Although Volkswagen happily supplies all versions of its Transporter van to specialist converters to turn into campers, it also makes its own – the California. It’s also fair to say it’s one of the very few motorhomes to have earned status as an icon.
Arguably, that’s thanks to some six decades of production, now brought right up to the present – and future – with the latest T6 version of this most campervan-friendly of base vehicles.
It might not seem to have changed much in terms of looks – and definitely not dimensions – but don’t let that fool you. Volkswagen claims some 6,000 differences between the T6 and its immediate predecessor, the T5.
In latest guise, there’s a choice of four Euro VI engines, the two most powerful of which are offered with the California Ocean. Both two-litres, there’s the standard 150PS or the brawny 204PS. Next come all kinds of automatic transmission (as reviewed here) and 4Motion all-wheel drive offerings. Just bear in mind payload dwindles with certain engine/transmission/4Motion configurations.
Certainly, 40mpg should be achievable, in any format, by all but the racers. Latest Californias also benefit from VW’s BlueMotion Technology, which means start-stop, low rolling resistance tyres and regenerative braking – all key fuel-savers that also help minimise CO2 emissions. And there’s just that bit more refinement all round, thanks to quieter surroundings and a compliant ride.
There’s an all-new dashboard, too, that’s exclusive to the California. Climatronic three-zone air conditioning is standard in the Ocean, along with heated front seats and an upgraded stereo system, complete with speakers to the rear, plus padded steering wheel.
Star features of previous Californias remain, of course. That elevating roof is in lightweight aluminium and goes up and down electrically. It also keeps the Ocean’s on-the-road height a centimetre below 2m. The roof and the diesel-fuelled heating system (as well as the fridge) share an overhead control unit for easy operation and monitoring, with the bonus of programming for the heater.
And, of course, Volkswagen brings car-like standards of build to the camper side of things. Examples include the rear seat with retractable head restraints, the quality of the plastic mouldings and the integral blinds for the side windows.
There’s more neat stuff. Like the pair of folding outdoor chairs in a zipped bag in the tailgate, and the free-standing table in its neat recess in the sliding door.
The latter is just a bit too cumbersome for use in the van itself, but a just-as-neat table on a rail fitting is to hand – packing away vertically and unobtrusively on the kitchen side when not needed.
All these are in a conversion that’s hardly changed from the T5 version (where it was the California SE). Arguably, though, there was little to improve.
It’s the usual two gas rings and a sink kitchen arrangement, under separate opaque glass lids, with a top-loading fridge adjacent. At 42 litres, this isn’t the largest, and the fact that it’s top-loading means you have to be a bit organised when preparing food, because this is also really the only spare bit of worktop, although there is the table.
Overall storage isn’t always as practical as some rivals can offer, either. And the “Cali” isn’t exactly over-endowed when it comes to features such as internal lighting and power sockets (12V or 230V, or even USB).
However, it’s as proper a four-berth as you’ll get in a campervan. That sliding rear seat (fully safety-tested, of course) slides out into a pretty flat double bed and there’s another double in the roof section. Both are that bit longer than many rivals provide.
There are plenty of extras to be had, too. Don’t be surprised if you’ve edged over £50,000 by the time you’ve added a few “essentials”.
The last laughs are yours, though. Spec-for-spec’, it still competes more than favourably with any independently produced camper. But, in the longer term this camper boasts record-breaking residual values.
Verdict: Latest Cali simply builds on the iconic status
Plus: Car-like qualities throughout, performance and safety
Minus: Small fridge. Lack of storage, internal lighting and sockets.
In-a-nutshell: A true modern-day classic camper
There’s more information on the California Ocean on the Volkswagen website www.volkswagen-vans.co.uk. Find out more about insuring this or your current motorhome on our motorhome insurance discounts page.
Alternatives: Autohaus Ashton, Bilbo’s Celex, Danbury Surf, Hillside Birchover, Reimo Multi Style, Rolling Homes Columbus
Volkswagen California Ocean factfile
|Model||Volkswagen California Ocean|
|Base vehicle||Volkswagen Transporter T6, 2-litre, 150PS, Euro VI|
|Dimensions||4.90m L x 1.91m W x 1.99m H|
|RRP||From £47,840 on the road|
|Safety & security||Remote central locking, ABS and EBD, airbags (front, head and side for both cab seats), emergency brakelight system, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure warning light, Thatcham Cat 1 alarm and immobiliser with tow-away protection, traction control system with electronic differential lock and hill hold assist, electronic stabilisation system|
|Key options||Pearlescent paintwork (£606), awning (£396), front and rear parking sensors (£420), Light and Vision Pack (£228), privacy glass (£288), removable towbar (£570)|