Volkswagen Caravelle: driven
* VW's car/van gets a makeover * Choice of four engines * From around £30,000...
What is it?
Volkswagen's van-that-thinks-it's-a-car, the Caravelle, has been given a makeover.
The most obvious cosmetic changes are to the front of the vehicle. The new headlights and front grille bring the Caravelle more in line with the look of the latest-generation Polo and Golf. There are also new rear lights, alloy wheels and door mirrors.
However, the most significant changes are under the bonnet. The Caravelle is now powered by a choice of four 2.0-litre common-rail turbodiesel engines, with power outputs of 82bhp, 100bhp, 138bhp and a twin-turbo unit with 178bhp.
The 82bhp and 100bhp engines come with five-speed manual gearboxes, while the 138bhp and twin-turbo units get six-speed manuals or, for the first time, VW's seven-speed DSG semi-automatic 'box. Both of these engines can also be specced with four-wheel drive, too.
There's a new power-steering system and safety equipment has been improved. Electronic stability control is standard, as is hill-start assist. A blind-spot alert system is also new to the Caravelle.
What's it like to drive?
The Caravelle is VW's Transporter van with seats and windows, so don't expect limo-like ride comfort or the handling of a sports car. You roll round corners and bounce along uneven surfaces, but that's to be expected of a car so close to a commercial vehicle. The steering is light, but we'd prefer to have a little more feel.
The engines, however, don't disappoint. They are refined and relatively smooth. The 138bhp unit is probably the best compromise between power and fuel economy. As you'd expect, gearchanges are smooth with the DSG gearbox, although there's a little delay between pressing the accelerator and the power kicking in.
What's it like inside?
Not too much has changed inside the car. There's a good driving position and a great view out, plus the standard rear parking sensors certainly help when reversing.
The seating system from the current car is carried over, which means there are two seats in the middle row that can swivel to face the three seats in the back row - creating a 'lounge', says Volkswagen. Driver and passengers won't want for room and there's plenty of storage space.
It's a shame that the dashboard shown in these pictures of the left-hand-drive models won't make its way into UK-spec cars. To keep costs down, VW is putting the dash from the Transporter van into the right-hand-drive Caravelle.
Ariels for the radio, Bluetooth and sat-nav are now housed in the door mirrors - so take extra care in confined spaces!
Prices have yet to be confirmed and it hasn't been decided if UK buyers can get the base-spec Caravelle, so expect to pay more for a Caravelle than you do now probably from around £30,000. However, VW says that the four-cylinder engines are more efficient than the equivalent five-cylinder engines they replace. Average fuel economy and CO2 emissions are detailed below.
The car goes on sale in January - in VW commercial vehicle dealerships.
There's no hiding from the fact that the Caravelle is a van with (comfortable) seats, but that's part of its appeal. Ideal if you have a family the size of the Waltons.