By: Charles Molefe
The Volkswagen Caravelle, where does one even kick this sentimental review? Just to fill you in, my first media invite came in the form of a trip to the Eastern Cape to explore a land of endless lush botanicals and scenic freeways that show off South Africa’s fauna and flora. The trip was to experience and exploit what I consider as the people’s favourite people carrier. At that time, we were cruising around in the T6 and were often the talk of the town as the LED infused headlights signified a glimmer of the future. In the next couple of paragraphs, I delve deeper into how the T6.1 has revolutionised my thoughts and cemented its place as number one.
The biggest aesthetic changes are the front design, it holds a more modern look that can be found in several of Volkswagen’s latest products. The design is a mixture of smooth and sharp lines that sculpt the Caravelle and reinforce its presence whilst slathered in a two-tone colour scheme, candy white and copper bronze. The interior is the highlight of the Caravelle, it emits opulence, bodes ample space and is a place that cements your successes. It is extremely easy to believe that the Caravelle is the only vehicle you’ll ever need, during my test tenure I often wondered if I’d ever need anything else.
Comfort and utility.
Volkswagen has kept the winning formula of transporting its passengers in style and ultimate comfort, the rear bench will gladly seat three adults without a struggle and accommodate an additional two passengers that have the option of swivelling their chairs. The passenger cabin comes equipped with a table that plays host to ample storage compartments and the ability to accommodate refreshments for its passengers.
Entertainment and digital displays.
It is exceedingly difficult to fault the Caravelle, its sheer size is a great precursor to great acoustics, you have the pleasure to be rumbled by the deep basses, smothered by the mid-range and to top it off, the tweeters that pierce your drums with the pleasures of the high hat. The Caravelle managed to impress, and it ended up being dubbed as the party bus by my fellow passengers.
To control the audio, Volkswagen has sought the competencies of the Discover Pro Media control unit. It is a 10.25-inch high definition touch display system that is equipped with vast capabilities.
Ease of accessibility to the various menus was a pleasurable experience, this is made possible by the system’s ability to scroll through the different menus without fuss or unbearable lag.
- Onboard navigation
- Android Auto / Apple CarPlay
- Climate control
- Drive select modes – Eco, Comfort, Normal, Race and individual.
The above are just some of the available options. The driver’s display is also a digital interface. Volkswagen has ensured that the display is exceptionally clustered with vital information for the driver.
The added benefits of the entertainment system included the abilities to wirelessly charge your mobile phone via the inductive charging pad and connect to the APP connect wirelessly. This did come in handy as I had the challenge of not owning a Type CUSB charging cable.
Performance, ride quality and economy.
The Caravelle is not a performance vehicle and you should never expect it to be. It generates 146kW and 450Nm of torque. These figures may not seem to be enticing at all, however, the trusty 2.0L BiTDI engine did not skip a beat. The engine offers smooth acceleration and ample low-down torque to shoot off the line, but be aware, the turbo lag often created overzealous moments of acceleration from the line, it almost felt as though the Caravelle was leaping at any challenge it was presented with. Over time, I did manage to achieve a more subtle approach to gliding off from the traffic lights.
One would think that because the Caravelle is based on a commercial vehicle the ride will be as stiff as a board, nonetheless, you can tell that the engineers have sparred no change in perfecting the ride quality of this vehicle. It glides over uneven surfaces and covers long distances without breaking a sweat, during my test tenure I managed to skirt along some gravel surfaces, it was not phased. I would have to compliment the 4MOTION drive system, it has been so well set up that at times you will forget that you are in a vehicle that tips the scales at over 1900kg.
Volkswagen claims a figure of 8.3 L/100km, unfortunately, those tests are conducted in perfect environments, I managed to average 10 L/100km’s, this is enough to avoid each and every filling station, this consumption figure will have you managing 700 km’s to the 80-litre tank.
My love affair with the Caravelle is far from over, my experiences with the vehicle have been nothing short of perfect. The stargazed looks as the power-operated sliding doors sprung to action will always remain a highlight, it’s nothing new, yet, it still remains as one of the most luring features of the people carrier.
Bear in mind the Caravelle competes with a solid set of competitors, the V-Class being its ultimate foe, however, my experience of the V-Class is vastly limited and my opinion would not be an educated one.
The Caravelle reigns supreme, it offers a lot more value for money and is exclusive, it’s not often you’d bump into a Caravelle and that is a sad aspect of the South African consumer, we tend to be blindly led by trends set by celebrities and aristocracy. The Caravelle is arguably the best people carrier in its segment, once again, don’t be fooled by the glitz and glamour, this is one special piece of kit and owning one is something I strive to achieve.
8.9 / 10
Caravelle TDI 146 kW short wheelbase.
- Seat heater for front seats separately controlled.
- Voice control.
- Wired & Wireless App-Connect.
- Start-stop system with regenerative braking.
- Electric luggage compartment opening and closing.
- Hill start assist.
- Lane change assist.
- Leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel.
- 3-year / 120,000 km manufacturer warranty.
- 5-year / 60,000km Genuine Easy Drive Maintenance Plan.
- 15,000 km service intervals.
- 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.