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Volkswagen T6 California (2015–)

Last updated 28 October 2017

Refined and easy to drive, impressive economy, still the coolest way to camp.
Looks and feels very similar to its predecessor, high list price, Beach models don't have ‘premium’ dashboard.
Updated 27 July 2017
2.0-litre TSI petrol engines added to California T6 range.

Buyers can choose between two 2.0-litre (1984 cc) TSI units that develop 150PS and 204PS. The latter is equipped with a seven-speed DSG gearbox as standard and available for front- or four-wheel drive,...

Read more

Introduction

The Volkswagen California is very much a textbook evolutionary approach to the camper van, with the its boxy van-like exterior hiding a refined and modern interior that will provide all-weather accommodation for up to four adults. 

Compared to its T5 predecessor, it looks very similar. In fact, parked side-by-side, you’d only notice that the design of the headlights of the California T6 are a little sharper and now feature LED daytime running lights. 

There's little else different though. And inside, while the dashboard is slightly glossier and classier (in some versions), the rear living section is almost identical. There’s an overarching feeling of familiarity with the T6 California.  

That’s because this California is a thorough overhaul of the Transporter-based T5 model, rather than a clean sheet redesign. It’s the last variant of the latest generation Transporter-based T6 vehicles to be launched, following the panel van, kombi van and Caravelle. 

In fairness to Volkswagen, there was little wrong with the T5 Transporter in the first place, so all the development work has gone into refining from a good base, which seems wise. Over 6000 changes have been made, says Volkswagen. 

Spend some time in this California and you’ll soon realise that this is a much-improved camper van. It’s more refined, more efficient, better to drive and benefits from some of the most cutting edge media and safety technology that Volkswagen offers in its passenger cars – including automatic low-speed collision prevention braking and Apple CarPlay. 

Two versions are available, called Beach and Ocean, with the former seating five and sleeping four while the latter has one less chair but includes a fully-fitted kitchen. It too sleeps four in the same way. That makes the Ocean model the camper van proper, while the Beach feels more like an MPV with added sleeping facilities.  

The problem is, to literally get the kitchen sink with your California, the list price reaches £50,000 and beyond. That’s an awful lot of money, especially given a used T5 California will sate your camping requirements just as effectively for a significantly lower sum. It’s upon this realisation that the evolutionary approach feels slightly flawed.

Driven: Volkswagen California Ocean

Comfortable, modern and easy to use, the Volkswagen California Ocean is proof that camping needn't be about cold tents, messy guide ropes and air beds that mysteriously deflate during the night.

Read our first drive here >>

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