New LCV test drive

Volkswagen California Ocean test drive

The Volkswagen California is the go-to choice for compact campers, and could just be the ultimate weekend getaway vehicle

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What is it?

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 have 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.

What’s new about this Volkswagen California?

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 £57,605 (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 Volkswagen 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.

How does it look?

The Volkswagen 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.

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Our car also came with optional LED headlights and daytime running lights (£1,584) and metallic paint (£696). These both help to make the California look just a little classier than an ordinary van.

What’s the spec like?

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.

Continued on next page: Interior, drive and our verdict

Jack Evans
Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Van Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association), including news, new LCV reviews and other automotive features.

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