Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • Bristling with the latest gadgets
  • Loads of storage space
  • You won’t feel short-changed

The Caravelle is largely a comfortable vehicle to drive – there’s a good range of adjustment in the steering and seating positions, and you sit very high so get a great view of the road ahead.

However, it is something of a ‘bus-like’ driving position, meaning that the steering wheel and instruments are generally more horizontal and lower than in a conventional car. We didn’t find it difficult to get used to this, but the Vauxhall Vivaro Life and its close cousins feel more ‘normal’ in this respect.

Copper 2020 Volkswagen Caravelle dashboard

Quality of materials is up to the usual high Volkswagen standard. Instrumentation is also very clear, with easy-to-read analogue dials on T6 models and now VW’s 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit display fitted as standard on the 6.1 Executive.

Buttons on the steering wheel and the dashboard are clearly labelled and easy to understand.

Copper 2020 Volkswagen Caravelle Active Info Display

The updated dashboard for the 6.1 facelift is also much sleeker and stylish to look at, making the Caravelle feel more like a car and less like a van. However, it also shared with the Transporter van, while Mercedes gives the V-Class car something altogether more upmarket than its Vito commercial vehicle twin.

In other words, you are unlikely to feel short-changed compared with buyers of regular VW cars, aside from a complete absence of squidgy soft-touch plastics.

Given the amount of useful storage dotted through the cabin, and particularly in the immediate vicinity of the driver, you might even come to feel rather smug about your big ‘van’…

Latest VW multimedia kit for 6.1

The Caravelle can be equipped with all VW’s contemporary infotainment kit, too – meaning that alongside the easy-to-use touchscreen sat-nav options, available with traffic alerts and dynamic routing to avoid the worst jams, it also offers a significant amount of smartphone integration.

VW has its own suite of apps that go with this, designed to offer additional entertainment and improve your driving.

For the 6.1 version, this goes further still, with VW’s newest MIB3 infotainment getting a ‘Hey Volkswagen’ voice control system, a proximity sensor for some modest hands-free ‘gesture control’ functionality, and a built-in SIM card for connectivity.

Copper 2020 Volkswagen Caravelle multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay

When used with the Volkswagen We Connect smartphone app, this means you can check the Caravelle’s health and fluids remotely, as well as locate it – although given its size it probably won’t be difficult to spot in a car park.

Upgrade to We Connect Plus, and you also get a remote lock and unlock feature via your phone, as well as additional anti-theft features.

The 6.1 infotainment also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Its use of newer USB Type C sockets dotted around the interior may be a pain for older smartphone users, though adaptors are readily available.

Impressive passenger comfort

  • Comfortable seats for up to eight
  • Rear cabin feels very spacious
  • Adaptive suspension worth the extra cost

While it is most certainly quieter than the equivalent van, the original T6 Caravelles are not on a par with the hushed experience you get inside many modern cars. Engines are loud when accelerating, and there’s more wind and road noise than you get in some more conventional people carriers.

But the seats are comfortable front and rear, the floor is flat throughout so no-one has to put up with straddling a transmission tunnel, and there’s good visibility for every passenger.

Copper 2020 Volkswagen Caravelle middle row seats

Owing to the need to combat bodyroll in corners, the suspension on original T6 models is on the stiff side, too, and these Caravelles tend to batter their way over lumpy surfaces rather than smooth them out. It’s far from unbearable, however, and the trade-off is well worth the stability the firm suspension brings at speed.

Our experiences with the improved 6.1 suggest VW has managed to make the facelifted Caravelle quieter and a little more compliant. The cabin can be made even more hushed with laminated driver and front passenger windows, essentially double-glazing them.

Adaptive suspension can be difficult to justify if you have no experience of it; insist on being able to test drive models with and without it rather than simply deciding not to bother. We rate it highly, although having 15 positions between the softest and firmest settings is overkill when three would do. Not only is bodyroll kept in check, but road imperfections are dealt with impressively, with only low-speed obstacles such as sharp speed bumps feeling on the harsh side.  

For details of the seating positions inside the rear of the Caravelle see the Practicality section of this review. It’s spacious and airy back there, even without a panoramic glass roof option that rivals are able to provide.

All of the rear side windows have retractable roller blinds to shade passengers, while the Executive features darkened privacy privacy glass, although the tint isn’t as extreme as you’ll find in its Vauxhall rival. 

Comfort is further enhanced by ceiling-mounted air-vents in the rear for the heating and air conditioning system. No matter where you’re sat, it’s highly likely you will feel short-changed.

Copper 2020 Volkswagen Caravelle third row bench seats