Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good The major mid life facelift arrived Down Under in March 2010 bringing all new body panels from the front door forwards as well as restyled tail lights = a bolder and far more modern looking van than the pre facelift T5 generation which first went on sale here in April 2008. The Caravelle is impressively huge – at 3,400mm the wheelbase (and the overall length and height) beats all of the competition. As a result the Caravelle is the only nine seat people mover in Australia.
Not so good The front bumper and upper grille are finished in matte black plastic (rather than body painted) and the 16 inch wheels are steel (however alloys are on the options list).
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good A new steering wheel, dash (including the audio panel and climate controls) as well as seat fabrics and trim lift the ambience inside to a higher level than previously. The steering wheel adjusts for rake (up and down) and reach (in and out) and the driver’s seat with height and lumbar adjustment (and armrests) is a comfortable place to spend time in. We like the two zone climate control air conditioning with front and rear controls, the rear roof lighting with reading lights and air-conditioning controls, the dual side sliding doors (rather than a single side door) and that 12V sockets are fitted in the middle and rear rows. The flexible seating is in a four row (!) layout of 2 / 2 / 2 / 3 (number of seats front to rear) with each of the rear 3 rows of seats all being removable to create a super, super big flat floor cargo space.
Not so good The lovely to hold leather steering wheel with multifunction controls is a cost option (we wish it was standard fare); the sliding side windows aren’t as convenient as normal up/down electric windows; with the four rows of seats in place, luggage space is next to nothing (as the fourth row seat back is almost right up against the rear) - however to the intended target market (hotels, adventure tours etc) luggage will likely be carried in an attached trailer so this point may be irrelevant.
Performance

Performance

Good The Caravelle is offered with only one engine and transmission – so thankfully they are both well and truly on the money. The 2.0L four cylinder turbo diesel produces 103kW of power and a healthy 340Nm of torque (from a low 1,750 revs) and the transmission is a seven speed dual clutch DSG gearbox which offers super quick gear changes. The two are a good fit and in both urban and highway environments sufficient ‘oomph’ is readily available.
Not so good Fill the Caravelle with nine adults, a trailer with luggage and then head to the hills = not so sprightly performance. However to be fair considering the official combined fuel economy is a very impressive 8.2L per 100kms, we’re not complaining.
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good Drives more car-like than other van based competitors thanks to the well-damped suspension, steering with good feel and accuracy, and commendable body control. Against its direct competitors it is also quieter inside.
Not so good At almost 2 metres tall (1,990mm to be exact) and at 5.3 metres long (5,292mm to be exact) the Caravelle is a very big vehicle – so of course it doesn’t handle as well as the 1.5 metre tall (1,545mm to be exact) and 4.8 metre long (4,810mm to be exact) Honda Odyssey people mover. However, with the two vehicles parked next to one another – it’s like comparing a pony to a draft horse (same species, different purpose in life).
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good Comes standard with driver and front passenger airbags, Anti-lock brakes, Electronic Stability Control and three point seat belts for all passengers. The cabin sun blinds will come in use on a summer’s day and the two zone climate control does a good job of cooling the cabin. A full size spare wheel rather than a temporary space saver will get the nod of approval from the target market - likely to be corporate fleets, hotel, patient transfer or even the taxi market.
Not so good Front side airbags and curtain airbags are available – but as a cost option, as is cruise control. Available in one grade only – ‘Trendline’ spec so luxuries such as satellite navigation, cornering headlights, parking radar and dual power sliding doors with remote operation are also all options rather than standard kit. However against the competition the Caravelle’s standard features list stacks up very well.