caddy - VW Caddy Camper: The best spacious & budget car camping option? Microcamper conversion review

VW Caddy Camper: The best spacious & budget car camping option? Microcamper conversion review

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caddy camper

This is the definitive Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life car camping review. Caddy camper information, dimensions and gallery. All you need to know if you are looking for a good small camper van solution. Continue reading if you want to know:

  • Can you sleep in a VW Caddy?
  • VW Caddy’s size & measurements for car camping
  • Its comfort & driving rating
  • What are the common criticisms of VW Caddy
  • How does VW Caddy compare to other car camping / microcamper cars in our database?
  • How does VW Caddy with a camping box / DIY boot jump compare to the factory-built Caddy California Camper

VW Caddy Maxi Life Camper Review Summary

Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life camper review

Lukas Cech – Nimblecamper.com

caddy maxi 1 1024x683 1 - VW Caddy Camper: The best spacious & budget car camping option? Microcamper conversion review
Boot length 190-225cm
Boot height 126cm
Storage – awesome
Comfort (interior)
Comfort (driving)
Consumption

Summary

The VW Caddy Maxi Life is one of the biggest MPVs out there and probably the best small camper van option out there. If boot size is your primary criteria – you can’t go wrong with a Caddy. The car drives good too. Where it lacks a bit is comfort – it takes after its van origins and offers a more basic interior. But it makes up for it in storage – it really has a lot of compartments all over the place. It’s not the best car to take off the road completely – but you can take it down a good enough mud road without any big problems. A very good car camping / microcamping conversion candidate, unless you are planning to drive through forests and very much offroad – or you prefer a higher class interior comfort.
VW Caddy Maxi Life is one of the top cars in our 30+ cars for car camping table.

4
PROs
  • big above head storage on top of other standard compartments
  • it is very spaciouslong and tall, easy to sit in even when converted to a camping car at the back – it’s the biggest small car you can find out there if you want size, but not a van
  • flat boot door floor (loading area – easier to put a camping box / boot jump in and out)
  • easy to maintain, no expensive or hard to get parts
  • Volkswagen quality standard & reliability
  • good price on models up to 10 years old (they still drive very well at an affordable price + will last for years to come)
  • sliding middle doors
  • middle seats can be lifted up or removed
  • you can fold the middle row of seats and keep the rear ones up – and put your feet up (or use the middle row as a table)
CONs
  • more van-like – lower interior comfort
  • louder at higher speeds
  • not a 4×4 – ok for some off-road, but not too much
  • 3rd row rear seats have to be removed, can’t be folded like in a 7 seater Sharan. On the plus side – the car is so long you might not need to remove them as there’s additional storage space behind the 3rd row of seats

How does the Caddy Maxi compare to other everyday campers?

It is in our top #3 and if you like a bit more comfort and don’t want to wait for new models like the Hyundai Staria, then it’s pretty much #1:


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The best budget car tent you can find:
ARPENAZ BASE M tent

Confirmed to fit: Sharan, Touran, Berlingo, Caddy, Partner, Kangoo, Combo
At around 100 GBP - 120 GBP, it's a bargain that does the job of a 300+ GBP tent

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Pressure solar camping shower (pumped) – 10l
£49.99

This camping shower is easy to transfer and doesn’t need to hang in the air – it has a built-in pump that lets you pressurise the chamber and shower or use it in the sink anywhere. It’s black, so the longer you leave it in the sun, the warmer the water will be (or just leave it in a hot closed car in the summer).

  • Lightweight: 870 g including the bag
  • 10 litre capacity | On/off button on the handle to prevent waste
PORTABLE CHEMICAL TOILETS FOR CAMPING - 20L

4.2/5 stars
- Clean water tank up to 50 uses - tank capacity: 16 litres - a seat with antibacterial coating, a lid and a tank that prevents odours and mould

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Small, foldable and sits 4 with plenty of space for food preparation
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Is VW Caddy Maxi Life a good car for car camping?

