Loads of space and surprising amount of grace
- Hugely spacious, practical and versatile
- Surprisingly good to drive
- Van-based underpinnings should last well
- Choice of powerful petrol and diesel engines
- Short- and long-wheelbase options
- Not cheap (but worth it)
- Finding suitable parking can be tricky
- Not the most composed ride
- Less refined than conventional MPVs
- Limited active safety options
The Volkswagen Caravelle is a large people carrier. In fact, large is under-selling it a bit, because the Caravelle is based on the VW Transporter medium van – meaning that in MPV terms it not only has enough room for up to seven adults inside, it also has space for plenty of luggage.
These kinds of vehicles are often popular with taxi firms and hotels for this reason – though with a vast options list and such a cleverly thought-out interior the Caravelle also makes for a very practical family car, while the quality of finish inside is ideal for executive transport where space is of paramount concern.
You can even arrange the rear seats in a face-to-face, lounge-style configuration and hold a meeting on the move. The degree of thought and level of quality make the Caravelle the car to beat in this class, ahead of more workaday rivals such as the Ford Tourneo Custom, and we’d pick one over the Mercedes V-Class as well.
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise once you learn that the underlying Transporter van is now in its sixth generation – VW has been building these things for a long time and it shows in the attention to detail throughout. It’s no wonder you see so many customised versions on the UK’s roads, obviously the pride and joy of their owners.
Engine and trim choices
The latest Caravelle, which was launched in 2015, is available with 150hp and 204hp petrol and diesel engines and comes in two wheelbases so you can balance cost against your space requirements. There’s also of a choice of both manual and automatic gearboxes, plus front- and four-wheel drive, depending on engine and specification level.
Two standard trim levels are offered: SE and Executive. A very fancy special edition called the Generation Six was also offered for a short while; easily spotted by its two-tone paintwork. These were aimed at enthusiasts and came with a premium price tag to match their premium appearance. Not that any version of the Caravelle is particularly cheap, mind (VW does sell a people-carrying version of the Transporter called the Shuttle if you’re looking for a more budget choice).
Surprisingly good to drive, interesting options
Given those van underpinnings, buyers are best not to expect this Volkswagen to be quite as nice to drive as a car-based seven-seater MPV – such as the Ford Galaxy, Citroen Grand C4 Picasso or even the VW Sharan and SEAT Alhambra. However, with that proviso, you may be pleasantly surprised at just how easy these big vehicles are to handle. The high driving position delivers great visibility, the engines are powerful, and you can even add three-stage adaptive suspension as an option.
As you’d expect, all the latest VW infotainment systems are available in the Caravelle, while other interesting options include a Good Night Package (window blinds, bed covering, shelves, mini flashlight and waste bin), a 32-litre cooling/warming box, and a selection of auxiliary heating systems. It is a highly versatile machine.