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Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

Loads of space, a surprising amount of grace and now even more technology

Volkswagen Caravelle (15 on) - rated 4 out of 5
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PROS

  • Hugely spacious, practical and versatile
  • Surprisingly good to drive
  • Van-based underpinnings should last well
  • Choice of powerful diesel engines
  • Short- and long-wheelbase options

CONS

  • Not cheap (but worth it)
  • Finding suitable parking can be tricky
  • Not always the most composed ride
  • Less refined than conventional MPVs
  • Thirsty if driven hard

At a glance

New price £43,083 - £55,684
Used price £20,975 - £47,920
Used monthly cost £517 - £1,182
Miles per pound 4.7 - 5.9 mpp
Fuel economy 30 - 47 mpg
Road tax cost £145 - £465
Insurance group 25 - 36 How much is it to insure?

PROS

  • Hugely spacious, practical and versatile
  • Surprisingly good to drive
  • Van-based underpinnings should last well
  • Choice of powerful diesel engines
  • Short- and long-wheelbase options

CONS

  • Not cheap (but worth it)
  • Finding suitable parking can be tricky
  • Not always the most composed ride
  • Less refined than conventional MPVs
  • Thirsty if driven hard

Volkswagen Caravelle rivals

The Volkswagen Caravelle is a large people carrier. In fact, large is underselling 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.

This version, known as thh T6 generation, was first launched in 2015, and has been substantially updated in 2019 with a facelifted exterior design, completely revised dashboard and enhance technology and safety.

VW Caravelle review - T6.1 facelift, 2019, red and silver, front view

This later model, pictured above, is known as the T6.1 and is set to reach UK dealers in March 2020. We have already driven a number of versions, however, and both the original T6 and later T6.1 inform this review.

Lots of space and clever design

With such vast space inside, these kinds of vehicles are often popular with taxi firms and hotels - though with a substantial 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.

VW Caravelle T6 interior, rear seats in lounge layout

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 posher Mercedes-Benz 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 gearbox choices

All versions of this Caravelle are powered by 2.0-litre engines.

Initial choice was limited to 150hp and 204hp TDI turbodiesels, though in July 2017 a pair of TSI turbo petrol engines with identical power outputs also joined the range, before being discontinued again in September 2018.

In summer 2018, the 204hp TDI engine was replaced by a 199hp version, in order to meet the latest emissions regulations. The T6.1 facelift continues with the 150hp and 199hp engine variants.

There’s a choice of manual and automatic gearboxes, plus front-wheel drive (FWD) and 4Motion four-wheel drive (4WD), depending on engine and specification level.

Trim levels and wheelbases

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. 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 van called the Shuttle if you’re looking for a more budget choice).

VW Caravelle T6 rear view, blue and white, Executive model, short-wheelbase

The Caravelle SE is available in short-wheelbase (SWB) and long-wheelbase (LWB) variants - both seat seven as standard, but the LWB has more room for luggage.

The Caravelle Executive only comes as a SWB model, much to the chargrin of some UK customers. Germany is stubbornly refusing to build this spec in the bigger model, even in T6.1 guise.

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 GalaxyCitroen 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, especially after the T6.1 upgrade, which now features modern electrocmechanical power steering in place of the older hydraulic system of the original T6 models.

VW Caravelle review - T6.1 facelift, 2019, red and silver, front view, driving

The high driving position delivers great visibility, the engines are powerful, and VW has even offered adaptive suspension as an option.

As you’d expect, all the usual VW infotainment systems are available in the Caravelle, with the T6.1 version upgraded to the latest MIB3 software and fitted with touchscreens that are better integrated into its more stylish dashboard.

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 an exceptionally versatile machine.

Read on to discover if the Volkswagen Caravelle is the best people carrier available.

Volkswagen Caravelle rivals