Volkswagen T6 California Review 2024

Volkswagen T6 California At A Glance


+Refined and easy to drive, excellent driver and passenger comfort, still the coolest way to camp.

-High list price, sluggish DSG automatic gearbox, limited number of petrol models.

The Volkswagen California is very much a textbook evolutionary approach to the camper van, with the its boxy van-like exterior hiding a comfortable and modern interior that provides upmarket, 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 T6 California are a little sharper. 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.   

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 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. 

Spend some time in this California and you’ll quickly realise that this is a much-improved camper van. It’s quieter on the motorway, 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. The infotainment system also gets full Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

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. However, if you want the ultimate camper experience, few vans can match the everyday usability of the T6 California.

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 >>


Ask Honest John

Will the 2030 ban cause diesel camper van prices to go down?

"I'm considering buying a new Volkswagen T6 camper van. Will spend between £50,000 to £60,000 but am worried it will devalue lots as a fossil fuel vehicle. Especially with all the hype, restrictions now to go carbon zero. What is your advice?"
Camper van values have traditionally been very robust against depreciation, However, since the pandemic, values have gone into overdrive. And all generations of the California are currently commanding strong money: I don't think this will change in the foreseeable future, as the T3, T4 and T5 all have huge followings in the UK and Europe. If anything, the 2030 ban and the switch to electric could make the T6 a collector's item due to it being the last of its kind.
Answered by Dan Powell

What's the best camper van for a family of three?

"We are new to the world of campers and would like to buy a van. What would be the best camper van for a family of three?"
A camper based on a medium-size van like the Ford Transit Custom or Volkswagen Transporter would be fine for a family of three because it provides two double beds (one in the raised roof compartment and another via the rear seats). If you have the budget then I'd recommend Volkswagen California and Ford Transit Custom Nugget - both are excellent. However, if you don't have £40k+ to drop on a camper then there are a lot of cheaper alternatives that have been converted by independent specialists.
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

I paid extra for DAB radio in my campervan - is it fair that four months later it still isn't fitted?

"I took delivery of a new Volkswagen California Beach on 15 September 2017 and paid extra for a DAB radio (£350 plus VAT). I live in Bath but bought it from a Volkswagen van centre in Poole. No one told me the DAB was not fitted when I drove back to Bath. It was a approximately a month before I went back for the mudguards, (which also hadn't been fitted), and I asked why I couldn't get the DAB to work. I was promised that they'd get one fitted but had to get the parts. I went back to have this corrected on 25 November after many phone calls asking for information. Instead of an invisible aerial, I had one stuck to my windscreen. It didn't work and they said they had been sent the wrong part which had been labelled incorrectly. I'm still waiting for them to contact me, despite promising they will keep me updated. I feel I'm being fobbed off having waited so long. My sister in-law bought a Volkswagen Beach from the same garage before me with a DAB radio. There is no visible aerial. Am I being offered a cheaper alternative?"
I think it’s unacceptable for the dealer to fob you off with an aftermarket DAB aerial, when you’ve paid for a factory-fit system. Make a complaint in writing to the dealer principal. Send it by recorded delivery and outline all of the problems you've had. Demand that, if the dealer cannot fix the radio, they fund a specialist who can, either by repairing the existing radio or fitting a different one. That is your right because the radio (not the van) has been faulty from the day you took delivery.
Answered by Dan Powell
More Questions

What does a Volkswagen T6 California cost?