Long-term test (Introduction): Volkswagen Caravelle 2,0 BITDI Highline DSG 4 Motion

The venerable Kombi is now in its sixth iteration but, in Caravelle Highline specification, is far removed from the basic, original T1. Take, for example, the beautiful two-tone (a heritage paint option costing R33 000) example dropped off at our offices. It caused quite a stir and, since I’m the lucky custodian for a year, I had to endure many sneering comments from jealous colleagues. Those members will have to improve their behaviour considerably before they get the key when the inevitable family weekend looms and seats (and space) are needed.

That same key can actuate the powered opening of the sliding doors and tailgate. This feature is especially useful when approaching the vehicle to allow the whole family to enter effortlessly.

Inside, the luxury continues thanks to leather seats, thick carpeting, climate control front and rear, an optional sunroof and LED mood lighting, to name but a few features. Rear seating consists of a three-person bench aft and two individual chairs currently in the “lounge” arrangement that are sited in the middle. The seating plan is configurable thanks to the chairs that swivel and slide. Likewise, the boot can be enlarged by sliding the bench forward.

My in-laws recently visited and the Caravelle was the perfect vehicle to shuttle them around the picturesque Western Cape on its maiden voyage. We visited Franschhoek, Villiersdorp, Kleinmond and Pringle Bay in a single day. The children could not be happier spending quality time with their grandparents in the lounge while we travelled in comfort up front to the next destination. The sound insulation is excellent and there was no need to raise our voices to talk to whoever was seated at the back. There is a plethora of storage spaces provided and, as a result, some children’s toys got “lost” for a few hours…

The 132 kW/400 N.m 2,0-litre biturbo-diesel engine is coupled with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and provides seamless propulsion while consuming less than 10,0 L/100 km on the motorway. There is enough power on tap to execute a safe overtaking manoeuvre, but the vehicle prefers relaxed cruising.

This top-spec model is fitted with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system and I am keen to find out over the next year whether the vehicle can indeed be used off-road, or if the system was developed with slippery European winter conditions in mind.

Of course, all this luxury, equipment and style come at a price … R934 900, to be exact. This is out of reach for the majority of families, and there is arguably better value in the mechanically similar Kombi range.

However, my first impressions so far have been immensely favourable and I am looking forward to a year of creating family memories.

After 1 month
Mileage now:
1 082 km
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km):
11,04 L/100 km
We like:
space, comfort, convenience features
We dislike: high asking price