Menu

Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

Volkswagen Caddy Beach 2019 review

Big life choices. They’re a large part of what separates one person from another, and usually also what separates people from their money.

Say you had a cool $47,000 on hand, for example. One person might spend that money on a 2019 Golf GTi. Another, significantly different person, might spend it on this car, the Volkswagen Caddy Beach.

Aiming directly at the type of person with a vagabond streak, the Caddy Beach lays claim to the title of the cheapest complete camper on the market.

So, what’s in the box which makes it a ‘camper’ at all and what kind of adventure is it really suited to? I took the Caddy Beach on a camping trip to find out.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Australia’s cheapest factory camper? Despite the Golf GTi price-tag of $47,000 you might be surprised to find the Caddy Beach very much is. The next closest thing is the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo Activity which is a mouthful to say and costs a minimum of $63,627. From there you’re looking at $91,000-plus for something like a VW Transporter-based Trakkadu 340.

Flying at least $15,000 below the nearest competitor is a good start. In the box is a long wheelbase Caddy Maxi Trendline base van with 17-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, auto wipers, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, a 6.33-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, and a colour multifunction display in the dash.

The multimedia screen is on the small side, but is easy to use and supports phone mirroring. (image credit: Tom White) The multimedia screen is on the small side, but is easy to use and supports phone mirroring. (image credit: Tom White)

To make it a campervan, the Beach includes a fold-out bed in the back which is just larger than a king single, a 2.3 x 2.0 metre walk-through tent which slips over the tailgate when open,  tailor-made storage bags which fit in the rear-window cavities, two plug-and-charge removable torches which double as LED cabin lighting, privacy glass around the rear, a bag of magnetic blinds which clip to the windows, an insect-netted ventilation panel which snaps onto the sliding rear windows, and a very neat little fold-away table-and-chair set.

That’s a great set of inclusions, and it already bumps the Marco Polo Activity in some areas with a tailor-made bed (rather than just seats which fold flat or a roof-tent) and a very good multimedia offering. There are also some important safety inclusions which I’ll detail later in this review.

Bi-xenon headlamps are a nice touch, and add to the Caddy's presence on the road. (image credit: Tom White) Bi-xenon headlamps are a nice touch, and add to the Caddy's presence on the road. (image credit: Tom White)

The absence of a few items prevent the Beach from being a true long-termer and render it inferior to its pricey rivals. There’s no fridge or cooking amenities, just the one battery (don’t leave those lights running…) and, somewhat tragically, the omission of VW’s 4-Motion all-wheel drive system.

You could improve on the Beach with some minor spending, but it is ultimately designed to support singles or couples and not families.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Australia gets one impressive looking little van. The big alloys and availability of exotic paints, such as “Viper Yellow”, give the Beach a touch of upmarket presence in an otherwise rugged-looking market segment.

The Caddy Beach looks great, whether its fully deployed like so, or acting as a regular commercial van. (image credit: Tom White) The Caddy Beach looks great, whether its fully deployed like so, or acting as a regular commercial van. (image credit: Tom White)

Aside from the subtle Beach decal down the side, once packed away it's impossible to tell this Caddy apart from others on the road. Bi-xenon headlamps, privacy glass and black contrast roof-rails add to its look.

Inside, you get a slick cabin for a commercial vehicle. There’s the neat little leatherbound wheel out of a Golf, a no-nonsense four-dial instrument cluster and a nice bright multimedia screen.

At 6.33-inches, the screen is a little small, and its odd positioning below the dash draws your eyes a little too far from the road, although Volkswagen’s interface is one of the better ones on the market.

The cabin is slick for a commercial vehicle, but is not without its flaws. (image credit: Tom White) The cabin is slick for a commercial vehicle, but is not without its flaws. (image credit: Tom White)

The seats are comfortable with decent side bolstering and are trimmed in a sensible cloth trim. Don’t look too hard or you’ll notice the hard plastics when compared with the softer touch points in regular Volkswagen passenger cars.

