Volkswagen Caravelle 2020 review

Find out more about the Volkswagen Caravelle in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

£30,847
Average price
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3
Out of 5

Pros

  • Cool styling
  • High-quality interior
  • Very spacious

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Automatic gearbox isn’t the smoothest
  • Seats are heavy to remove
  • MPG

    41 - 45

  • CO2

    164 - 168 g/km

Model review

There are few cars as widely regarded in the van world as the Volkswagen Transporter, which celebrates its 70th birthday in 2020. 

And alongside the popular van, Volkswagen has also proven hugely successful with its MPV models over the years. These have been the taxi-aimed Shuttle and then the Caravelle, which takes on a more luxurious and comfortable stance. 

And it’s increasingly become more premium in recent years as it tries to shift away from its van-based roots inside, though, of course, it’s impossible to shrug off its van-like styling.  

Latest model

The latest generation of Transporter, the T6, arrived on sale in 2016, though aside from a fresher face, it looked very similar to the previous T5. The main changes then were on the cabin, with a new dashboard layout being introduced to give the Caravelle a far more modern feel. 

Following this, Volkswagen revised it in 2019, alongside the Transporter it’s based on. Now known as the ‘T6.1’, the Caravelle gains a sharper front end design, with a bolder front grille and chrome accents that run across the front end onto the wings being a neat touch. 

In the cabin, top-spec models now come with a digital cockpit as standard, while connectivity has been enhanced thanks to an integrated eSIM. Elsewhere, it comes with a new electro-mechanical steering setup, along with enhanced safety features such as park assist, lane keep assist and trailer assist. 

Value for money

The Caravelle aims to sit at the top end of the van-based MPV market, and that’s reflected in the price, with this Volkswagen starting from almost £50,000, while top-spec Executive versions cost £56,000 even before you specify any optional extras. 

You do get plenty of standard kit, though, including a 6.5-inch touchscreen, alloy wheels, LED interior lighting and adaptive cruise control, though it’s still quite an expensive choice. If you’re looking for something a bit more affordable, it’s worth considering the more basic Transporter Shuttle, which is more aimed towards taxi use, but is available from less than £40,000.

However, one good thing about the Caravelle is that it does hold its value well, especially if you’re looking to keep it for a long period of time. As an example, a 12-year-old Caravelle with more than 200,000 miles on the clock is still worth £10,000. If you’re looking for something with fewer miles on the clock, a 10-year-old example with 70,000 miles will cost around £20,000. 

Strong savings are available on nearly-new models, though, which is where our money would go. Expect to pay around £40,000 for a one-year-old Caravelle, which is a sizable saving off list price. 

Looks and image

A van-based MPV is never going to be the most stylish of choices, but considering the boxy bodystyle, the Caravelle is undoubtedly one of the most appealing. The T6.1 is certainly an improvement on its predecessor, thanks to its sharp front end and fancy grille, while the Volkswagen badge gives it a great image. Lots of personalisation options are available, too, including larger alloy wheels and a great colour selection, with Copper Bronze, pictured, and Bay Leaf Green being two highlights. A two-tone colour scheme is also offered.

Next to plenty of rivals, the Caravelle also has an upmarket interior, with lots of attractive trim on display and a durable feel to it. Its van-based roots shine through, though, with the fit and finish not quite on par with a traditional MPV, such as Volkswagen’s own Sharan. All versions also feature a touchscreen as standard, but it’s the top-spec Executive model that’s the one to go for if you want your modern touches – these coming with digital dials and a larger media screen. 

Behind the wheel the Caravelle performs in a similar way to how you would expect a chunky van-based MPV to perform. It rolls quite a lot, due to its top-heavy shape, while the steering isn’t as sharp or as quick as that found in a conventional MPV. That said, it remains a very refined and comfortable choice that’s superb over long distances. 

Space and practicality

Space is unsurprisingly the area where the Caravelle really excels. You can choose it in two forms, either a standard wheelbase or a long wheelbase model – the latter being 40cm longer and measuring 5.3m in all. 

Eight seats come as standard, with a configuration of three up front, two in the second row and three again in the rear. Those in the second row are individual seats that can be spun around, while a table in the middle of the two rear rows means the Caravelle could essentially be transformed into a mini boardroom. 

There’s loads of headroom throughout and there will be few grumbles for legroom either, while a sliding third row can adjust boot space quickly and easily. Removing the seats themselves is quite difficult, though, because of how much they weigh. 

Engines

While Volkswagen briefly offered a 2.0-litre petrol unit on the Caravelle, it’s since resorted to an all-diesel line-up – no bad thing as these engines still work best in a large MPV like this. 

So it’s a choice of 2.0-litre units available, with the entry-level producing 148bhp and the more powerful option making 196bhp. The 148bhp option is quite slow – taking 12.8 seconds to go from 0-60mph, so it could be worth looking at the 196bhp version, which is able to do the same sprint in 10.9 seconds. 

The more powerful engine is also available with 4Motion all-wheel-drive, too, with all other models coming with front-wheel-drive as standard. A seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox also features on all Caravelle versions, which isn’t the smoothest of options. 

Running costs

This is a large and heavy MPV, so it’s not surprising that it won’t be the cheapest model to run. Fuel economy figures range from 31.7mpg to 34mpg, with the 148bhp model being the most efficient. CO2 emissions are also high, ranging from 217g/km to 233g/km. Expect steeper running costs with the four-wheel-drive model, too. 

Things to look out for

Volkswagen doesn’t always have the best reliability reputation, but its models usually prove dependable, and that’s true of the Caravelle. Featuring engines and technology seen across its range, there should be few concerns. The 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine is also known for being able to do high mileages with ease, with plenty of examples that have covered more than 200,000 miles showing this. 

Rivals 

The van-based MPV segment isn’t the most popular, but it’s still quite a competitive one. Perhaps the Caravelle’s closest rival is the Mercedes V-Class, a model that also takes on the upmarket approach. If you fancy something a bit more affordable, have a look at the Ford Tourneo Custom, Peugeot Traveller and Citroen Spacetourer

Depreciation

While the Caravelle depreciates quite heavily initially, with savings of around £10,000 available off nearly-new models, as it gets older it actually holds its value well, with even the oldest and high-mileage examples rarely available for under £10,000. 

Which Caravelle to pick

Cheapest to buy when new

2.0 TDI SE 150 5dr DSG

Most MPG

2.0 TDI SE 150 5dr DSG

Fastest model (0-60)

2.0 TDI SE 204 5dr LWB DSG

Trims explained

Two trim levels are available on the Caravelle – SE and Executive. Equipment highlights and pricing are as follows.

SE

Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels (or 17s on long-wheelbase models),a leather steering wheel, LED interior lighting, swivelling second row seats, air conditioning and rear sunblinds. You also get a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth and Volkswagen App Connect. It also comes with loads of standard safety kit, including adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, crosswind assist, a driver monitoring system, automatic lights and wipers and an emergency call system.

From £49,305

Executive

Upgrading to Executive gets you revised 17-inch alloy wheels, a more intricate front grille, LED headlights, electrically folding mirrors and a larger eight-inch touchscreen with further connected services and wireless smartphone mirroring. Other features include three-zone climate control, electric sliding rear seats, an electric boot, a heated windscreen and park assist including front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

From £51,831

Summary

  1. Two wheelbases available
  2. Very spacious interior
  3. Lots of standard kit
  4. Impressive driver assistance tech
  5. DSG automatic gearbox could be smoother
  6. Rather pricey…
  7. But holds its value well
  8. A popular used buy
  9. Quite expensive to run
  10. One of the classiest large MPVs available

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