Volkswagen Caravelle review
If you can afford one, the Volkswagen Caravelle is a fantastic 7-seat utility vehicle for business or private use
The Volkswagen Caravelle might be based on the Transporter van but it successfully disguises those workmanlike roots with a spacious, business class interior boasting an array of advanced technology and practical features. As a means of transporting 7 adults and their luggage in comfort over long distances it has few rivals, but the Caravelle doesn’t come cheap.
The popularity of MPVs with private car buyers has waned over the last decade or so. These functional people carriers were once a common sight on the roads but the rise in popularity of 7-seat SUVs drew style-conscious family buyers away.
Today, there are far fewer MPV options to choose from as a result, and a large proportion of those that do remain are based on commercial vehicle underpinnings. The thought of running a glazed van as a family car is anathema to many people but you can’t beat these vehicles for sheer space and practicality.
The Volkswagen Caravelle sits right at the pinnacle of this van-based MPV niche, justifying its premium price tag with a spacious and versatile interior that rivals many executive saloons in terms of opulence and tech. It’s an ideal solution for luxury taxi fleets or business class airport transfers, but big families might also consider the Caravelle as a roomier alternative to that 7-seat luxury SUV they were considering.
The latest VW Caravelle is known as the 6.1 iteration, essentially a facelifted version of the model based on the T6 Volkswagen Transporter van that was launched in 2015. Changes brought in at the time of the facelift run to new headlights with little chrome ‘Caravelle’ badges that extend a few inches along into the front wings, a redesigned grille and an updated interior with the latest infotainment technology. The old hydraulic power steering system has been swapped out for an electro-mechanical set-up that allows a series of advanced driver assistance features and, according VW, also boosts fuel economy.
The Caravelle is available with a pair of 2.0-litre diesel engine options, the TDI 150 with 148bhp and the twin-turbo TDI 199 with 196bhp. Both get a 7-speed DSG automatic gearbox and while all models are front-wheel drive as standard, the more powerful engine can be ordered with 4Motion all-wheel drive if buyers feel they may need it.
Beyond that there are short and long wheelbase options plus a couple of trim levels - SE and Executive. Even the standard Caravelle SE gets 16-inch alloy wheels, a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, adaptive cruise control and, of course, the Caravelle’s rail-based seating system with its 3-seat rear bench, a table and two rotating chairs in the centre of the cabin.
You’ll pay over £47,000 for the cheapest Volkswagen Caravelle and a fully-loaded one will extend up to and over the £60,000 mark. The obvious rivals are the slightly more affordable but less salubrious Citroen SpaceTourer and Peugeot Traveller van-based MPV twins or, the Caravelle’s long-standing arch rival, the Mercedes V-Class - itself based on the Mercedes Vito panel van. As we’ve said though, the big VW could also be seen by some as an alternative to large 7-seat luxury SUVs like the Volvo XC90 and Mercedes GLS.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingIf you can afford one, the Volkswagen Caravelle is a fantastic 7-seat utility vehicle for business or private use
- 2Engines, performance and driveThe Caravelle is tuned for long distance comfort and it’s better on the motorway than it is through the corners
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsThe Caravelle is a large hefty vehicle and fuel economy returns reflect that but residual values are strong
- 4Interior, design and technologyA classy interior design and durable build quality mean the Caravelle doesn’t feel like a commercial vehicle inside
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe Caravelle’s core strength is the sheer amount of space inside it but clever design helps you make the most of all the room too
- 6Reliability and SafetyWe would expect the Caravelle’s tough van underpinnings to stand it in good stead reliability wise and it’s packed with driver aids