California Dreaming with the Volkswagen California T6.1
By Justin Delaney
With Irish holiday makers being encouraged to holiday at home throughout 2020 under government guidelines, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has seen a 500% increase in demand for its popular California model. With this in mind we decided to touch base with the press department and take a test vehicle for a weeklong excursion. Based on the transporter or its closer sibling the Carvelle, the Volkswagen California T6.1 is the new face-lifted camper and ours was in Ocean specification.
The California is finished to a similar high quality as the Caravelle. Up front you will find two swivel seats both with their own individual armrests while the rear bench seat will seat two also. That’s just as well because the California will only sleep four in total. Fold down your rear bench seat and hey presto, you have one of your double beds. Activate the aluminium electronic pop up roof from the new panel screen located on the front headlining and you will find another double bed discreetly tucked away. Our test model was also fitted with the optional extra of the black awning which provides cover if you decide to sit out on the supplied deck chairs and table. Kitchen sink, cooker hob, fridge and storage space are all located in the rear alongside the rear bed / seats. The Ocean gets three-zone climate control and a programmable parking heater as standard. This provides heating when the engine isn’t running for those colder than normal nights, which is quite often here in Ireland! The California is the type of campervan which will turns head in any campsite that you visit. Every enthusiast wants one, or at least wants to have a look and see what exactly it is you get for your money. In short, you get enough space to carry you along with three passengers and their luggage with somewhere rather comfortable to sleep to should the mood take you.
Powered by a 2.0 litre TDi engine and further complimented by 4Motion, Volkswagens four-wheel drive system you will have ample power with 199bhp. The addition of the 4Motion four-wheel drive system means that even in the wettest campsites that the country should offer, you are always assured that the California will pull its way out. Mated to a silky smooth 7-speed DSG gearbox means climbing up or dropping back down the gearbox is effortless as preselected gears drop in without a judder to disrupt your cutlery.
Standard equipment on all California models include six airbags and electronic stability control, but the number of active driver aids has increased considerably during the vehicle’s lifetime. This latest T6.1 facelift model has gained electrically power-assisted steering (EPAS), which has made even more active safety items possible, including crosswind assist (now standard on all models), lane-keeping assist and automatic parking. Other safety items available include blindspot monitors, traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control.
Now there is a new entry-level version of the California called the California Beach. The Beach comes with a 2.0-litre 150hp Diesel engine, has 5-seats and a starting price of €55,905. It sleeps four people comforably and features a mini kitchen with a gas cooking plate, a second battery, swivel seats in front and a 230-V inlet with charging feature for vehicle batteries and a 230-V outlet in the interior. Inevitably our Ocean test vehicle did come in considerably more expensive at €85,831. For this amount you could have a larger camper, complete with a bathroom, the only thing missing from the California. However, one of the main advantages to the California is its size, it’s not daunting to drive and is easy to park in regular car parking spaces. The good news is that there are special offers available including 2.9% Hire Purchase and a deposit contribution of €2,750 at the time of writing.
We spent most of our time cruising along the picturesque Wild Atlantic Way. For all our routes we used Google maps through Apple Carplay, which works extremely well. The California is extremely comfortable and capable over long distances, we often took breaks in small villages where we could park easily and made fresh coffee and lunch within minutes. The onboard fridge is surprisingly cavernous swallowing up plenty of food and drinks. Once at your chosen campsite it doesn’t take long to setup for the night. The California Ocean is extremely well equipped, with clever storage compartments throughout. All the campsites provide an electrical power point to connect with a 230-volt socket at the rear of the California, saving the California’s two onboard batteries. There are two built-in water tanks, one for fresh water and one for wastewater when using the sink. There is a two-ring gas cooker, which is more than capable of cooking up a decent meal in the evening for when you don’t wish to venture into town.
When it’s time to rest your head, the electrically operated roof rises at the push of a button to reveal the double bed. Getting up and down to this bed requires a bit of athleticism, but once up, it’s a tranquil place to sleep. There are power points and lights too. The interior of the side sliding door cleverly houses a table, with two deck chairs tucked inside the rear hatch. There’s a lot of thought gone into the layout and design of the California, there is even a shower at the rear for washing down outside after a swim at the beach. Taking a holiday in the Volkswagen California allows you the freedom to travel at your leisure and visit places you may not otherwise see. There’s also the benefit of having an abundance of luggage space for any holiday purchases. All you have to do is plan your destination!
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