Volkswagen Caravelle review
The practical VW Caravalle can comfortably transport seven people, with good drivability and handling
The T5 platform has sold over one million models since its launch in 2003, and VW isn’t ready to rest on its laurels just yet. With its choice of
chassis lengths, gearboxes, engines and specifications, the Volkswagen Caravelle is ideal for those needing space for seven plus baggage. The facelifted Transporter is a workman’s favourite, while the California campervan is perfect for weekend getaways.
Our choice: 2.0 TDI 140 PS SE DSG
Volkswagen has carried over the family face that is instantly recognisable from the Polo, Golf and Sharan. The boxy van-derived shape is hard to disguise, but in darker colours the Caravelle hides its bulk well. Alloy wheels and chrome trim on the exterior mark the VW out as a premium choice. It’s easy to get comfortably seated behind the wheel but the driving position leaves a little to be desired – you feel as if you’re sat on top of the car rather than in it - though you’re rewarded with excellent visibility. Most of the instruments and switches are shared with the Golf.
On the road, the VW Caravelle isn't sporty or agile, but there’s not as much body roll as you’d expect given the its high-sided proportions. The 2.0-litre 138bhp engine provides adequate pace, but if you feel the need to make more rapid progress, you can look at the 178bhp BiTDI unit. Wind noise at motorway speeds is quite noticeable. You’ve got a choice of two gearboxes – a six-speed manual or the excellent DSG automatic, which provides smooth acceleration and seamless changes. Be careful of the options list – you can easily push the price far beyond the basic model.
Aside from the huge number of airbags onboard, the Caravelle has anti-lock brakes, a traction control system and an electronic stability system – all of which help it get a four-star Euro NCAP rating. If you want more security in slippery conditions, you can opt for the four-wheel-drive 4MOTION version. Volkswagen scored well in our latest Driver Power reliability survey and many of the components fitted to the Caravelle have been tried and tested elsewhere in the line-up.
The Caravelle's selling point over the Sharan is the extra space. Not only can adults fit in any of the seats, but they do so comfortably. There’s plenty of adjustment in the seat layout too, as you can slide the rear bench and the middle two seats back to vary boot space and legroom. You can also rotate the middle seats to face the rear row. The sliding doors can be operated using the key fob, as can the tailgate, while parents with small children will appreciate the ability to specify integrated child seats in the back. The rearmost row and middle two seats can be taken out to create a 5,300-litre load area.
There are two engine options available, both diesel but neither can be classified as efficient. Most models fall into the Band K tax bracket – 201-225g/km – unless you specify the range-topping 4MOTION four-wheel-drive version. Expect to see fuel returns between 34.4mpg and 36.7mpg for the 138bhp model, and between 36.2mpg to 32.1mpg for the higher-powered 178bhp BiTDI engine, depending on the gearbox.