
Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Camper review (2013 onwards)
Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Camper: summary
Just like its road cars, VW’s Caddy Maxi Camper is brilliantly engineered, providing simple solutions to problems at an affordable price.
What: Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Camper
Where: Cholmondeley Pageant of Power, England
Date: June 2013
Available: On sale now
Key rivals: From the factory, none…
We like: Efficiency, ease of use, interior space, bed surprisingly comfortable
We don’t like: Unsettled ride over some surfaces, divisive colour
Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Camper at the 2013 Cholmondeley Pageant of Power
Picture the cogs wiring away in the minds at MSN Cars when we were invited to the 2013 Cholmondeley Pageant of Power a few weeks back and realised that over the same period, we had a Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Camper van coming. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what the outcome was…
We didn’t even have any aches and pains in the morning
So, the Thursday evening before the event, I made the trudge up the M6 with my brother with a view to us pitching up at Cholmondeley and enjoying three days of automotive action in the Cheshire countryside.
That’s how it went, sort of. A saturated Friday (albeit with a few short sunny spells) turned into a drier Saturday with plenty of great on-track festivities to witness – but despite the weather, the Camper was flawless.
Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Camper: camping in a Caddy
To the untrained eye, it might look like a very brightly coloured Caddy van (which we have been partial to at MSN Cars before), but this is far from it. If the massive ‘Camper’ stickers didn’t give it away, inside you’ll find seating for five, a snazzy interior, and a massive boot occupied by a folding bed – it’s a thoroughly modern version of VW’s original split-window Beetle-engined offering from the 1950 and ‘60s.
That’s good news, as it meant in the damp at the Pageant, it proved superbly easy to deploy – fold the rear seats forward and the bed then unravels to reveal a sizeable sleeping area. It’s easily long enough for two near-six-foot tall guys, but things do get a little cosy around the shoulder area due to the width, even when in sleeping bags.
That trade-off is a result of the Caddy’s curtains. Yes, it genuinely has a full wrap-around veil, which neatly hangs by Velcro and a few hard points to the car’s interior. There’s also a separate blind for the rear screen, so early morning light doesn’t disturb your sleep and you can keep some privacy on the campsite.
There’s also an awning that hangs from the rear tailgate, which – just like the bed – is superbly easy to put up
There’s plenty of space to tuck away your clothes and keep the Camper clutter free thanks to what amounts to two on-board wardrobes. Bags can be stored under the bed when in its slumber configuration, too.
It all makes it very easy to convert from car to camper and has been designed and engineered with VW’s customary vein of engineering integrity and usability throughout.
So, with the rain pattering on the rooftop, we both fell asleep without any grumbles – testament to the comfort afforded by the mattress in the back of VW’s van. We didn’t even have any aches and pains in the morning and were ready for another full day at the track.
Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Camper: usability, choosability
The Caddy gives you options. For a very reasonable £26,517, you get a coolbox with a refrigerator unit powered from the 12V socket, prolonging the coolness of your beverages, as well as a table and two chairs.
The 140hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel motor is strong – 0-62mph comes up in a respectable 10.9 seconds
There’s also an awning that hangs from the rear tailgate, which – just like the bed – is superbly easy to put up. It hangs from poppers on the boot and pegged out it gives enough room to sit inside should an impromptu shower catch you unawares. Which it did. There’s even a pair of LED lights mounted on the inside of the boot that become down-lighters for the tent once it’s up.
In fact, it provided ample protection during our time in a wet field after that shower nearly put paid to our barbeque.
All-in-all, we had a rather enjoyable evening – complete with music from the slightly tinny-sounding stereo and more than enough space that meant moving around wasn’t akin to the canvas straight jacket that can be a tent, a couple of nights with the Caddy didn’t leave me with an aching back, bumps on my head where I’d banged into things, or a longing for my own bed. Praise indeed.
Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Camper: on the road
The Caddy’s spaciousness comes from its origins as a commercial vehicle, based on the largest Caddy Maxi variant – and you have to remember that when you’re on the road.
Over most surfaces the ride is good, but rippled or scarred Tarmac can mean the Caddy’s rear beam axle bounces around. It’s not particularly unsettling as the chassis reassures you there’s plenty of grip there, it’s just noisy as the rear wheels clatter around.
Apart from anything else, it’s just great fun.
It’s all the more apparent as wind, engine and road noise has been suppressed well – to the point that on a smooth motorway, it’s not really much noisier than an average family saloon. If you’re going to turn a van into a vehicle that people will spend nearly every waking moment in – and certainly every sleeping one – refinement is key, and VW has pulled it off.
Dynamically, it’s less impressive, but then again, it is a van. The 140hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel motor is strong – 0-62mph comes up in a respectable 10.9 seconds when mated to the six-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox – while a useful 236lb ft of torque means the Caddy doesn’t feel as heavy as its near 2.3-tonne kerb weight might suggest.
The same is true in the corners. The steering is on the slow side, but it isn’t sloppy. This means you do feel connected to the road and more importantly, safe and secure. It’s not a vehicle you want to be hustling through a twisty section of Tarmac though, with your possessions rattling round in the back – best to cruise on to your destination instead.
Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Camper: Caddy or canvas?
I must admit, I’m not generally a fan of camper vans. I prefer a tent. Canvas over my head just appeals more to me.
But, with the festival season upon us, our trial run with the Caddy at a wet Cholmondeley Pageant of Power proved the worth of its space, practicality and versatility. It’s a worthy successor to the original.
With all the camping equipment packed away there’s plenty of room for five and a couple of mountain bikes or road bikes, which we exploited to the full to get our total lifestyle fix from this rather cool camper.
Volkswagen is the only manufacturer to make a camper van straight from the factory – all other campers you see are converted by aftermarket companies. At £27,537 as tested, including £300 for parking sensors, £160 for privacy glass (a welcome edition on a campsite) and £560 for the satellite navigation, it actually appears rather decent value when you take into account its breadth of abilities.
Apart from anything else, it’s just great fun.
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