Few buyers of the VW California are likely to use it for all-weather camping, though it does make a fine all-year vehicle, especially with its four-wheel drive for the winter months.
It is expensive, but the quality of construction and materials are easily up to what you would find in Volkswagen’s passenger car ranges. Then there’s the peace of mind of a three-year, 100,000-mile warranty as standard and the fact that every VW dealer throughout Europe can look after the California. That makes this motorhome a tempting choice.
Quality of workmanship
VW dealer network support
Fiddly swivelling seats and cab screens
Introduced earlier this year, the Volkswagen California has just touched down in showrooms and is now available at your nearest Volkswagen dealer, as well as motorhome specialists.
This gives it a key advantage over the competition, as the VW has the largest dealer network of any motorhome on sale in the UK. The California is not strictly speaking a new model. It’s new in terms of the fact that VW has not previously brought the model to the UK, although left-hand drive personal imports have been available through Deepcar Motorhomes in Sheffield. Deepcar is now importing the right-hand drive versions, too, and that’s what we are reviewing here.
The California has another huge advantage: the camper conversion is carried out by Volkswagen itself, so all of the materials and fittings should live up to the German firm’s deservedly high reputation for excellence. We’ll come to that in a minute, but let’s take a quick look at the base vehicle. The Volkswagen Caravelle is one of the most spacious MPV people carriers on sale, offering up to seven seats, so it’s the ideal vehicle on which to build a camper, especially with VW’s heritage stretching back to the Type 2 campers.
The sliding side door is on the right-hand side of the ’van – a legacy from the California’s original designed as a left-hand drive camper – and this opens onto a spacious, combined, living and dining area. There’s plenty of space to stretch out here and the sliding rear bench seat has a pair of three-point belts.
With the rear seat in its normal position, it provides comfortable seating around the fold-up table. The cab’s two captain’s chairs both swivel around to create a cosy four-seater lounge, though getting the front seats to turn takes a fair bit of twiddling with backrest angles and sliding them fore and aft.
The sliding rear bench is worked by lifting a lever down on the lower right of its front and pushing or pulling it to the desired position. It’s a simple arrangement but we found it awkward to get both sides to line up accurately as there was free play in the runners. We also found the handle to lower the seat back very stiff to work, although this could be due to the model we tried being brand new. Even so, it made folding the seat to create a double bed more effort than it should have been.
Water is supplied from a 30-litre container with exterior filling point. There’s also a Waeco cooler that can chill its contents down to -18 degrees Celsius with a 42-litre capacity, and a couple of 12V power points in the living area.
Like many campers, there is no dedicated washroom. However, you could slide a Porta-Potti into one of the lockers beneath the kitchen or store it behind the rear seat.
With the rear seat folded flat, the double bed is a generous size, thanks to the shelf in the boot area that makes up a third of the bed. Simple pull-up blinds shut out the light from the surrounding windows.
We were less impressed with the curtains for the windscreen and front-door windows. The windscreen’s curtain uses a tent pole arrangement that we found fiddly and time consuming, while the door curtains have gaps around their edges which let in light.
Climbing into the elevated roof bed is achieved by using the front seats as a step. Once up there it’s spacious and comfortable, with a thickly padded base. There’s a reading lamp at the front edge and the steep slope of the roof means it’s best to sleep with your feet facing the rear of the ’van.
A couple of zip-down flaps let in plenty of light through the mesh openings but the fabric construction of the elevated roof means it’s only really suitable for use in warmer weather.
There are generous storage cupboards underneath the kitchen unit and also a large drawer that pulls out from under the rear bench seat. More storage is provided by a roof locker at the rear of the living area. A pair of small lockers with sliding fronts at the back of the living area are best accessed through the tailgate. There are also two camping chairs stowed in the tailgate – a neat storage solution.
|Shipping Length||4.58 m|