A small irritation was how far down the centre console was. It leaves you nothing to rest your elbow on for long journeys…

How practical is the space inside?

The Caddy Beach has a very neat trick up its sleeve. Rather than committing 100% to existing as a camper, you can actually remove all the camper bits from the inside, transforming the Beach back into a regular Caddy Maxi Comfortline.

Everything comes out. The bags, the bed, the little additions – even the rear passenger seats can be removed.

It gives the Beach the unique proposition of being a legitimate work vehicle alongside its adventurous aspirations, and lets you actually use the 3880L storage space behind the front seats.

The Beach makes the most of its upright dimensions with storage areas everywhere. There’s decently-sized cupholders for front passengers in the doors and centre console, trenches for storage in the sliding side-doors for rear passengers and even strange airline trays on the back of the front seats.

Above the cockpit the tall roof has a large storage trench extending across the width of the car. Smart.

There are neat storage areas everywhere, and the camping gear packs away aesthetically. (image credit: Tom White) There are neat storage areas everywhere, and the camping gear packs away aesthetically. (image credit: Tom White)

In the back there are storage trenches lining the sides with cupholders and a single 12v port built-in. These are designed to serve you with the bed deployed and come in handy.

The bed has a set height above the floor, allowing you to stow the spare camping tidbits alongside any luggage underneath. With close access to the rear 12v outlet here, you could potentially fit a fridge underneath as well.

With the bed folded up, there’s straps and securing points for the fold-out table underneath and the chairs up against the second row of seats.

It’s aesthetically pleasing to see all the bits properly packed away. A neat piece of design.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Caddy Beach is powered by Volkswagen’s 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine.

The small unit produces just 92kW, but once you’re past a bit of turbo lag you can make use of a rather good 220Nm of torque from 1500-3500rpm so it’s not as underpowered as it sounds.

The 1.4-litre turbo has a little lag but punches above its weight when it comes to torque. (image credti: Tom White) The 1.4-litre turbo has a little lag but punches above its weight when it comes to torque. (image credti: Tom White)

The lack of immediate power can make it feel as though it surges when pushed, but the seven-speed dual-clutch transsmission is a slick shifter and does its best to smooth out sudden requests for power.

Some adventurers will be let down to know there’s no manual option. There’s also no option for all-wheel drive.

How much fuel does it consume?

The Caddy Beach has a claimed/combined fuel consumption number of 6.0L/100km. Over a week of testing which included a 460km round-trip on a coastal camping adventure, our Caddy returned a reasonable 7.4L/100km.

That’s not a bad number, and an example of what VW is trying to achieve with its small capacity turbo engines.

Sadly, the drawback is the necessity of refueling with minimum 95RON premium unleaded.

The Caddy has a 55-litre tank.

What's it like for touring?

My partner and I took the Caddy Beach on a weekend road trip, roughly 230km from our Sydney home to the Mungo Brush campground north of Newcastle.

Arriving somewhat late on the first night meant the circa 10-minute tent set-up time was a relief and allowed us to make the most of the remaining sunlight.

While the small studs along the tailgate made the tent easy enough to make sense of and put into place, my partner would probably have trouble setting it up on her own as she simply isn’t tall enough.

Setting up the bed proved easy, and it provided adequate levels of comfort for a night’s sleep. The ‘mattress’ material is essentially the same material used to line the seats. It could be made more comfortable using a foam mattress topper or similar.

The circa 10-minute set-up time beats the fiddly tedium of most tents. (image credit: Tom White) The circa 10-minute set-up time beats the fiddly tedium of most tents. (image credit: Tom White)

A humid night in the high 20-degree range revealed a few things. Firstly, the ventilation options with bug nets was a life-saver, although the air-conditioning requires the engine to be on.

I wouldn’t recommend running the engine with the tent deployed as at best you’ll melt some of the tent with the exhaust and at worst you’ll gas yourself. With no option of a heavy-duty battery, the luxury of air-conditioning is simply off the table.

