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Volkswagen Caravelle 1994 Review

The VW Caravelle is derived from Volkswagen's worker Transporter van.

...of handling this lot: two adults, five children, enough luggage for a long weekend (with plenty of room to spare), food and drink to sink a fleet, and a 2000km trip.  We had a Volkswagen Caravelle which gave the children the initial impression that they were about to enter a school bus.

But the comfort, space and nimbleness of the van soon won them over - and happy children on a long trip is any parent's priority.  Volkswagen's Caravelle, which returned to the local market last year with a seven-seat capacity, does not have the highest profile among the so-called people movers.

But it proved ideal for the purpose, with children and adults appreciating the space for themselves and their assorted gear as well as the easy access from the huge sliding door.  Caravelle is derived from Volkswagen's worker Transporter van, a heritage that immediately conjures up thoughts of a few seats bolted into a commercial vehicle.


Driving 2000km requires more than big seats and electric windows to keep everyone happy.  The seats, arranged in a 2-2-3 pattern, are comfortable. The layout allows passengers to walk through the vehicle.

Standard equipment also includes central locking, cruise control, power steering and electric mirrors.  The Caravelle has had the benefit of the 2.5-litre engine since its introduction. Unlike its predecessors, the engine is now mounted transversely at the front, driving the front wheels.

You can choose a five-speed manual gearbox or, as with our vehicle, a four-speed automatic transmission. A trick with the auto gear lever is that you cannot select lower gears if you depress the button in the normal way.

Appointments for the driver are also good. The gear changes are smooth, the engine is refined and provides plenty of power to carry seven people and their gear.  Negotiating city traffic and twisty country roads is easy, and a bit of planning has the Caravelle overtaking easily.

It was also a hit on the Hume Freeway, eating up the kilometres with much of the time spent in the outside lane passing slower traffic.  Cruise control is ideal on a trip like this: you maintain the speed you want and don't spend the whole time worrying that a momentary lapse will land you with a big fine.  Build quality and attention to detail are admirable, but the lasting impression left by the Caravelle is the space. Glorious space.

The competition

Competitors in the people-mover segment range in price from less than $30,000 to almost $60,000.  The cheapest entrant is the Mitsubishi Starwagon with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine at $29,575, or an extra $5000 for the 2.4-litre engine.

Toyota's Spacia wagon is also under $30,000 (by $10). The new name attempts to disguise the fact that the vehicle is the old-model Tarago with some improvements.  Mitsubishi has another entrant with the Nimbus which starts at $32,625 - a truly car-like vehicle with seating for seven.

While the seating arrangements are varied, its main drawback is that it is too small, and there is little luggage space with seven occupants.  Nissan's Serena wagon, while being taller than the Nimbus, suffers from the lack of luggage room and is not a great handler, especially with cross winds.

Starting at $34,435 for the ST and $39,435 for the TI, there are better vehicles for the money in this group.  Toyota's Tarago remains the trend-setter among people-movers offered in Australia with its modern shape, high seating position, roominess and ease of driving.

But the strong yen has caught up with the Tarago, and the GLi starts at $39,633 while the GLX auto is $47,915 and the Ultima auto is $58,803.

A final contender is Mazda's MPV which has the most powerful engine in this class, a 3.0-litre V6, for $42,990.  But the MPV's auto transmission lever is tricky to operate, the luggage area is not big, and the vehicle is showing its age.

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Range and Specs

(base) 2.5L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $3,700 – 5,940 1994 Volkswagen Caravelle 1994 (base) Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


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