This conversion fits neatly into the current downsizing trend and isn’t much of a compromise compared to running a people-carrier or an SUV as a daily-use vehicle. It’s a well-thought-out and well-built conversion at a keen price point. The Wee Camper Co Caddy is ideal for those seeking to replace a car with something more practical for making the most of precious weekend and holiday time.
Base vehicle: 2015 VW Caddy Maxi C20 Startline TDI Price from: £25,988 Berths: 2 Travel seats: 2 Length: 4.88m Width: 1.79m Height: 1.87m Payload: 400kg (estimated)
A few years ago, you had binary choices when it came to cars, motorhomes and campervans. If you didn’t want a Ducato or Transporter-sized van, your choices were limited to either a quirky car conversion – generally involving a tent mackled to an estate car – or something based on the awful Daihatsu Hijet; truly the worst campervan to drive.
Happily, your choice of campervans these days is as wide as your choice of internet broadband provider and there’s no need to compromise your driving appeal if you want a compact campervan.
Enter Wee Camper Co with their Caddy Maxi conversion, which is aimed at those folk who need a car midweek and want a proper campervan for the weekends. The crucial point with the Caddy Maxi is its size. At 4.88m long, it’s the same length as a Mondeo, slightly narrower and a little taller. Unlike most campervans that are over 2m tall, the Caddy’s 1.87m height means that it can slip under 2m height barriers in car parks, which makes some multi-storey car parks accessible, too.
Inside the cab, the angled dash and relatively low seating position are very car-like and, if it’s your first campervan experience, there would be no learning curve to get used to it.
Ergonomically, it’s like any other Volkswagen made in the last 10 to 15 years and all the controls fall easily to hand. The 1.6-litre turbo-diesel isn’t overly intrusive and the position of the pedals and gear lever are similar to a car, and you feel as if you’re sat in it rather than on it (which is the effect you get with the elevated seating position of a medium-sized van).
This particular (used) van had come direct from British Gas – hence the funky blue colour – and had covered 27,000 miles in its three years on the road, but drove as if it were a new vehicle. When you bear in mind that a similar-spec brand-new Caddy Maxi costs £20,500 unconverted, this Wee Camper Co fully converted Caddy looks a bargain at £25,988. With a set of private plates on it, you wouldn’t be aware it was a used vehicle at all!
Compared to a medium-sized van, there’s less body roll and the acceleration of the 102bhp 1.6-litre TDI engine is ample.
One decision that clearly had to be made early on in the design of this campervan was whether to go two or four-berth.
A four-berth design would mean that rear travel seats would have to be added, which would considerably compromise the lower layout. Plus a four-berth would need a roof bed to be fitted, which wouldn’t be that suitable for adults due to the pop-up roof length. So it’s a good call that Wee Camper Co decided to retain the two-berth layout, as it’s less of a compromise.
On-site setup is just about as easy as it gets – you simply release the two retaining straps and push the rear edge of the roof skywards. Gas struts take over at this point and assist the rest of the lift, but you do need to remember to not fully unhook the securing straps to make pulling it down easier when it's time to go.
In day mode, the whole side of the van is a long settee and this makes good use of the views through the twin sliding side doors and the rear barn doors.
Wee Camper Co have fully carpetted the sides of the van in Veltrim, which gives it a homely feel, but it’s the stunning wooden worktop over the kitchen pod that forms the focal point of this van.
Rather than a boring geometric section of laminate, a great slab of locally sourced willow with a pleasing live edge has been used, complete with a matching upstand. It’s a tactile delight and you can’t help but run your hands over this wonderful natural surface.
It’s practical, too, as the durable solid wood will absorb plenty of knocks and can be simply sanded back and refinished if badly damaged. It’s a great choice of material and really adds to the appeal of this compact camper.
To offset this honey-coloured wood, grain-textured cream ply laminate cabinets have been used beneath it and their boxy geometry offers great contrast to the wavy-edged worktop.
Kitchen facilities are carefully chosen to maximise the available storage space and are limited to an inset stainless-steel sink with a cold water tap (fed by a removable water tank and submersible pump), a pull-up triple 230V socket and double USB power bank, together with a 12V Waeco cool box and a double-burner alcohol-fuelled hob. The latter two items are fitted in a slide-out drawer at the leading edge of the kitchen pod. The alcohol hob is free-standing so you can either cook with the sliding door open, or use it outside on a tabletop for convivial cooking when the weather's good.
As the settee runs along the entire length of the worktop, it’s easy to prep, and it offers a lot more room than most larger campervans. A double-doored cabinet beneath houses the water tank and shelf, together with a storage basket (or whatever you want to add). It’s not wide enough to house a portable loo as the wheelarch intrudes a bit, and you’d have to consider whether it’s worth stashing one under the settee base or omitting it to save room.
By keeping the layout frill-free, the night-time set up is a doddle. Just draw all the side curtains shut on their rails and simply pull the settee base out across the aisle. The backrest cushion then fills the gap to form a 1.80m x 1.09m (5ft 11in x 3ft 7in) long bed (tall folk can overhang a bit, or there’s space to extend the bed if you don’t mind losing the access on the offside sliding door).
In normal settee mode, you could also use this as a single bed without removing any cushions and keep the central aisle clear, which could be useful for an overnighter when you’re travelling solo.
With modest kitchen storage – which you’ll soon fill with foodstuffs, crockery and kettles – the main locker is under the seat base. This is large enough to store a couple of compact folding outdoor chairs and a fold-up table along with a few other items (probably your bedding).
This is the compromise made on such a compact vehicle, but most people will probably utilise the space in the central aisle and behind the front seats by filling a couple of plastic storage boxes with their kit. (Pick waterproof boxes and you can simply decant them outside when you pitch up.) With careful packing, the central aisle is wide enough to house a couple of bicycles, too.