The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.
Share this review on
I've been driving around in my father's VW Caravelle Type 4 800 special for the last few days. The 800 refers to the payload of 800 kgs. It is a 1994 model with 60K on the clock. It has a 1.9 non turbo diesel engine developing a somewhat puny 60 bhp, but more importantly for this type of vehicle, 144 lbs ft of torque.
For a van it doesn't look too bad, with the Volkswagen family look at the front and rounded corners. A large single tailgate, large sliding door and capacious load bay mean it is very practical. This is the first VW Transporter/Caravelle with the engine at the front rather than the rear, which means that the loading level at the tailgate is much lower than previously. Also access to the engine is now through a conventional bonnet which should make things easier come service time.
All the fixtures and fittings are incredibly strong, a couple of low lifes tried to indulge in the popular drunken sport of punch off the wing mirror, but they didn't suceed in breaking it off, I just popped it back into place.
This hewn from rock feel extends to the inside, all the plastics are very good quality, the doors shut with a solid thunk, and all the switches work in a positive manner.
Ergonomics are typically VW black on white clear. Black as usual is the predominant colour in the cab, although a large windscreen and windows relieve the gloom somewhat
Driving it is for the most part very easy. It has a light clutch and steering even by car standards, and there is a reasonable amount of steering feel.
What I don't like is the very stiff long travel throttle pedal. This tends to mean the van is very slow pulling off in 1st and 2nd gear, which makes pulling off into busy traffic or onto roundabouts a bit nerve racking. There is no power at all available if you make a slight misjudgement. Once you are moving and into 3rd gear and above there is enough midrange power to make reasonable progress, get up hills and overtake. I managed to get it up to 85 while overtaking a line of traffic, and it does not feel unduly strained at that speed. It will cruise perfectly happily all day on the motorway at 70.
Previously we had an 1982 Type 3 Caravelle with a 1600 flat 4 petrol engine. This was more lively at low speed when pulling away, but was much less happy at higher speed, 70 on the motorway feeling a real strain.
The type 4 is a superior vehicle in every way to previous VW caravelles being more economical more practial and feeling much more solid. This is because it is a much more conventional vehicle, which lacks the quirkiness which gave previous vans character in bucketloads.
A Type 4 with a TDI engine would address the low speed sluggishness, and be a very fine van indeed I would have thought