Volkswagen T5 California (2010 – 2015) Review

Volkswagen T5 California (2010 – 2015) At A Glance


+Great use of space, high quality fit and finish, relatively efficient diesel engines, sleeps four adults in genuine comfort, compact enough to use as a day-to-day vehicle.

-Gruff engine, dashboard is more ‘van’ than Volkswagen car as is driving position, expensive and very much so with options, reports of catastrophic engine problems with 2.0BITD after 60k miles.

The Volkswagen California may be based on the fairly humble Transporter, but its roots go far deeper than that. The California is, to all intents and purposes, today’s ‘camper van’. That gives it legendary lineage.

Being van-based means that the California isn’t the most exciting vehicle to look at – there’s very little to distinguish it from the Transporter on the outside, and it’s a far cry from the characterful split-screen Type 2 camper of old – but it does make for an extremely versatile cabin.  

Teaming with intelligent practicality flourishes, the California sails close to being a luxurious motorhome, despite relatively compact dimensions, and it can sleep four in the sort of comfort that tent-based campers can only dream of.

The current California is available in two distinct variants, entry-level Beach and range-topping SE, and with a choice of three engines, all of them 2.0-litre TDI common rail diesel units, with 114PS, 140PS or 180PS.

The entry-level California Beach is effectively a hotel on wheels, offering a rear bench that converts into a comfortable bed and an electronically operated pop-up canvas roof, capable of sleeping two more. The California SE, meanwhile, literally throws in the kitchen sink, adding cooking facilities to the interior including an on-board water supply, a gas hob, a fridge and storage units.

That flexibility doesn’t come cheap, however, with prices for top-of-the-range versions surpassing the £50,000 mark. However, the California does hold its value exceptionally well and will always be a desirable vehicle, blending camping versatility with everyday practicality.

Ask Honest John

What wheels should be fitted to my Volkswagen T5 California?

"I've just got a Volkswagen T5 camper van and have been told that the wrong wheels are on it, they are 22 inch and they are rubbing the mud flaps. What size wheel do I need and what is the spare? "
The correct wheel size for your T5 can vary depending on the year of manufacture, specification and engine size, but Volkswagen T5s of this era were fitted with 16, 17 or 18-inch wheels. You will likely need a hub bore of 65.1mm and a 5x120 bolt pattern, with an offset between 48mm and 57mm. We would suggest looking online for wheels to suit, but any original manufacturer-supplied wheel for a T5 should fit your campervan without any issues. Alternatively you can try an independent wheel specialist who will help you choose the correct size and fitment. The same fitment information will apply to the spare, but you should check the spare wheel well or hanger to ensure it will fit.
Answered by David Ross

High-mileage Volkswagen California camper vans - should I buy one?

"I'm looking for a camper van for exploring and monthly use. I would like to see it go for 5+ years and then maybe sell it. I have encountered a rare dream van close to where I live. Unfortunately, it has seen some impressive miles (178,000). What you think, should I even bother?"
There is no reason to shun high mileage camper vans, but a good servicing and maintenance history is key to getting a good one. The 2.5 TDI is gear-driven (which means it doesn't have a cam belt) but I would want to see a large history folder with documents that show the engine has had an oil and filter change every 12,000 miles or 12 months (whichever was sooner). Don’t ignore any vibrations when it’s running either, the dual mass flywheel is prone to failure and will cost a small fortune to fix if it goes wrong. For all of our camper van buying advice, see:
Answered by Dan Powell

What is the road tax VED for my Volkswagen camper van?

"What is the cost of the road tax for our Volkswagen camper?"
The road tax VED cost will be dependant on the vehicle's DVLA classification. Classed as a van, it'll be: Classed as a camper van/motor caravan, it'll be:
Answered by Dan Powell
More Questions

What does a Volkswagen T5 California (2010 – 2015) cost?