The ambient lighting proved useful for finding your way around the car and tent during the night, and the addition of the removable torch is a neat little touch. There are magnetic blinds for each window which will stop light from entering or the cabin becoming too hot in the morning.

The bed will suit someone six-foot tall provided it is folded entirely flat. The front seats must be pushed forward to use this layout, as the bed sits as a kind of ‘lounge’ with the front seats in their normal position.

The bed was reasonably comfortable and could be set-up with an upright back like this or fully-flat for taller people. (image credit: Tom White) The bed was reasonably comfortable and could be set-up with an upright back like this or fully-flat for taller people. (image credit: Tom White)

It really suits the weekender niche perfectly, but its limitations for living in for much longer were evident.

There’s also no all-wheel drive or off-roading features of any kind so your access to many of Australia’s campgrounds is limited.

Even on well-graded unsealed roads the Caddy could become tiresome quickly with its rigid, leaf-sprung rear axle becoming harsh and unsettled easily.

The smart additions of active cruise control and lane keep assist really help out for long-distance travel between campgrounds.

What's it like as a daily driver?

The Beach transforms back into a daily driver entirely seamlessly. With the camping equipment folded away, the cabin provides a huge space for storage, and the second row even provides ample comfort and legroom.

The practical sliding doors and reversing camera help with tight city parking spots.

The Caddy has many golf-like characteristics behind the wheel. The steering is nice and direct, the DSG is a slick-shifter and the engine provides enough power despite a little lag.

The Beach transforms back into a passenger vehicle with great comfort for five occupants in no time at all. (image credit: Tom White) The Beach transforms back into a passenger vehicle with great comfort for five occupants in no time at all. (image credit: Tom White)

Active cruise made Sydney’s many freeways a breeze, although the lane keep assist – while a welcome addition – could at times be a little overzealous around roadworks.

The suspension is great when you’re sticking to the good tarmac, and the engine may as well be silent. Despite the large 17-inch alloys, road noise wasn’t too bad either.

Apart from the minor inconvenience of having to take the camping gear out, the Beach has no downsides for every-day life over a regular long-wheelbase Caddy.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Caddy Beach comes with a surprising array of active safety items. As well as the already-mentioned active cruise control and lane keep assist, the Beach also scores city-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) and driver attention alert (DAA). Not bad for a commercial vehicle.

Passive refinements include the expected electronic stability aids as well as dual front airbags, dual side airbags and dual curtains for the second row.

The Beach has some extra necessities, such as a reversing camera and sensors, a hill-hold system and a full-size spare which is realistically a safety item for long-distance travellers.

Long-wheelbase versions of the Caddy do not carry ANCAP safety ratings, but their short-wheelbase equivalents carry a maximum five-star rating from 2015 onwards.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Volkswagen has recently upgraded its warranty permanently to five-years/unlimited kilometres. That’s on par with most regular cars and given the Beach is a factory camper package, saves you the effort of having to deal with a second third-party warranty provider for the camper bits.

VW offers an up-to-date warranty and decent service pricing. (image credit: Tom White) VW offers an up-to-date warranty and decent service pricing. (image credit: Tom White)

Volkswagen covers the Caddy with an “Assured Service cost” program which averages out to $523.20 per yearly 15,000km service intervals for the life of the warranty.

The Caddy Beach is perfectly suited to the niche it caters for, the adventurous weekender single or couple who aren’t committed enough to the lifestyle to require off-road ability.

It has obvious limitations as a long-distance or long-term tourer, but with the ability to transform itself from a full camp set-up to basically a trade vehicle in a matter of minutes, it has an allure of versatility that’s simply outside the scope of more committed factory campers.

Do you think the Caddy Beach is an interesting choice in the camper market, or are all-wheel drive and food-prep amenities a must? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

$46,990

Based on new car retail price

Daily driver score

3.9/5

Adventure score

3.5/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

Price Guide

$46,990

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data