And what VW is offering those enthusiasts here besides the Postman-Pat-post-payrise exterior colouring is a fairly fully-loaded Caravelle at a slightly reduced price. Only fairly, because such extensive customisation potential exists in the Caravelle ordering process that there’s really no such thing as a ‘typical’ fully-loaded example. You can have a sporty one (high-output diesel engine, lowered suspension, 18in wheels etc), a touring one (adaptive dampers, leather seats, tinted windows and a convertible bed onboard), an off-road one (extra ground clearance, heavy-duty shocks, four-wheel drive, a proper locking rear differential) and others.
The Gen 6 comes in what you might describe as a high-end ‘everyday-use’ spec: mechanically, with a choice of 148bhp or 201bhp 2.0-litre diesel engines, front-wheel drive and a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox. But also with leather-alcantara heated seats, three-zone air conditioning, LED headlights, cornering foglamps, a Discover touchscreen infotainment and navigation system, adaptive cruise control, dynamic chassis control adaptive damping and specially designed chrome-hubbed 18in alloy wheels all as standard.
Our 201bhp test car was still a £54,000 car, for which you’d certainly hope it would come well-equipped – but put the same equipment level on a car in Executive trim and it’ll cost you at least a couple of thousand pounds more.
What's it like?
Amazingly refined in many ways, with fairly strong performance and manageable handling, albeit still quite a long way from being anything like a regular passenger car to drive.
Climbing up into the car’s cabin makes you assume, at first, that you must be about to have a decidedly commercial driving experience – not least because the most comfortable way to orientate your body in relation to the controls is to crank the very adjustable driver’s seat up high and just embrace the lofty viewpoint. But only once you’re comfy does the Caravelle’s high equipment level and apparent material quality really register. The mouldings and fittings aren’t executive-class in their fit or finish, but they’re a very pleasant surprise when you’re expecting the usual plain, flimsy commercial trim stock.
Up front, the car is only averagely spacious: good for headroom but not desperately generous if you’re long-of-leg. But in the back, the car’s hugely practical for several passengers, and its spaciousness, flexibility and convenience are second-to-none. Individual swivelling ‘captain’s chairs’ feature as standard in the second row, and are an optional-fit up front. There’s a sliding and reclining three-seater third-row bench that’s quite cumbersome to move, but comfortable. Five adults can face each other back there, stretch out and travel in outstanding comfort; or you can trade seats for carrying space by sliding or removing seats altogether. There can be no more accommodating vehicle for a lads’ weekend away, or for a large family with an active lifestyle.
On the road, Volkswagen’s twin-turbocharged, 201bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine does three important things for the Caravelle which, in combination, will do a lot to convince would-be owners that it really could fit into their lives.
Quiet at idle and at a cruise, the motor’s even fairly civil when revving hard, and at no point does it make significantly more noise or fuss than a like-for-like saloon might. The cabin is also remarkably well-sealed from wind noise for something so upright, allowing you to have the politest of conversations with your front-seat passenger, and reasonably fluent ones with those in the back, during a fast motorway cruise.