Favourites
Volkswagen California Review logo

Volkswagen California Review

Volkswagen California
Volkswagen California
Volkswagen California
Volkswagen California
Volkswagen California
Volkswagen California
Volkswagen California
Volkswagen California
Volkswagen California
Volkswagen California
Volkswagen California

1/10

Volkswagen California

2/10

Volkswagen California

3/10

Volkswagen California

4/10

Volkswagen California

5/10

Volkswagen California

6/10

Volkswagen California

7/10

Volkswagen California

8/10

Volkswagen California

9/10

Volkswagen California

10/10

1 / 10

heycar review

      Launch year
      2020
      Body type
      Campervan
      Fuel type
      Diesel
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
Space efficient and posh campervan

Best bits

  • Still the definitive small campervan
  • Excellent driver and passenger comfort
  • Refined and easy to drive

Not so great

  • Expensive to buy, even second-hand 
  • Limited range of engines and only one gearbox offered
  • Top sleeping area isn’t for everyone

Read by

Volkswagen California front

Overall verdict

Volkswagen California steering wheel

On the inside

Volkswagen California driving

Driving

Volkswagen California interior sink hob

How much does it cost to run

Volkswagen California profile side

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"Volkswagen has a proud history of campervans, and the California ensures that the brand’s association with overnight adventuring is very much in the present too."

Volkswagen California front

The Volkswagen California - the T6.1 being the latest iteration - is based on the Transporter panel van and shares many elements with the commercial vehicle but with much more tech and touches to make it more relaxing to drive. It’s quieter on the motorway, gets a more car-like dashboard, upgraded infotainment screens and a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox as standard.


There are various versions of the California available, the Beach Tour, Beach Camper, Coast and the Ocean, plus two versions of the 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine that appears in multiple Volkswagen models, including the Volkswagen Transporter.


The newer cheapest version - the  Beach Tour - has five seats as standard, with the option to increase to six or seven while the Beach Camper gets four seats as standard with an option to increase to five, as well as a pull-out mini kitchen with a single gas hob, and pull-out awning.


All models come with space for four, both in terms of seats and sleeping areas. The lower bed is created by folding down the rear bench seat while the upper sleeping area is created by opening up a roof awning. The 2019 facelift brought updates to both of these, with the upper bed getting an enhanced, sprung mattress and the lower bed getting a lounge function, which enables you to raise the headrest in several steps so you can sit up and read in bed.


The engines are two of the more powerful versions of the 2.0-litre range, with a 150PS and 199PS model on offer. Both of them offer more than enough power to carry the California around without ever really feeling too stressed. Previous versions of the camper have come with lower-powered engines, which struggled with the combination of the van’s weight and hills. You can only get the lower-powered version on the Coast, while the Ocean comes with the choice of both.


The official economy figures for the two engines are practically identical – both average around 33mpg and there is less than 0.5mpg between the two. Both are only available with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox as standard, and the only other option is the 4Motion four-wheel drive system. If you are still struggling to decide between the two then the lesser-powered version takes 14.3 seconds to get from 0-62mph while the 199PS model takes just under 12 seconds.


There is little difference in weight between models, so the handling is much the same, which is to say that it is a vehicle that is relatively easy to drive but still needs a little care and consideration. This is particularly the case in the corners, where the amount of weight high up on the California means it is more likely to lean over a little than the van on which it is based. That said, the comfortable suspension and responsive steering make it a relaxing vehicle on the move.


Buying a California looks like an expensive undertaking when you look at purchase price alone, but there is more to it than that. You get great value for money when you consider the amount it costs to create your own camper to a similar spec, and the fact that the California holds its value remarkably well.


There’s also the reassurance that this is a camper that is built in-house by a manufacturer that has been turning out similar vehicles for years. It’s a great buy if you can stretch to the cost.

Ready to get your top quality Volkswagen California?

  • All cars come with a warranty
  • Selected dealers only
  • All quality checked

Volkswagen California

2.0 TDI BlueMotion Tech Beach 150 5dr

  • 2018
  • 14,540 miles
  • Vertu Volkswagen Van Centre Hereford
  • Herefordshire, HR11LQ
Price:£48,995
PCP: £850.86/mo

Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £850.86, Customer Deposit: £7,349.00, Total Deposit: £7,349.25, Optional Final Payment: £20,861.00, Total Charge For Credit: £8,995.35, Total Amount Payable: £57,990.35, Representative APR: 9.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 9.48%, Excess Mileage Charge: 8ppm, Mileage Per Annum: 10,000

Volkswagen California

2.0 TDI Ocean 199 5dr DSG

  • 2020
  • 4,075 miles

Manufacturer Approved

  • Swansway Volkswagen Birmingham
  • Warwickshire, B64RG
Price:£66,991
PCP: £959.13/mo

Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £959.13, Customer Deposit: £10,048.00, Total Deposit: £10,048.65, Optional Final Payment: £32,410.00, Total Charge For Credit: £9,037.20, Total Amount Payable: £76,028.20, Representative APR: 6.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 6.9%, Excess Mileage Charge: 7.2ppm, Mileage Per Annum: 10,000

Is the Volkswagen California right for you?

The California makes a case for itself on an emotive front as much as a logical one. Its compact dimensions mean that it allows a family to head off for a break without the need for a huge campervan or caravan that would be more intimidating to drive.


Volkswagen’s campervan heritage will attract a few too, with the modern California sharing many of the attributes with the old 1960s camper that still has many fans today. It brings more creature comforts than those old buses, though, with technology meaning that the California offers everything that you would expect from a modern hotel room, apart from the bathroom that is.


But where the Volkswagen is special is that there are so few like it. There might be a couple of other manufacturers that do something similar, but very few and none with the history and experience that Volkswagen has.

What’s the best Volkswagen California model/engine to choose?

Value for money doesn’t really come into it when you are choosing a California, as it is a pretty pricy endeavour regardless of which one you go for. On that basis, there is a strong argument to throw caution to the wind and just go for the one that you want the most and that comes with more kit.


That said, there isn’t really a strong reason to head for the most powerful engine as the 150PS version will take on everything that you choose to throw at it in terms of carrying the California’s bulk and the extra luggage you load it up with. If you plan on winter camping, or heading onto more inaccessible camping spots then the 4WD version might be worth a look, but otherwise keep it basic on that front.

What other cars are similar to the Volkswagen California?

What cars are similar and what competes even if it’s not in the same class (i.e if value is your priority also consider, same for other areas, e.g warranty, space, performance, etc)


There are very few direct rivals to the Volkswagen California – a well-specced in-house campervan isn’t something you find on most manufacturers’ lists.


The two main rivals are the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo and the more recent Ford Transit Custom Nugget and both are created in partnership with Westfalia, rather than in-house like the California.


The other alternatives are campers made by aftermarket converters. This gives you more control on how you lay the van out, but doesn’t come with the years of experience that the Volkswagen offers.

Learn more

Volkswagen California steering wheel

On the inside

Volkswagen California driving

Driving

Volkswagen California interior sink hob

How much does it cost to run

Volkswagen California profile side

Prices, versions and specification