What is it?
Volkswagen is a company that sits right at the top of the tree in the camper van world. Built on a reputation of classic campers and buses, Volkswagen is, for many, a go-to maker for camper vans.
These days, it’s the California that sits as the core model in Volkswagen’s camper line-up. It’s packed with features and innovations to make your time on the road as comfortable as possible. Let’s find out just what it has to offer.
The ‘6.1’ generation California brings an even sharper focus on versatility than its predecessor. The quality has seen a big lift too - not that it was particularly disappointing previously, mind you - while the exterior has been tweaked in design.
Inside, there’s a new control panel above those sitting up front, giving you quick and easy access to functions like the pop-up roof and auxiliary heater. It’s one of the most notable additions to this new California.
What’s under the bonnet?
You can get the California with one of two setups, but both use the same 2.0-litre diesel engine to kick out either 148 or 201bhp. However, you can only have the option of both power outputs on top-spec California Ocean models, with all other specifications only available with the lower power level.
Performance is pretty good too, considering the weight of the California. Even the 148bhp model will manage the 0-60mph sprint in 14.1 seconds, while the 201bhp version shaves this down to an impressive 11 seconds.
What’s it like to drive?
You get behind the wheel of the California bearing in mind that it is a large, relatively heavy van, but the way it moves is really quite surprising. It’s got light steering which makes positioning it simple, while the squared-off edges make judging where your corners are easy.
The engine pulls more than strongly enough and once you’re up to speed there’s not a lot of wind or road noise to contend with. It means that longer trips will definitely be spent comfortably.
How does it look?
You can get the California in a classic two-tone paint scheme and, to our eyes, it looks fantastic. It gives it some real character and helps to separate it from the regular Transporter with which the California shares so much of its layout.
The pop-top roof goes away neatly and is barely noticeable when stowed away, and the same goes for the awning which can be collapsed and put away at a moment’s notice, which is ideal for when you’re caught out by the UK’s unpredictable weather.
What’s it like inside?
It’s inside where the bulk of the California’s appeal lies. There’s a bench seat that rear passengers can get buckled up in when on the move, but it also doubles as a lounging area where you’re not. You can also slide the bench seat to free up more space, while the hob is cleverly positioned and has a surprising amount of room surrounding it.
The pop-up tent is there for sleeping duties - opened via a hand control in the Coast trim or electronically in the Ocean - and, once in place, it offers an excellent amount of space with a comfortable mattress. Other clever features include a table that can be fixed to the door when not in use and chairs that can be stowed away in the bootlid.
What’s the spec like?
You’ve got three versions of the California to choose from - Beach Camper, Beach Tour and Ocean. Prices start at £60,398, with all models getting a pop-up roof as standard as well as adaptive cruise control, that movable bench seat and a leather multi-function steering wheel.
Top-spec Ocean models build on this with double glazing in the rear area and heat-insulating glass up front, which can help to keep the cabin cosy even when the auxiliary heating is off. Plus, front and rear parking sensors are included at this grade.
The California 6.1 Camper feels like a vehicle at its very best. It’s well made, well equipped and super easy to drive and it’s all wrapped in an exterior design which is both eye-catching and premium, too.
The interior is cleverly packaged, too, ensuring that any trips away from home will be comfortable. A good number of specifications means there’s a version to suit most people, too.