Best car

Volkswagen California: drive, eat, sleep

The Volkswagen California is the classic VW camper van reinvented – a palace on wheels and the most illustrious vehicle of its sort. Andrew Frankel goes for a ride

Volkswagen California 2.0 TDI Beach

This model from £36,810

To call the Volkswagen California merely a camper van is a gross underselling of this extraordinary vehicle’s abilities. Yes, it will sleep four in comfort, two in the main cabin and two on a sprung mattress in the roof, and of course it can be kitted out with hot and cold running water, a refrigerator, gas stove and even a wardrobe.

But the real key to its appeal is to combine all of this into a vehicle with great build quality, and which is a fine ride, has real comfort and is even an entirely pleasant driving experience. In other words, not like a van at all. The standard ‘Beach’ version is all most people will need, and comes with a foldaway table and chairs as standard. But if you want it all – including an electrically extendable room, fully functioning kitchen and side awning as well – it’s the SE model to which you must turn.


  • Engine: 1968cc, 140bhp
  • Top speed: 107mph
  • 0-60mph acceleration: 14.2sec


  • Claimed economy: 39.2mpg

RAC Drive Verdict

3 / 5
2 / 5
5 / 5
5 / 5