Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

Update 1: Welcome to Parkers

Is this the best people carrier money can buy?

Okay, okay, I’m deeply indulging in my somewhat obscure passion for van-based people carriers now that I’m the custodian of this eye-catching Volkswagen Caravelle for the next few months, but we’re running it for good reasons.

In part, it’s because I’ve had a fascination for the Caravelle and its forebears since I was young, often whiling away an unhealthy amount of time drinking in the gloriousness of a neighbour’s purple and white second-generation version, then known as the VW Microbus.

More pragmatically, having previously run a Mercedes-Benz V-Class as well as the Vauxhall Vivaro Life more recently, I’m keen to determine which is the best of this type of vehicle.

Recently ‘my’ Vivaro went toe-to-toe with a Caravelle and the VW was found to be exceptionally good and largely justified the price differential between the two. But that comparison was over the course of a few hours – will its glister remain undimmed after half a year of motoring?

Which Caravelle have we gone for?

In order to determine just how accomplished the Caravelle is at the people carrying game, I’ve plumped for a model displaying the finery of its specification – Executive trim, with the 199hp 2.0-litre diesel engine, standard seven-speed DSG automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. Topping the range is a 4Motion four-wheel drive version of the same engine and gearbox.

Since my Caravelle was built, VW’s adjusted the mechanical specification with power now modestly upped to 204hp as part of a set of revisions to get it through the latest round of emissions regulations. In terms of real-world performance and economy, the differences are negligible.

It's a heavy wagon at 2410kg, which goes someway to explain why the 0-62mph time isn’t much to write home about at 10.1 seconds. However, as I’ll describe in forthcoming updates, the engine produces a lot of pulling power – 450Nm from just 1400rpm – meaning once you’re up to speed overtaking manoeuvres can be as swift as they are deft.

Before optional extras were added, the Caravelle Executive is already pricey at £58,071 on the road, but that price does include a wealth of standard equipment and a high level of fit and finish all round.

Some of the key pieces of kit that are included in the asking price are adaptive cruise control, an electrically heated windscreen (already proving to be a delight on freezing mornings), electric sliding side doors and tailgate, full LED lighting inside and out, three-zone climate control and VW’s fully digital Active Info Display.

It's a comfy, plush seven-seater wherever you happen to be sat in it.

Let’s have a rundown of the extras

Spending a fortune on options for the Caravelle is easier than running up a tab in a Bond Street jeweller – and its something fans of this VW, along with its Transporter van sibling, seem keen to do. You don’t need to drive far anywhere in Britain to come across one that’s been heavily modified or gussied-up.

Consequently, I didn’t feel a pang of shame for spending a small fortune on extra-cost options for my steed. In ascending price order, they comprise of:

  • Storage compartment package - £60. Two neat waste bins that sit in the front door pockets. 
  • 80-litre fuel tank - £78. An increase of 10 litres to reduce the need to visit filling stations so frequently. 
  • Woodstock black and diamond-turned 17-inch alloy wheels - £144. An upgrade in style, but not size from the standard Aracaju wheel design. 
  • High Beam Assist - £162. Upgrading the LED headlamps with automatic main beam. 

2020 Volkswagen Caravelle dashboard

  • Discover Pro navigation system - £678. This package includes internet access and streaming services. 
  • Driving profile selection (DCC Dynamic Chassis Control and Drive Select) - £1,182. Different driving modes with adaptive suspension to vary the softness or firmness of the ride quality. 
  • Premium front seat package - £1,450. Multi-way electrical adjustment of the very comfy front seats that include lumbar adjustment, three levels of heating and integral armrests on both sides of the seat. 
  • Two-tone paintwork – metallic Copper Bronze over Candy White - £2,880. Chosen simply because I think it looks bloody fabulous. 

In total those extras come to £6,634, pushing the asking price of this particular Caravelle to £64,705. Gosh.

Needless to say I’ll be keeping a close eye on resale values – as well as how useful the options proved to be – over my time with the VW.

Initial impressions are broadly positive

Every time I’ve driven a Caravelle previously I’ve been beguiled by its combination of sumptuousness and practicality. Yes, it looks like a van with windows, but it rarely feels like one.

This long-termer doesn’t feel like a mouldbreaker in that regard, and all the better for it.

It’s genuinely relaxing as a long-distance journey muncher, the interior doesn’t rattle about like in-car tinnitus when you’re the only one in it, plus the copper and white paint is a real eye-catcher – not always positively commented upon, granted, but it’d be a dull old world if we all liked the same things.

While no fault of the car, unfortunately my first few weeks with the Caravelle were blighted by both a cracked windscreen and a puncture, but the VW itself isn’t completely fault-free.

Its steering wheel has been attached a few degrees right of the straight ahead position, plus one of the interior lights has an iffy connection, only illuminating occasionally.

Very minor gripes in what’s been a very enjoyable car to settle in with.

Over the coming updates I’ll be poring over the options in more detail, examining just how flexible the interior space is and discovering more of its talents and foibles.

Mileage: 1,244

Fuel economy: 31.4mpg

Copper and white 2021 Volkswagen Caravelle rear three-quarter