2022 Volkswagen Caddy people mover review

  • Doors and Seats
  • Engine
  • Engine Power
  • Fuel
  • Manufacturer
  • Transmission
  • Warranty
  • Ancap Safety

You may not think of the Volkswagen Caddy as your first pick when it comes to moving people. With the release of the new Caddy people mover, Volkswagen has a family-friendly contender on its hands, as Trent Nikolic finds out.

  • Unexpectedly fun to drive
  • Comfortable and practical
  • Compact exterior is handy in the city

  • Digital radio was patchy, even in the city
  • Second-row leg room is tighter than we’d like
  • Some of the controls are tricky to use on the move

At launch, we’re testing the 2022 Volkswagen Caddy 5 People Mover Life Maxi TDI320 auto – to be official.

Pricing for the high-grade Caddy Life starts from $49,990 before on-road costs, and the base-model people mover – simply called Caddy – which sits below this one, starts from $45,490 also before on-road costs. You can read the full pricing and specification breakdown in our guide, which also lists the details for the workhorse Caddy Cargo variants.

Both people mover variants use the same, longer ‘Maxi’ body style to deliver as much space as possible. Standard equipment in the base model includes removable second and third rows, child seat anchor points on all seats except the driver’s, an 8.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 17-inch steel wheels, halogen headlights, cloth seat trim, power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, power windows, a multi-function driver’s display, analogue gauges, and a manually dimmable rear-view mirror.

Step up to the Life model grade as we’re testing here, and you also get automatic headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, black roof rails, ‘Trialog’ cloth trim, a digital instrument cluster, push-button start, heated side mirrors with power folding, dual-zone climate control, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

While the Caddy Life tested here is undeniably a people mover, it doesn’t look like a typical van or bus. There are even standard 17-inch or optional 18-inch wheels, and there’s a broad and eye-catching colour palette that works well with the signature and recognisable Volkswagen design DNA. Our tester is attractive in its Starlight Blue exterior colour.

Key details 2022 Volkswagen Caddy 5 People Mover
Price (MSRP) $49,990 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Starlight Blue
Options Metallic paint – $1100
Price as tested $51,090 plus on-road costs ($56,395 drive-away, NSW)
Rivals Kia Carnival | Hyundai Staria | Honda Odyssey

The seating is obviously the big-ticket item when it comes to the Caddy people mover, so let’s look at that aspect first. Keep in mind, the Caddy can’t match the accommodation offered by the segment-leading Kia Carnival, for example, as the Kia is a physically larger vehicle.

Perhaps more people mover buyers, especially those of you who live in the city, should be looking at the Caddy. Even if it’s not among the obvious choices, its flexibility makes it a solid option.

The Caddy’s party trick is how easily you can morph it into a de facto cargo van. The third row is easy to remove entirely, and the seats aren’t ridiculously heavy once you free them either.

Once they are out of the equation, 446L of cargo space behind the third row stretches out to 1720L up to the second row. You’ve got a properly flat floor as well, which is handy if you’re loading and unloading heavy items.

The load opening is broad thanks to the design of the tailgate, and it means you can load wide boxes or items in easily. The second row tumbles forward up against the front seats, and you then open up a hefty 3105L of space. While the Caddy in this guise, therefore, does its best work as practical family transport, it doubles as a pretty damn handy van into the bargain.

The switchgear and control centre of the Caddy are conspicuous by their absence. Cleverly designed controls, similar to those found in the Volkswagen Golf range, clean up the look and feel of the front part of the cabin.

The two front seats are sculpted, comfortable and feature adjustment that will see most drivers and passengers in the position they prefer. An overhead storage shelf borrows from the tradie or delivery driver brief, and is handy for items you might want to keep out of sight or out of the sun.

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The gear selector is tiny, and a smart move we think, affording plenty of console space for phones, wallets, keys and smaller items.

Plenty of manufacturers try to do something tricky with shifter design and placement, but Volkswagen has nailed it with this one. Front seat passengers – in addition to the storage around the shifter – get two cupholders that aren’t in the way if you do need to access the shifter, large door pockets, and bottle holders that can accept a big 1.5L water bottle.

Into the second row and the sliding doors are pleasingly light in their operation, despite being tall and long. That makes them easy to open and not too heavy for the kids when they need to jump in and out. They open out a little but retract back neatly close to the body of the Caddy, so they won’t cop (or inflict) carpark damage too easily.

The second row is tight for taller adults in terms of leg room, but that’s likely to be an issue behind a tall driver rather than on the passenger side. The second row doesn’t slide fore and aft, but the backrest is adjustable to suit.

There’s plenty of head room into the second row, though, and passengers get air vents, quality LED lighting, door pockets and bottle holders. Clever foldable tables are a noteworthy addition, but keep in mind you won’t want to load them up with too much weight.

What looks like occasional seating into the third row is actually quite deceptive. With the second-row seat back flipped forward, access is easy enough, and there’s enough leg room for two adults to sit back there comfortably.

Like the second row, there is a surfeit of head room in the third row. Occupants get bottle holders, cupholders and storage shelves as well.

The cargo space has a hard luggage cover that you lift manually, and by that I mean it doesn’t lift up with the door. The door itself is both wide and tall, and needs some space to hinge out, but the positive is that it lifts high and then protects you from the rain or sun if you’re using it as shelter while you load and unload the boot.

There’s a full-size spare under the floor, which is a must for family buyers the way I see it, and more quality LED lights are mounted into the tailgate that illuminate the area underneath you.

