Volkswagen labels its new Caravelle as a purpose-built people carrier that will take seven people and their luggage. Cynics might say it’s a purpose-built van with a few extra seats and some windows.

Whatever your view, five of us plus tons of gear chose a Caravelle for a Christmas trip to the Alps and I can’t imagine how any vehicle short of Ozzy Osbourne’s tour bus could have made a better fist of it.

The entry-level Caravelle costs £24,750 and comes with a 103bhp, 185lb ft 1.9 TDi engine, but another £1100 gets you the 2.5 TDi, a five-cylinder engine generating another 26bhp and 66lb ft more torque.

It’s worth paying for the extra performance. Mated to the pleasantly industrial six-speed gearbox, it needs just 3000rpm to pull 100mph. Combine this loping gait with a big fuel tank and an overall consumption of 32mpg and the Caravelle’s credentials as a continental touring machine become self-evident.

And it gets better. Interior space is massive and even if it can’t really carry seven people plus luggage, five will be very comfortable. The front four seats spin on their bases and the middle two are removable, although they are inordinately heavy.

The drive is satisfyingly ‘king of the road’, but the most amazing thing is the sumptuous ride. One-up, you’ll get some fore-and-aft pitching, but load it up for limo-like comfort.

This is no flounced-up van. The conversion from commercial to ‘real’ vehicle is thoughtful and comprehensive enough to make the Caravelle a serious, if pricey, threat to more mainstream MPVs.

Tony Middlehurst

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