The Caravelle has been synonymous with South Africans from a long time, from seeing David Kramer singing on TV about it, to K.O most recently, the "mini-bus" or "Cara-Cara" has its own legacy locally and somehow many have their own stories to share about it. For me personally, the Caravelle reminds me of large family holidays, from touring the Eastern Transvaal back in the day, to trips to Sun City, I always remembered it to be "cool" and opted to sit in the boot while everyone else had the three rows of seats to choose from. It was spacious, comfortable and big enough to fit the whole house including the kitchen sink. Fast-forward to 2021 and the new updated Caravelle 6.1, not much has changed in terms of the purposes of the Caravelle but it has some cool new party tricks to bring. I spent some time with it and while it wasn't possible to recreate those fun childhood memories due to Covid, it was still a pleasure to have none-the-less.
When it comes to designing a people mover of such size, it doesn't give the the designers much choice in the overall look as its designed from the inside out but in saying that, the people at VW have done a fantastic job in keeping that distinct look, with sharp features and incredible detail that definitely make the Caravelle standout from any Kombi. The model I had came with a two-tone paint work in a Candy White and Copper Bronze Metallic split which is an optional extra at R33,300, pricey? Yes but that's a lot of car to paint but it does look spectacular in it, especially when the Copper sparkles in the afternoon glow. The front end has been revised significantly from the previous generation model with bolder accents and more dominant materials. The chrome finish on the split grille lines up with the updated headlamps which wrap around the side with Caravelle badge detailing. The windows are large and on the dual sliding doors has a split hatch for easy fresh air entry. The Caravelle is big, trust me, I even underestimated the size of it so it only makes you appreciate how good it looks.
The Caravelle only comes in one engine, which is the 2L TDI that produces 146kW and 450Nm, the engine uses VW's 7-speed DSG gearbox and has 4Motion all wheel drive assistance. All this proves well to assist the Caravelle in its duties on the road. Even with a fully loaded cabin and luggage, the car just moves along swiftly on the tarmac. Fuel efficiency is decent enough and it truly shines on longer distances. While traveling locally wasn't too bad but with a car this size you might have issues getting in places with low heights and narrower than normal parking spaces. The car has a lot of driving assist features such as lane departure warning, lane change assist, cameras, collision alert and cruise control. It would have been nice if it did come with autonomy so I could sit in the back and enjoy the ride like the rest of the passengers.
Well, I mean when it comes to comfort, this is where the Caravelle truly shines. With three rows of seats in a two-two-three configuration, with the second row offering two single swivel type chairs with arm rest and recline functionality. The third row is bench type but can slide forward and back which does effect the luggage space. A brilliant addition to the interior is the multi-function table which does fold away quite neatly but when expanded is a full round table with storage cupboards. This table is well secured on the floor rails which prevents it from sliding around the vehicle when in motion. The second and third row seating can be fully removed with ease that transforms the Caravelle into a panel van if need be. Other creature comforts include aircon vents throughout the cabin 12V and USB sockets, 6-speaker system. Moving to the front of the car, the driver and passenger enjoy dual-zone climate control, with seat warmers. The large infotainment display offers mobile phone connectivity as well as on board GPS should you not have the mobile phone apps. The instrument cluster has been updated with VWs digital cockpit which gives the driver a lot more info from a touch of a button with the multi-function steering wheel.
Overall the Caravelle serves its purpose with ease as a multi-function luxury people mover. The details and trims offered to the end user really allows you to make your Caravelle unique. The level of comfort offered to the passengers ensures you won't have any unhappy travelers and while sheer size of the vehicle might make it seem intimidating to driver, once behind the wheel with all the driver assists, it really is a joy to be on the road with it. The ride height gives the driver a greater perspective and helps with reducing driver fatigue. The price of the Caravelle might be a talking point as it is shooting above the million mark, there is some justification for uproar given the amount of plastic used in the interior but with everything else that is done so well, its enough to distract you from it. After my week with it, I thoroughly enjoyed the drive it offered and really had me reminiscing about holidays of the past.