The California is a flexible camper van with an upmarket cabin that makes travelling, relaxing and sleeping as enjoyable and simple as possible. Crammed with features, the California ensures that life on the road is never dull.
The California is available for 48 hour test drive from £150 per day for California Coast and from £200 per day for California Ocean models based on a 2 day, 48 hour test drive. Terms and Conditions apply, subject to availability. Only available to drivers 25 years old and above. Hire cost is redeemable against the purchase of a new California Coast or California Ocean from Swansway Volkswagen Van Centres purchased by 31st December 2020.
The California Coast features body-coloured elements such as an aluminium pop-up roof, door handles, door mirrors (electrically heated and adjustable) and bumpers. A driver-side sliding door provides easy access, the vehicle’s tailgate can be remotely released and locked and the vehicle rides on 16-inch Clayton alloy wheels. Illumination includes range-adjustable headlights, daytime running lights and rear fog lamps.
Choose from a range of 2.0-litre 148bhp and 198bhp diesel engines. The latter are paired with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, while the former are mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. CO2 emissions range from 162g/km to 168g/km, while fuel economy varies between 45.6mg and 44.8mpg. The Start/Stop system ensures that fuel consumption is minimised by automatically switching the engine off whenever the California Coast comes to a standstill.
An adjustable leather steering wheel with height-and-reach adjustability and power-assisted steering is standard. Other features include a dipping breakaway rear-view mirror, electric front windows, semi-automatic air conditioning and black-out window blinds throughout. When the driving has finished, both front seats rotate 180 degrees. A folding table (plus two chairs) is included, which attaches to a side sliding door and features an awning rail. Stowage provision includes cup and bottle holders, door compartments, a lockable glovebox and storage nets. When it is time to go to sleep, a two-person bed transforms from the rear bench and a two-person upper bed (formed from the pop-up roof) are accessible.
A six-speaker sound system includes a CD player and Bluetooth® connectivity, AUX and SD connectivity, as well as a five-inch colour touchscreen interface. Driving aids include a Traction Control System, Electronic Stability Programme, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System and Driver Alert System. Passive safety features comprise child locks, ISOFIX mountings, adjustable head restraints and seatbelt tensioners. An alarm, an immobiliser and remote central locking are also included.
The California Ocean boasts a number of body-coloured elements, not least an electrically powered aluminium pop-up roof which features front and side windows. A high-gloss, chrome-trimmed grille adorns the front fascia, and the vehicle also features 17-inch Aracaju alloy wheels. Illumination includes range-adjustable twin headlights, daytime running lights, front fog lamps (with cornering functionality), LED tail lights and a rear fog light.
A choice of 2.0-litre 148bhp and 198bhp diesel engines is available, paired with either six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Fuel economy ranges from 44.8mpg to 49.6mpg and CO2 emissions vary from 182g/km to 169g/km. Acceleration from 0-60mph in approximately 11 seconds and a top speed of 123mph is achievable with a 201bhp engine/six-speed manual gearbox pairing. The Start/Stop system keeps fuel consumption as low as possible by automatically turning the engine off whenever it isn’t required.
The driver benefits from a rake-and-reach-adjustable steering wheel, and both front seats offer lumbar support. Other features include power-assisted steering, electric front windows, three-zone automatic air conditioning and programmable heating. Stowage provision includes bottle and cup holders, door compartments and under-seat storage. Black-out fabric window blinds feature in the cab and living area. A folding table comes with two chairs and can be attached to the vehicle’s side sliding door. A dark wood-effect kitchen unit includes a gas stove, a flexible worktop, a stainless steel sink and a 42-litre cooling/warming box. Fresh water is provided by a 30-litre storage tank. When it’s time to sleep, the rear bench converts into a two-person bed and the pop-up roof provides a two-person upper bed.
A five-inch colour touchscreen, an eight-speaker sound system with CD player and radio, and Bluetooth®, AUX and SD connectivity are standard. Driver aids include Electronic Stability Programme, Anti-Lock Braking System, Traction Control, Hill Hold Assist, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System and Driver Alert System. Passive safety features comprise height-adjustable head restraints, ISOFIX anchors and tethers, seatbelt reminders and child-proof door locks.
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Holidays within the UK have been growing in popularity during recent years, with people opting for a ‘staycation’ rather than travelling abroad more than ever before.
An easy way to do this is with a camper van and the Volkswagen California – which we’re testing here – is one of the most sought-after.
Though many people opt for a larger motorhome, the compact size and car-like driving experience has pushed people towards the California in their droves, despite a relatively high list price.
We’re testing it here in the UK in range-topping Ocean specification.
A camper van is designed to be a home-away-from-home, which is why there’s so much equipment packed into the California.
