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The Top Gear car review:Volkswagen Caravelle
On the inside
Layout, finish and space
It’s big in here. No SUV can seat seven adults comfortably – not even the massive Mercedes GLS or BMW X7 quite manages it – but the Caravelle does with room to spare. The seats are arranged over three rows – two captain’s chairs up front, followed by a second pair of standalone seats (largely identical to the ones up front) that can pivot to face the three-seat bench out back. All the seats slide fore and aft, and there’s a little unit between the two middle ones that does the same. It has wings that flip up to make a table, cupholders and a compartment for storing small oddments.
Family SUVs and MPVs have clever seating arrangements that mean, oftentimes, you can fold all but the front row of seats flat into the floor, and use the car as though it were a van. The Caravelle has an advantage of sorts, in that it actually is a van. It’s a faff because they’re heavy and awkwardly shaped, but you can lift out the two middle seats and third-row bench entirely. And thus, you have a full-size van at your disposal. With all the seats in place space behind the third row is a bit limited, but VW does offer a long-wheelbase Caravelle should that be a concern. We’d stick with the normal SWB though, given the LWB is a smidge too L for conventional parking spaces.
Access to the Caravelle’s rear seats is via two sliding doors, which are operated electronically via buttons on the key or dashboard, or by pulling the doorhandles themselves. Your children (and you) will find this feature very amusing indeed.
The Caravelle’s dashboard features VW’s latest infotainment system. Which is a pity, because while it looks good and is feature-rich, the touch buttons and lack of a volume knob means it isn’t as easy to use as the unit it replaces. Our suggestion is use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (remember your adapters though folks, as it’s USB-C ports only in here) instead of the native operating system, then use the digital instrument cluster to look at trip info and so-on. All the materials feel solid, though obviously not as posh as they do in a Disco or XC90, and there’s plenty of places to store odds and sods. The glovebox is curiously small, but there’s a shelf above it, space on top of the dashboard itself and plenty of room in the two door bins.