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Overall verdict

The Top Gear car review: Volkswagen Caravelle

Overall verdict
Yes, it’s effectively a van with windows. But it’s also magnificent


Great at transporting many people long distances in comfort


Bit pricey, seats can be awkward to move around. Still looks like a van


What is it?

Technically the Caravelle is a van. A van with lots of seats and some windows, where normally you’d find a vast expanse of nothing and some sheet metal respectively, but a van nonetheless. However to dismiss this new one as little more than a sanitised Volkswagen Transporter is doing the new ‘T6.1’ Caravelle a massive disservice, as you’ll discover if you do the decent thing and carry on reading.

Firstly, you mustn’t confuse the Caravelle with the Transporter Shuttle, which actually is a van with windows and seating for up to nine passengers. You can buy one of those for around £37,000, and if you’re a jobbing minicab driver that’s exactly what you should do. It’s far more difficult to sluice sick out of a Caravelle – they cost from just over £47,000 and are much more richly appointed, though they seat two fewer people.

Caravelles are what they use on The Apprentice to shuttle contestants about London – business busses, in which important business people can discuss important business things on their way to important business meetings. The seats swivel so you can stare your important business partner in their important business face, there’s a clever sliding/folding table for your top secret important business documents and blinds on the windows to keep prying eyes from observing all the important business within. BUSINESS.

If (important) business isn’t your thing, keep reading anyway, for there are other circumstances in which the Caravelle makes sense. For instance it’s a credible, more practical alternative to a seven-seat SUV like a Land Rover Discovery or Volvo XC90. Cheaper and probably just as if not more economical, if sorely lacking in any kerb-appeal whatsoever.

This era of Caravelle has been around for a while, but this year’s ‘T6.1’ update brings a new, not un-attractive face, a redesigned dashboard incorporating VW’s latest infotainment system and a digital instrument cluster and more assistance and safety systems.

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
2.0 TDI BlueMotion Tech 199 Executive 5dr DSG
9.9s 185g/km 40.4 199 £50,772
The cheapest
2.0 TDI BlueMotion Tech 150 SE 5dr
12.9s 185g/km 39.8 150 £41,748
The greenest
2.0 TDI SE 150 5dr DSG
13.0s 164g/km 45.6 150 £46,482