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CAR REVIEW | Volkswagen California Ocean

Welcome to the Mobile California… with options, comes in at £63k OTR! HOW MUCH! I hear you and so many others shrill. £63k

For a van with a kitchen, it might seem expensive. Houses in the North can cost less. That said, you can’t move your house from location to location and, when all the elements combine, it all comes together really well.

THEGAYUK was given the VW California Ocean for a week and we put it through its paces as a commuter, day tripper and camper.

Driving.

The 150PS diesel engine does a fine job in carrying itself around. Its fuel economy was amazingly accurate to what was projected on the dashboard. Very often we would see high 30s and low 40s.

While touring around twisty roads with short straights and long corners, what didn’t work was the engine trying to use all of its 340Nm/Ibs of torque from as low as 1200rpm. It didn’t feel particularly comfortable for either the driver or the engine. It was too sluggish to respond and resulted in more of a crawl than a cruise.

Thankfully the DSG box can be flicked to manual override and it then felt more at ease with itself above 1500rpm. Max torque is from 1500rpm so its reluctance to retain this lower engine rev puzzled me.

The ride and handling were better than expected with no rattles and the high up driving position with luxury appointments around the cabin made this feel more like a Passat than a van. You can see why the Transporter is the benchmark other van makers strive to beat.

Back to that asking price. Is it worth it?

Yes, it is. The California Ocean starts at 55k. Compared to a large SUV, and let’s look in-house at VW and pick the Touareg, it is even better value. The Touareg is priced at £45,000 to £53,765 

In a game of Top Trumps, the California would only be marked down for engine capacity and speed. What you get for this money is a vehicle that you can use every day as your main vehicle but also one that enables you to go to the tip (many councils will let you in because it’s a van with windows and seats) become a mobile office that offers you views that you can’t get in an office or take you away from it all, house you in heated or aircon comfort and allow you to sleep like a human and not a curled up sausage.

Try doing all of that in your SUV.

Is it THAT good?

There are a few bits that could be improved. As a hardened VW camper enthusiast, I can spot a few areas that the old still does better than the new.

The raised pop-top bed is a solid bed. Earlier 70’s models had a flip over part at the end. This enabled the roof bed when not in use, to be a useable storage area during the day. Handy when your living space is no more than 6’ x 11’.

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The fixtures and fittings did get some criticism for feeling a little “cheap”. It’s more lightweight than cheap. The home converter might well fit a quality kitchen from Magnet in their van, but they will pay the price at the pumps for the extra weight. There is a fine line and what VW has achieved in-house is commendable. 

And the grey interior? It grows on you. It’s clean and modern but a touch clinical. It lacks the organic softness associated with wood. That said, after a night in it, the lightness makes for a very relaxed environment. I certainly wasn’t my usual grumpy self before coffee.

With that gripe out of the way, what then can I tell you about the inside? It will seat 4 in comfort. And if you are wise and call for the swivelling captain’s seats in the front, you’ll be even more comfortable during lunch/social times when inside.

The bed is easy to make in 3 steps. The worst part being that of sliding the rear bench forward. It’s a heavy solid unit. Pull a lever, lower the backrest and fold over the padded top cover and you’re almost ready to go. Just layout the duvet and pillows.

If you like a little privacy, there are blinds all round and removable covers for the cab door windows. It all works well, especially the adjustable side blinds allowing partial to a full block of the light outside.

Lighting is soft and plentiful. Nice touches include those in the roof for upstairs sleepers with easy to reach switches.

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There is plenty of storage around for all that you need and more for the stuff you don’t. Cooking is all done on a 2 burner hob. Sadly there is no grill option. Personally, I couldn’t live without one. There is a huge water tank that houses the water for the sink and external shower unit for washing off mud and sand. Simple and yet very effective. And that is the California’s extra trump card score. It’s very effective at being more than just what you see. 

Verdict

Welcome to your Mobile California

Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)

Such a lovely face.

Plenty of room at the Mobile California

Any time of year (any time of year) you can find it parked here, there or anywhere.

Including winter. It also comes with a diesel-powered heater that can be set on a timer or via the remote control. 

 

Like

Easy to drive

Easy to convert from van to camper

Camper layout

Loathe

Swivel front seats awkward to swivel

Sharp edges on removable shelves

No heated rear screen

The Lowdown

Car –  Volkswagen California Ocean 2.0. TDi 150PS 7speed DSG

Price – £ 63,155 (as tested)

MPG – 40.9 mpg (combined)

Power – 150PS

0-62mph –  14.5 seconds

Top Speed –  110 mph

Co2 – 179 (g/km)

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