Yes, it may cost from £56,884 (and our test van tipped the scales at a hefty £63,155), but that’s because it’s brimmed full of handy features.
Though we’ll look at these in greater detail later on, they mean that you can easily set up camp wherever you decide – the California is very much a self-contained holiday home.
And because it’s based on the regular Transporter, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about its overall size. Yes, if you’re not used to a traditional van it may take some getting used to, but compared to a coachbuilt motorhome it’s leagues easier to drive.
The California uses Volkswagen’s tried-and-tested 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel, which here pushes out 148bhp and 340Nm of torque to the front wheels via a seven-speed DSG gearbox.
Its 0-60mph Acceleration is hardly what you’d call brisk at a claimed 14.2 seconds, and neither is its 110mph top speed. However out on the road it rarely feels underpowered or unable to deal with the job in hand, which is impressive considering the amount of weight it has to pull around.
Economy-wise, Volkswagen claims 40.9mpg combined, while emissions stand at 179g/km CO2. Neither of these are bad for the segment, and when coupled with a 70-litre fuel tank mean that the California has a decent touring range of over 600 miles – depending on how you drive it, of course.
Uneventful, predictable and safe – not necessarily driving traits which will get the blood pumping, but all ones you want to associate with a camper van. The California steers and handles well given its size and weight, and there’s a little less roll in the corner than you’d expect. The steering is relatively light, but it’s reasonably accurate and allows you to get the van through bends with little fuss.
Though that engine may not be all that punchy, it gets up to a lick pretty quickly, and it feels far quicker than the numbers suggest, in fact. The DSG gearbox is the star of the show here, mind; it’s smooth, efficient and responsive. The only issue here is an occasional loss of front-end traction when pulling hard away from a junction. It’s something we’ll admit that not many people will suffer with, but hard starts from a dead stop do get the front wheels spinning in an almost impressive fashion.
The California is a classy and unassuming product, both inside and out. It’s hard to distinguish one from a regular Caravelle or Transporter from the outside, save for subtle Ocean badges dotted in various areas, and the obvious side awning.
Our car also came with optional LED headlights and daytime running lights (£1,584) and metallic paint (£696). These both combine to make the California look just a little classier.
The forward section of the California features two wide, comfortable and supportive captain’s chairs, which feature sizeable armrests likely to help make longer journeys that little bit more comfortable. These can be rotated round to face the rear seats to create an open seating area.
There’s plenty of storage dotted throughout the cabin, and then you have the cooker and sink positioned under a glass top to the side of the car. There’s even a fridge. Up top, you can pop the roof (electrically) to extend the headroom of the California, and this also features a roof bed and stowage component. You can even program the heating when parked via a remote control.
Everything feels sturdy and built-to-last – which is just what you want from a vehicle which is going to be going here, there and everywhere.
There’s a wealth of standard equipment accompanying the California, but then you’d hope there to be given its price.
You get three-zone climate control included as part of the car’s cost, along with 17-inch alloy wheels, the aforementioned pop-up roof and all of the major creature comforts you’d expect from a camper.
It’s a shame that given the van’s price that you don’t get Volkswagen’s excellent Discover Media navigation system as standard.
It houses functions such as satellite navigation and media controls, and just as in other Volkswagen products, it’s brilliantly simple to use with clear graphics and a logically laid-out design. But at £1,578, it’s a costly addition – and one you’d expect to be included as standard in the top-spec Ocean model.
The California is geared towards adventures and, if that’s your thing, then you won’t for a second be disappointed by picking this well-finished Volkswagen. It’s easy to drive – one of its biggest merits – yet it looks premium enough to be parked up in even the smartest of campsites.
Expensive it may be, but many will see the California as an investment, in the same vein as a classic sports car, to be enjoyed over many years and in all manner of places.
If you look at it that way, it makes a lot of sense indeed.
Solutions Personal Contract Plan terms and conditions
1. Service plan covers first two consecutive services limited to x1 oil service and x1 oil and inspection service. 2. For details of our Roadside Assistance, including applicable exclusions, restrictions and T&Cs, please see our handbook: https://www.volkswagen-vans.co.uk/ra_handbook 3. Solutions Personal Contract Plan terms and conditions: At the end of the agreement there are three options: i) pay the optional final payment and own the vehicle; ii) return the vehicle: subject to excess mileage and fair wear and tear, charges may apply; or iii) replace: part exchange the vehicle. With Solutions Personal Contract Plan. 18s+. Subject to availability and status. Terms and Conditions apply. Offer available for vehicles ordered by 31/03/2020 from participating Van Centres. Indemnities may be required. Offers are not available in conjunction with any other offer and may be varied or withdrawn at any time. Accurate at 01/2020. Freepost Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle Financial Services.