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Juliet McGuire

First drive in the Volkswagen Caravelle T6.1

The Volkswagen Caravelle holds a really special place in my heart. Like many South Africans, it forms a huge part of my childhood. Back when road safety clearly wasn’t such a thing, we would fight over who got to lie across the middle bench (no seat belts required), stand up between the front seats on long drives, and hop between the boot, rear bench and middle bench throughout the journey. On long road trips the rear bench would be folded down to make an awesome double bed in the boot. If we went camping, this would be our ‘bedroom.’

We had a Kombi (as we always called it) and later a Caravelle (but still referred to as a Kombi) from the 1980s (when I was born) right through till I finished Matric in 2000. It lifted and carried all of my friends right through school, was used for all the school outings, and made for a fabulous taxi when being collected from a night club at 1am (my poor mom being said taxi driver). I even learnt to drive in my mom’s Caravelle. The tall manual gear stick was tricky and you can imagine my surprise when I got in to another car only to find out that the gears were ‘upside down.’ I can put my fantastic (ahem!) driving and parking skills down to the fact that I learnt to drive in a Caravelle. It is my claim to driving fame.

Things have certainly come a long way since those Caravelles, it is almost unrecognisable, especially on the inside. But after a short road trip in the Eastern Cape this past week, I am thrilled to say that it still holds all the character and charm that we have come to love from Volkswagen’s premium Transporter.

Caravelle

Speaking of Transporters, the range consists of the Pick Up (Single and Double cab), Panel Van, Crew Bus, Kombi, Caravelle and California. In South Africa the T-Series, especially the legendary Kombi and Caravelle, have been the best-sellers for the past six decades. Now in its sixth generation, the Transporter range has sold around 12 million units worldwide; no other commercial vehicle in the world has been on the market for as long as the Transporter has. This T6.1 will continue the success story of the T-Series model range.

There are few tweaks to this facelifted Caravelle, most noticeably to the front end. It also sports newly designed wheels, six new exterior colours and seven newly combined two-tone paintwork finishes. Inside sees a new instrument panel, air vents that can now be adjusted in every direction and a newly designed steering wheel with a ‘View’ button to enable the driver to switch between digital cockpits. You can also opt for the inductive interface for charging your phone. Speaking of the digital cockpit, a 10.25-inch digital cockpit in the T6.1 is fitted as standard in the Caravelle Highline and California. And to round things off rather nicely, Electro-mechanical power steering is being used for the first time in the T6.1. It reduces fuel consumption, which is always a great thing.

Caravelle interior

There are also a few new driver assistance systems that make this one of the safest and easiest driving commercial vehicle on the market. I can certainly attest to this. We took this car, at speed, around twisty corners and then put it on gravel as well, and not once did I lose confidence in this car. The Crosswind Assist is worth mentioning, because if any of you have experienced a Caravelle in a gale force South Easter, you can attest to what can only be described as a harrowing experience. As part of the Electronic Stabilisation System (ESP), this applies the brakes (undetected by the driver) if the vehicle encounters a strong crosswind when travelling above 80 km/h. It keeps the car in its lane and so you don’t have those mini heart attacks on your journey.

The Caravelle is powered by a new 2.0-litre twin turbo engine, which is supplied as standard in combination with 7-speed DSG. It now produces more power with 146 kW and 450 Nm of torque. It is a superb engine. Acceleration is effortless and the smooth-shifting DSG means that the drive is seamless. It isn’t noisy or thirsty either. It is refined! With three passengers in tow, we were able to converse (and sing) with no engine noise interrupting us and the fuel consumption was kept well below 10l/100 km.

Caravelle

There was a lot of talk about the price of this new Caravelle with many moaning and groaning on Twitter about it. But here’s the thing. The Caravelle is very competitively priced. It hasn’t increased dramatically, yet people remain shocked by its asking price of R1 149 400. Its direct rival, the Mercedes-Benz V250d, is more expensive than this and in all honestly, you are really only paying more for a badge. The Caravelle will make for a fantastic shuttle for a fancy pants hotel or resort, but it will also make for the ultimate family car. I loved being back in a Kombi (as I will continue to call it) and wished I could travel back in time to when things were less uncertain.

This facelifted Caravelle will only be available in January 2021 but you can start placing your orders in the meantime. In a world where SUV’s dominate, I love that the Caravelle offers something different. Something as, if not more, practical, spacious, comfortable and refined. I loved every minute of driving this car, I even enjoyed being a passenger in it which is something I never, ever say!

Now, take me back to the days when our ‘Kombi’ was filled with all of my friends and we got to sit back, relax and just enjoy the ride. No responsibilities. No adulting!

PRICING AND ALL THE GOOD STUFF

T6.1 Caravelle
Highline 2.0 BiTDI 146kW 4MOTION® DSG®             R1 149 400

It comes standard with a 5-year/ 60 000 km maintenance plan and a 3-year/ 120 000 km manufacturer warranty

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