1 Jan 1993
By CHRIS HARRIS
VW has been building people movers for decades and it shows, with the Caravelle offering impressive comfort, space, quality and safety for eight adults.
Underneath the boxy skin is the T4 generation Transporter, a front-engine front-wheel drive commercial vehicle that the company unveiled in 1990.
So although the T4 Caravelle may be one of the biggest people movers it isn’t the most refined, despite the independent suspension and smooth four-speed automatic transmission.
The safety conscious, semi-bonneted front engine layout results in an upright seating position. It gives the driver a sense of being behind the wheel of a bus.
The flip side is good visibility all-round, especially when parking. Another advantage is the "walk-through" cabin, enabling access from the front to the rear-most seats.
The rear passengers benefit from the boxy buses' light and airy "room with a view" seating arrangements. A huge glass area (with centre windows that slide open) afford class-leading views for all.
Entry to either row of rear seats is through the left-hand side sliding side door, reminding the occupants of the Caravelle's commercial vehicle-based origins.
Every seat in the rear is large enough to accommodate adults in the same level of comfort as the front occupants while still leaving an abundance of luggage space. This is perhaps the Caravelle's biggest advantage over its more stylish competition.
A compact, 81kW/191Nm 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine lives under the Caravelle's bonnet.
From January ’97 those outputs rose to 85kW and 200Nm, and relied on a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox for motivation.
But fuel consumption is heavy, so the 75kW/250Nm 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel TDI from September 2000 – as opposed to March 2003’s smooth but thirsty 150kW/270Nm 2.8-litre V6 five-speed auto – is the preferred, if noisier, choice.
Regardless of engine, the T4 Caravelle’s steering response is good with the tight turning circle tradespersons have come to appreciate in the commercial variants.
The front-wheel drive configuration, wide track and wheels at each corner layout all contribute to the Caravelle's reassuring stability.