Volkswagen Caravelle Minibus (1983 - ) Expert review
Read the Volkswagen Caravelle MPV (2010 - ) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.
- Spacious interior
- Easy to drive
- Intuitive cabin layout
- Unexciting looks
- Firm ride
- Removing rear seats is awkward
At a glance
Being van-derived, you can’t expect the Volkswagen Caravelle to look especially enticing – after all, there’s a limit to how well you can disguise such a boxy configuration. Volkswagen has done a good job though, with a corporate nose that looks discreet and classy. A crease along its sides adds a point of interest while the alloy wheels also make the Caravelle look less like a commercial vehicle.
Everywhere you look there are parts from the Volkswagen stores, from the switchgear and instrumentation to the steering wheel and trim. However, the Caravelle is none the worse for being so obviously related to such greats as the Golf and Polo; Volkswagen does some of the best and most clearly laid out interiors in the business. So while you’re unlikely to get too excited by the Caravelle’s cabin, you will find it very easy to use.
Whether you want to carry people, luggage or a combination of the two, the Caravelle copes with ease. Access is excellent, thanks to sliding doors on each side and a huge top-hinged tailgate. It’s not just about the available space though (5,800 litres) – the flexibility is impressive too. Two rails run behind the front seats, which allow them to be moved to whatever position suits best. As the second and third rows of seats can also be set to face forwards or backwards – or removed altogether, it’s possible to set the cabin up exactly how you want it – although this does take some time and effort as the seats are heavy.
Ride and handling
The ride is quite firm yet there’s still a bit too much wallow in corners, largely thanks to the relatively high centre of gravity; this is a tall car. Considering the Caravelle’s size and weight though, it has more accomplished handling than you’d think.
Volkswagen offers only a 2-litre TDi engine in the Caravelle, and considering this is such a large vehicle, it would be easy to assume that this unit wouldn’t be enough to offer sparkling performance. The 2-litre powerplant does a brilliant job of punting the Caravelle along effortlessly. There are two versions of the 2-litre TDi engine; one with 138bhp and the other with 178bhp. Our test car offered 295lb/ft of pulling power and 178bhp to give 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds and a 119mph top speed. While the acceleration doesn’t sound especially fast, the Caravelle is able to keep up with fast-moving traffic.
You can’t expect to run a car as big as the Caravelle on a shoestring, but it shouldn’t be too painful financially. Volkswagen claims the Caravelle will average 35.8mpg and we managed 35mpg with a mixture of motorway and urban use. After 36,000 miles and three years, the Caravelle is forecast to retain 52 per cent of its value; by the time servicing, depreciation and fuel are taken into account, it’s reckoned that the VW will cost around 84 pence per mile.
Volkswagen used to advertise its cars with the strapline ‘If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen’. Such marketing built the company a reputation for solidity, and while that hasn’t always been especially well deserved, its latest products are more dependable than they’ve ever been.
Volkswagen has long sold its cars on the strength their safety credentials, and it’s no different here. Naturally you get anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic stability programme (ESP), traction control, daytime running lights and a very strong bodyshell, while all Caravelles feature a front seat passenger airbag which can be switched off, in case you’re carrying a child. You can also specify a host of options, including lane change assist technology, which helps to prevent you swapping lanes when a vehicle is travelling alongside. You can also pay extra for cornering lights, a reversing camera plus tyre pressure monitoring.
Two equipment levels are available; SE and Executive. The entry-level Caravelle is reasonably well specified as it comes with an eight-speaker stereo, Isofix child seat mountings, height adjustment for the drive and front passenger seats plus remote central locking. There’s also a multi-function table in the rear, electric front windows and 16-inch alloys as well as air-con and blinds for all rear side windows. The Executive adds climate control, leather and alcantara seat trim, heated washer jets and power assistance for the sliding side doors. Cruise control and 17-inch alloys also feature along with privacy glass, heated seats and automatic wipers.