With seven-seater MPVs becoming a dying breed, lots of people are looking for an alternative that isn’t an SUV. Step, or roll, forward the Volkswagen Caravelle. If you’ve been in one before chances are it’s been a taxi taking you, your family and your luggage to the airport, but it makes for a great form of personal transport too.
There’s no disguising the fact that the Caravelle is based on the VW Transporter van. Luckily, as vans go, it’s quite a stylish one and the glass-sided version shares its looks.
There have been various versions of the Caravelle to date and each one has been a distinct refinement on the last. The most recent modifications have been slight changes to the grille and the addition of name badges to the front wings.
There’s also quite a wide range of paint colours so a little searching around should find plenty of options to suit your personal taste. The Caravelle is also available in long and short-wheelbase versions, and both are very spacious inside.
There’s no disguising the fact that the Caravelle is based on the VW Transporter van.
What’s it like to drive?
Ok, so it’s never going to be like driving an MPV such as the Ford Galaxy. it’s not like you’re rattling around in a van either. VW has included lots of features that have made it surprisingly composed on the road and the more of these you can find in your used model the better.
Adaptive suspension is definitely an option to look for. This gives you no less than 15 different levels to choose from, overkill maybe but definitely worth it. Electromechanical steering on more recent models is also a great addition giving more precision and feel to the way that the Caravelle drives.
Adaptive suspension is definitely an option to look for.
You’re probably not thinking about the Caravelle for its exterior appearance, so you’ll be pleased to hear that its interior is all that you could hope for and more.
Once you get used to the slightly bus-like feel to the driving position with the steering wheel at a more upright angle than in a car and the instrument panel viewed from above, you’ll appreciate being able to look down on all those around you.
VW has gone for smart and robust, rather than out-and-out style in their choice of materials. Given the sort of use that the Caravelle is likely to have this is definitely a good move.
The front two rows, holding driver and three passengers, are separate seats with a three-seater bench at the rear. It is possible to find models with a couple of bench seats to carry seven in total - these are something of a rarity.
In the seven-seater model the middle seats can swivel to face the rear bench, and there is a table that pulls out as well. Ideal for a business meeting on the move or a family game of Monopoly in the rain.
Depending on the spec, there are varying sizes of infotainment screen all of which work with VW’s We Connect apps that can do everything from giving directions to remotely checking on fluid levels.
Anyone wanting to use the Caravelle as a leisure vehicle with seven on board would do best to look for a long-wheelbase version that will have plenty of room for everyone’s luggage. In the short wheelbase version it will be a question of stacking and hoping the cases don’t all fall out when you open the large tailgate.
That said, all the seats are on rails giving quite a lot of flexibility and they can also be removed completely – which is definitely a two-person job.
In the main body of the Caravelle there’s all the storage space you could ever want for all the family, with cup-holders, cubby holes and deep door bins too.
Running costs and reliability
There’s only the choice of two diesel engines for the Caravelle, both of which have the kind of fuel consumption that you might expect from the rather brick-shaped body. At best, you’ll be getting 34 mpg on average. If you’re fully loaded, the figure is going to be lower still.
What we love
Get past the fact that it’s a van in sheep’s clothing and the Caravelle is a great alternative to a more conventional seven-seater MPV. It’s well-built, reliable and huge inside – and it’s even pretty good to drive too.
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Town and country drivers
If you dare to be different and realise that practicality is even more important than looks, then the Volkswagen Caravelle could be your perfect choice – just don’t let anyone call it a van!
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