Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • Seats seven adults in plenty of space
  • Highly versatile interior now with extra style
  • Long-wheelbase best for luggage space

Here we come to the major reason for choosing a van-based MPV – the sheer level of practicality.

In the Caravalle’s case you get seats for seven adults as standard, configured as standard in a two-two-three layout, with both the front and middle rows seated in individual chairs, and a large bench seat for the very rear. You can opt to swap the third-row bench for two individual seats and even add an extra pair behind those on long-wheelbase models, making it an eight-seater.

For convenience, all seats behind the front two slide about on a rail system and can be removed altogether, should you suddenly find yourself needing to turn your Caravelle into a posh Transporter window van.

Be warned: the seats are heavy and removing them is a job best not tackled alone.

A lounge on wheels

The middle two chairs also swivel around to face the rear as standard, enabling you to create a lounge-style space with a face-to-face seating arrangement. This system is far more convenient than having to unclip, turn and reattach those middle row chairs, as you have to with the Mercedes-Benz V-Class and the Vauxhall Vivaro Life, plus its clones. With the included folding table (also mounted on the rails) this also allows you to hold business meetings (or family games of Monopoly) on the move.

The Caravelle’s rear cabin is a versatile space; there’s even an option to convert it for sleeping, a kind of half-way option to its cousin, the Volkswagen California camper van.

There’s plenty of head and legroom in all rows, and it’s easy enough to move between them thanks to the flat floor. There are also lots of cupholders and cubby holes throughout, plus extra-cost options siuch as waste bins and storage compartments under the third-row bench.

Not everything is perfectly concerived, though: the tilting mechanism for the middle row of seats is awkward, and moving the seats around isn't always completely straightforward - rotating the middle row may require some shuffling back and forth, for instance.

The Caravelle’s height from the ground requires you to step up into it, something those of limited mobility may need to consider, although there is a step just inside each doorway. 

Sliding doors in the back - electrically operated on Executive models - make it that bit easier to get in and out in tight car parks, although the Caravelle's height of 1950-1990mm can limit access to some multi-storeys.

Go long if you need to carry lots of luggage

Volkswagen doesn't quote official boot sizes for the Caravelle, but suffice to say if you maximise legroom in the short-wheelbase variant, room for luggage becomes limited to a few small bags.

The long-wheelbase version will easily swallow everyone’s suitcases, though, and thus is the best choice for airport transfers.

Caravelles are fitted with a roller-type of luggage cover to keep prying eyes off whatever is in the boot, but there's no added convenience of a hinged tailgate window if you're short on space behind to open the boot properly. At least on Executive models the tailgate is electrically operated as it's rather heavy.

Other interesting practicality features include a whole range of auxiliary heating systems at extra cost, allowing you to make sure your Caravelle is toasty warm for those winter school run mornings.

Is the VW Caravelle a safe family car?

  • No crash-test from Euro NCAP
  • Loaded with safety-related kit, though
  • Four-wheel drive also available

While the design of the Caravelle has inherent pluses and minuses for safety, VW has made a huge amount of safety technology available for it, especially in facelifted 6.1 guise.

On the plus side of the design, the height you sit at means you can see a long way down the road – which should theoretically give you additional time to react to any hazards. On the minus side, its size limits dynamic agility for undertaking emergency changes of direction.

Compensating somewhat for the latter is the standard electronic stability control and the system that recognises if the driver is getting tired. There are also six airbags should the worst happen. LED day-running lights, headlamps and tail lights are also available, standard on Executive models.

Euro NCAP is yet to test the Caravelle, but under the skin it is fundamentally similar to the previous model, which scored four out of five when it was crash-tested – though the procedure has been significantly upgraded since then.

You can fit four child seats using Isofix mountings inside this VW, plus there is the option of integral child seats should you wish.

Autonomous emergency braking now fitted as standard

While you initially had to pay extra for autonomous emergency braking (AEB), VW made the move to fit this technology as standard across its entire van range in May 2017.

Any Caravelle ordered after this point should therefore have AEB on-board. But if you're looking at an earlier used example be sure to check the fitted equipment list as it would only have been optional.

Extra safety technology for the Caravelle 6.1

The 6.1 facelift models have automatic crosswind assist as standard and a system that helps the driver make steering corrections in extreme situations - clever, and only made possible by the new electromechanical steering.

In addition to this, the 6.1's AEB system now recognises pedestrians and cyclists, as well as other vehicles, and is now available with lane-keeping assist, automatic parking, a side protection system (works like parking sensors, but all round the vehicle), tyre pressure monitors, rear traffic alert, trailer assist, and traffic sign recognition (where sat-nav is fitted). There's not much kit it's lacking.

Basic equipment

The basic equipment list includes equipment that is standard across all versions of the Volkswagen Caravelle.

  • ABS
  • Alarm
  • Alloy wheels
  • Body coloured bumpers
  • CD
  • Driver`s airbag
  • Electric mirrors
  • Front electric windows
  • Front fog lights
  • Heated mirrors
  • Height adjustable drivers seat
  • Isofix child seat anchor points
  • Lumbar support
  • PAS
  • Passenger`s airbag
  • Remote locking
  • Service indicator
  • Side airbags
  • Steering wheel rake adjustment
  • Steering wheel reach adjustment
  • Traction control

Equipment by trim level

To view equipment options for a specific trim level, please select from the following list:

Equipment included on some trim levels
  • 3x3 point rear seat belts
  • Air conditioning
  • Audio remote
  • Climate control
  • Cloth seat trim
  • Cruise control
  • Full size spare wheel
  • Headlight washers
  • Heated seats
  • Parking sensors
  • Partial leather seat trim
  • Sat Nav

Executive equipment

Executive standard equipment
  • Audio remote
  • Full size spare wheel
  • Heated seats
Executive optional equipment
  • 3x3 point rear seat belts
  • Air conditioning
  • Climate control
  • Cloth seat trim
  • Cruise control
  • Parking sensors
  • Partial leather seat trim
  • Sat Nav

Generation Six equipment

Generation Six standard equipment
  • Audio remote
  • Headlight washers
  • Heated seats
  • Parking sensors
  • Partial leather seat trim
  • Sat Nav
Generation Six optional equipment
  • 3x3 point rear seat belts
  • Air conditioning
  • Climate control
  • Cloth seat trim
  • Full size spare wheel

SE equipment

SE standard equipment
  • Climate control
  • Cloth seat trim
  • Full size spare wheel
SE optional equipment
  • 3x3 point rear seat belts
  • Air conditioning
  • Audio remote
  • Parking sensors