This section focuses on assessing how does this car perform in a car camping setting – space, storage, features useful for camping, extendability (how easy it is to add car camping gear).

Key information

  • Car type: MPV/Minivan
  • Make: Volkswagen
  • Folded seats boot length (cm): 225 (might need to remove the rear seats to achieve that, otherwise still a good 190cm)
  • Boot openning height (cm): 126
  • Boot width (cm): 155 (2nd row doors) / 117 (trunk)
  • avg MPG (US): 31.6
  • avg l/100km consumption: 7.4
  • EURO NCAP safety rating (2015) 4/5
  • ADAC Rating (lower = better) 2.3/5

External reviews (not focused on camping)
HonestJohn.co.uk rating 3/5 • Autoexpress.co.uk rating: 2/5* • Carbuyer.co.uk rating: 3.8/5

Average external rating: 2.9/5

ADAC rating: GOOD – 2.3 out of 5 (lower = better)

*(might be a fluke, as it scored above 3 in all areas, yet they gave it 2/5 in total – see and decide for yourself)

So to answer your question:

Can you sleep in a VW Caddy?

I say: Hell yeah you can! It’s big and tall and long… and a great candidate for a DIY microcamper conversion.

The VW Caddy Maxi Life is a very good car for car camping – it’s the second most spacious MPV out there, only beaten in size by Chrysler Grand Voyager (which scores lower on all other fronts). Its level of comfort is lower compared to a VW Sharan (f.e. no armrest for the driver – although the Comfortline version does have it), but the rest is very similar – like mileage and maintenance costs. It’s also well priced – especially 5-10 years old models that were well kept – to be found at 10,000 – 14,000 GBP. It’s not an offroad car so don’t expect a thrilling offroad ride, yet still, you can take it down a not too steep/rough dirt track or through a meadow.

VW Caddy Dimensions & Storage

  • Folded seats boot length (cm): 225 (might need to remove the rear seats to achieve that, otherwise still a good 190cm)
  • Boot openning height (cm): 126
  • Overall height (cm): 183
  • Overall length (cm): 450 (Standard), 487,8 (Maxi)
  • Overall width (cm): 179,3

The Caddy Maxi is the longest small car we’ve seen – you won’t realize it until you actually see the 3 rows of seats in front of you and then still plenty of trunk space behind them.

image 16 - VW Caddy Camper: The best spacious & budget car camping option? Microcamper conversion review

Good storage in the front – aside from the standard passenger’s side glove compartment, there’s one in the middle/top of the dashboard, two cup holders. One of the biggest winds of VW Caddy is the overhead storage.

In the middle, there are good size side storage compartments you’d expect in the door. Similar two are next to the 3rd row of seats with cup holders + there are 2 side compartments in the trunk too:

image 11 - VW Caddy Camper: The best spacious & budget car camping option? Microcamper conversion review
image 5 - VW Caddy Camper: The best spacious & budget car camping option? Microcamper conversion review

What will also come in very handy when car camping in the Caddy are the wide and flat surfaces on both sides of the boot – easy to keep things when the car isn’t moving. A great solution considering that all cars could have it, yet for some reason their design is tilted towards the inside (like in a VW Sharan):

image 12 - VW Caddy Camper: The best spacious & budget car camping option? Microcamper conversion review

Electric sockets – 12V outlets

There are two 12V outlets:

  • one in the front (the image below is from a 2016 model – older ones probably won’t have a USB port)
  • one in the middle compartment facing middle row of seats

See more in these VW Caddy Maxi detailed specifications on car.info.

Recommended video review (interior & exterior):

Is VW Caddy Maxi Life a good car for driving?

