REVIEW: VW California

No doubt it’s a bit late in the year to be driving a camper van like VW’s California, but most people who write holiday features do them well in advance. However, this is not a holiday promo for 2024, but a car review; still you might get a few ideas for a future family holiday.

Truth be told there was a slight mix-up with VW regarding their ID Buzz earlier in the year and the California had to wait. But it was worth waiting for even though the weather in Ireland in November would not encourage you to head to the seaside. But I did find an appropriate location to take a few pics.

I headed to the Camac Valley Caravan and Camping Park in Corkagh Park just off the Naas Road, which is normally packed with visitors from Ireland and overseas. There was even a bit of winter sun when I called to the near empty caravan park on a bright November day.

Apparently VW naming their massive camper van California was done for a reason. Their affordable motorhomes are a nod to the incredible popularity the T2 and the T3 enjoyed in America’s West Coast, particularly among the surfer and hippie communities, where it was sometimes fondly referred to as the ‘Love Bus.’

There is no doubt this motor would be ideal for summer holidays, but in winter time there would not be many occasions to head to the sea or the mountains. However, the California will also work as an everyday car to transport children to sporting events, ballet, Irish dancing etc, albeit an expensive one.

At first glance it might seem a huge motor to navigate. It has a very the short bonnet which meant it was really easy to handle, but you do need to allow for the length of the car when turning sharp corners.

From a driver’s perspective the dash is very well organised and all the controls are easy to use with useful armrests. Even if you never get out of the California or stay in some tourist location overnight, you can still enjoy the sights of our beautiful countryside thanks to the high driving position.

My test car was the latest ‘Ocean’ version of the California. It was powered by a very frugal 2.0-litre diesel engine and it has a good old-fashioned style hand-brake.

There is a huge sliding door which is great for access. The California can sleep four. It’s got a shower, two-ring gas cooker, awning, loads of storage and you can carry bicycles also. You have a radio in the car or on your phone and you could bring along your portable television, if needed.

This time round I didn’t get an opportunity to let down the Awning at the side and display my limited cookery skills on the gas cooker. But then I didn’t want to set the camper van on fire.

In my younger day I have experienced caravans at various locations like Wexford, Ballybunion and Rossnowlagh in Donegal, where it rained most of the week. But the California is light years away from those seaside caravans.

Prices are a bit steep with a starting price of €66,880, but then have you checked the prices of a hotel in Ireland recently? Road tax is only €102. It’s a big investment and I think the California could be a vehicle that people might rent for a holiday or maybe stag or hen party, once the renter can find a designated driver.