Review: Volkswagen T5 Caravelle (2003 – 2010)


The space and comfort it affords 6 or 7 occupants and their luggage. Excellent diesel engines. Elevated driving position. Good safety kit.

Not cheap. Unsettled ride away from the motorway. Even Startline £4,500 dearer than top Hyundai i800.

Recently Added To This Review

19 March 2015 Haynes manual now available:

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25 April 2014

"Chirrup" reported on start up from aux belts of 47k mile 2.5TDI camper. Replacing the belts and pulleys did not cure it. Read more

6 December 2013

Another report of the leaking sliding side window and dealer refusing to fix under warranty. Read more

Volkswagen T5 Caravelle (2003 – 2010): At A Glance

Remember the old Audi straight five TDI? It appeared in the Audi 100, the 100 A6, the Volvo 850TD and early V70 TD, and, of course, in the VW T4 Caravelle.

A great engine, especially with the six-speed box. But marred by an injector pump that had a habit of slipping out of timing, a timing belt that was a real pig to replace, and a water pump that could seize, fling off the belt and introduce valves to pistons.

No such worries with the straight-five T5 Caravelle. Because it has half a Touareg 5.0 V10, with a gear-train driven camshaft plus all essential ancilliaries. It's one engine that, touch wood, is probably incapable of self-destruction,

Which is why, when fitted to commercial vans, VW will come up with a warranty/maintenance package that GUARANTEES it for 200,000 miles over 5 years.

VW T5 Caravelle 2003 Road Test

What does a Volkswagen T5 Caravelle (2003 – 2010) cost?

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Volkswagen T5 Caravelle (2003 – 2010): What's It Like Inside?

The reason for buying a Caravelle isn't the number of people it will carry, which is restricted to seven. It's the comfort in which they will be able to travel and the amount of luggage they will be able to take with them. A bit of sliding and turning of seats and the table soon converts the back into a comfortable parlour for five. If you need more luggage space, you simply slide the rearmost seats forwards a bit. And, if you want a vehicle capable of the occasional overnighter, you can buy a ‘Sleep Pack' of mattress and curtains turning the whole of the back into a nice big double bed.

Child seats that fit a Volkswagen T5 Caravelle (2003 – 2010)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

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What's the Volkswagen T5 Caravelle (2003 – 2010) like to drive?

We tried the new engine with 130PS and 174PS outputs and, while the 130 is pretty much what you'd expect from experience of the T4 2.5TDI, the 174 is indecently and almost worryingly quick.

The huge advantage of the T4 and T5 is the height you sit to drive them. You see over, rather than through the car in front and can see a lot further ahead than its driver can see. So, like truck and Range Rover drivers, you spot hazards early and have more time to deal with them.

You need it. Because the 174 is a van capable of 117mph, and the forthcoming V6 will do nearly 130. That's arguably too fast for the sort of vehicle it is. Because despite ABS with ASR and EDL and ESP, on a greasy surface you just don't feel you'd have the sort of control you would have over a low -riding saloon, estate or sports car.

Okay, the obvious answer is keep the speed down to the limits, which is what you would do with seven members of your family aboard. But you would still benefit from the vastly superior acceleration and hill climbing ability of the 174, which, used judiciously, can be a safety factor.

A small criticism is the ride comfort. Off the motorway you are aware of a constant pitching movement. Nothing like as bad as old-fashioned vans and buses, but there in the background nonetheless.

Should you buy one when a Previa or Grande Espace is a fair bit cheaper? Up to you. I do think from their specification the gear train cam 2.5 litre diesel engines should be virtually everlasting, so that's a huge plus point. The floorpan is galvanised so the 174 should be an excellent basis for a powerful motorhome. And if you want to carry eight or nine, you can always opt for the non Caravelle, commercial spec Shuttle eight or nine seaters.

What have we been asked about the Volkswagen T5 Caravelle (2003 – 2010)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

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What should I look out for when buying a 2006 Volkswagen T5 Caravelle?

What should I look out for when buying a 2006 Volkswagen T5 Caravelle?
The Volkswagen Caravelle is a high quality people carrier, but there are a number of things to look out for when buying used. The most-common complaint surrounds the diesel particulate filter, which can clog up if the van is used for repeated short runs from cold. This means you need to make lots of checks into the vehicles history and avoid any that have been used as taxis. The 2.0 BiTDI is also troublesome and we’ve had lots of reports of engine failure and problems. The same goes for the DSG automatic gearbox, so again I’d avoid these. To read more about the Volkswagen T5 Caravelle, see: To see all of our used van buying advice, see:
Answered by Dan Powell
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