This can get very subjective – you can see more detailed reviews on these websites:

HonestJohn.co.uk rating 3/5 • Autoexpress.co.uk rating: 2/5* • Carbuyer.co.uk rating: 3.8/5

*(might be a fluke, as it scored above 3 in all areas, yet they gave it 2/5 in total – see and decide for yourself)

The Caddy is a big winner in terms of space and storage – it’s not as comfy as a Sharan (but it’s comfy enough) and you can pack all the camping gear in the world into it. It is very often used for DIY car camping conversions and you will find a lot of third party camping boxes & kits for it too. There’s even a VW made Caddy Beach that’s ready-made for car camping including a car bed and window storage kits – but it will set you back at least 18,000€ (used) + it’s actually shorter, so you’re paying a lot for the car bed and less room. You are better off buying a used Caddy Maxi Life and build your own or buy a cheap car bed solution.

The car is still quite lively considering its size. The consumption for a car this size is pretty good – Fuelly reports a range between 7 and 7.5 across 56 vehicles.

Maintenance costs are about average – it’s not such a fancy car, so no fancy maintenance costs – nothing you wouldn’t expect from a medium-range family car.

Compared to other cars we’ve looked atWV Caddy is in the lead (together with VW Sharan and Seat Alhambra). The only bigger car is the Chrysler Grand Voyager (which scores lower on all other fronts) and then only standard vans (no windows at the back). Therefore in terms of size – this is as good as it gets for car camping in a standard car. Overall, the Caddy is a good all-rounder if you prefer space when camping over more comfort whilst driving.

Recommended car tent / awning & camping gear

arpenaz base m car tent
The best budget car tent you can find
+ it fits Sharan / Berlingo & similar MPVs like a glove:
ARPENAZ BASE M tent
See how it fit’s my Sharan 2013 in this full review + video

Confirmed to fit: Sharan, Touran, Berlingo, Caddy, Partner, Kangoo, Combo
At around 100-120 GBP / , it’s a bargain that does the job of a 300+ GBP tent

BUY NOW
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Or see my full review here
foldable camping table and chairs
Small, foldable and sits 4 with plenty of space for food preparation

Works best for two people camping trip (tested it myself!) – very light, easy to fold and transport, sturdy enough at this price range.

£59.99 – BUY NOW
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6 person inflatable tent
Inflatable luxury for 6 people (3 bedrooms)
+ 170cm opening for any tailgate

Fits MPVs, SUVs, Bedrooms:140×210 cm | Stand-up living room:7,1 sqm with zipped basin groundsheet
Fresh fabric: reduces heat inside your tent in the sun

BUY NOW
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VW Caddy Maxi Life car camping & microcamper conversions photo gallery

Need more? There are over 1000 images here, and over 600 here – indulge yourself!

VW Caddy California vs DIY VW Caddy Life camper conversion

If you Google “VW Caddy camper” you might see various results – some talking about the standard Caddy and its conversions to a camper, whether using a ready-made camping box (boot jump) or a DIY conversion (like this review). But there’s also a factory-built Caddy California Camper.

Is it worth bothering with a DIY conversion if you can buy a complete camper? Let’s dig into it.

I have compared the VW Caddy Life with the VW Caddy California (SWB – short and LWB – Maxi versions). I have excluded the van version as their interior features & comfort are too different. The Caddy Life is very close to Caddy California in terms of standard features except for the special camping ones that the California brings to the table.

The short answer is – it’s cheaper and more flexible (customisable) to get a used VW Caddy and a camping box or a DIY camping conversion. It’s hard to find any official VW Caddy Camper used cars (but you can find some used custom conversions for sale). The VW Caddy Camper California is good if you have no time, but enough money – and don’t mind not having custom made features (it does come with plenty out of the box, or there’s a +1000 GBP add ons package).

For the long answer, see my full comparison:
VW Caddy Camper (California) vs Caddy camper conversion / boot jump

Conclusion

If I was to buy a car for camping, it would definitely be a VW Caddy Maxi Life. It’s good enough in terms of comfort but it wins big time in terms of boot space it offers. And most camping boxes you can find are made to fit the Caddy.

Autotrader.co.uk offers a wide selection of used cars – new or older at a range of prices that will fit any buyer. Prices start at around £4,000.

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