2022 Volkswagen Caddy 5 People Mover
Seats Seven
Boot volume 446L 3rd row up / 1720L 2nd row up / 3105L 1st row up
Length 4853mm
Width 1855mm (2100mm including mirrors)
Height 1836mm
Wheelbase 2970mm

Infotainment and Connectivity

The 8.25-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system is a good one, easy to use, responsive and clear. You also get two USB-C ports for the front row, and one conventional 12V port as well. In addition, there are two USB-C ports in the second row.

USB-C is only an annoyance the first time you get in the car with a regular USB cable – par for the course when you jump from one vehicle to another as often as we do in testing. In reality, a USB-C connection helps future-proof new cars just a little as the standard for the current generation of phones and devices.

DAB radio is also standard, and we found CarPlay to work well on test. A quick test of Bluetooth indicated that was also clear. The driver faces a 10.0-inch high-res digital instrument screen, which can be controlled either via the touchscreen or the steering-wheel-mounted controls. The cabin gets quality LED lighting as well.

Standard driver assistance technologies include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, lane-centring assist, lane-change assist, front and rear blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, driver attention monitor, and seven airbags including a front centre airbag.

The Life model also gets adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go), Travel Assist (combining adaptive cruise control, lane-centring assist for semi-autonomous driving on motorways), semi-autonomous park assist, front and rear parking sensors, and a seat-occupied recognition system.

At the time of writing, the Volkswagen Caddy range had not been crash-tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP.

2022 Volkswagen Caddy 5 People Mover
ANCAP rating Untested

Volkswagen is offering a five-year service plan for the Caddy for the price of three years. That’s $1300 for the first five years or 75,000km, which is genuinely sharp in a competitive market.

With services required every 12 months or 15,000km, the Caddy 5 won’t be off the road too often. Volkswagen’s warranty covers five years/unlimited kilometres.

Volkswagen claims 4.9L/100km on the combined cycle, and the efficient diesel works well in the traffic too. We used 6.2L/100km on an engine that wasn’t even run in, and largely around town.

On the highway, the live figure dropped into the low 5s. Family buyers looking to minimise their people mover fuel use will like the frugal way the Caddy 5 gets to work.

At a glance 2022 Volkswagen Caddy 5 People Mover
Warranty Five years / unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months / 15,000km
Servicing costs $1300 (5 years)
Fuel cons. (claimed) 4.9L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 6.2L/100km
Fuel type Diesel
Fuel tank size 50L

There’s plenty to enjoy about a punchy 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine around town, and the Caddy, while not offering big numbers on paper, gets around town with some zest. With 90kW and 320Nm it gets cranking smartly enough in concert with the snappy seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (DCT). Volkswagen has done a solid job of tuning out most of the hesitation and lack of refinement that early DCTs had issues with, and this is a good one.

The tall roof line and broad glass house mean visibility is excellent from the main seats, and the driver has a commanding view of the road ahead. Despite the fact that the Caddy seats seven people in practical comfort, it doesn’t feel as big as it is from behind the wheel, where it retains a Golf-like ability to dart around town.

Note I wrote ‘Golf-like’ and not ‘Golf-identical’. There are plenty of positives, though, in a people mover that doesn’t feel much like the expected norm for the class.

The ride is firm unladen, but smooths out the more passengers you add. That makes sense given the suspension has to be designed with a full load in mind, so take that into account if you spend most of your time four-up, for example, with two of those occupants being kids. The ride is firm, then, but not harsh or uncomfortable.

There’s a big difference between this Caddy and the outgoing model – thanks largely to the platform beneath it. Based on the same MQB underpinnings as the Golf, there’s responsive steering, proper balance, and confidence in the way the Caddy reacts to the surface beneath it.

Decent grip and the ability of the handling are a little at odds with the people mover segment, and match those to the neatly weighted steering and solid body control, and you have a practical van that is also enjoyable to drive. Little bit of a surprise there, to be completely honest.

On the highway at 110km/h, there’s a little bit of tyre noise on coarse-chip surfaces only, and some wind noise from the mirrors or base of the windscreen. Not too much, though, and the Caddy eats up a long highway drive with ease. If you can only justify one car and you like a road trip with the family, the Caddy will do the job easily.

Key details 2022 Volkswagen Caddy 5 People Mover
Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power 90kW @ 2750-4250rpm
Torque 320Nm @ 1500-2500rpm
Drive type Front-wheel drive
Transmission Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Power to weight ratio 51.7kW/t
Weight (kerb) 1740kg
Tow rating 1500kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Turning circle 12.1m

Sharp pricing, signature Volkswagen build quality, and a robust standard feature list mean that the Caddy should be on your list if you’re looking for a people mover.

The Kia Carnival remains the segment standout as it has since release, but the Caddy offers a compelling alternative for those looking for more ‘van-like’ flexibility. The Caddy’s ability to double as a useful van is a real point-scorer for me, and something I’d value as a buyer.

It’s a good thing to drive, efficient and comfortable. It carries over plenty of the features we like from the Golf. You might not have thought of it as an obvious people mover, but it is indeed a good one.

Ratings Breakdown

2021 Volkswagen Caddy TDI320 Life Wagon

8.0/ 10

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Infotainment & Connectivity

Trent Nikolic has been road testing and writing about cars for almost 20 years. He’s been at CarAdvice/Drive since 2014 and has been a motoring editor at the NRMA, Overlander 4WD Magazine, Hot4s and Auto Salon Magazine.

Read more about Trent Nikolic