Interior design and technology – VW California

Matthew Beecham November 25, 2021 (Last Updated November 25th, 2021 13:44)

The quintessential VW California has won hearts and minds since the 1950s but what does £60,000 get you today? We take a closer look inside this staycation on wheels.

Interior design and technology – VW California
VW California Coast

Cavernous camper cabin

In a nutshell, this popular factory-built four-berth camper incorporates a kitchenette on one side and a living and dining area on the other.

Although based on a commercial panel van there are not many other similarities. Once parked up, you’ll need some headspace. The manually-operated roof can be pushed up at one end and, once fixed in place, creates enough headroom to potter around in the kitchen and dining area.

The upper-level double-bed sleeping area – accessed through a sunroof-sized hole – incorporates two zip-open panel side windows plus a fully opening section facing the front of the van. The roof canvas is available in a choice of three colours (grey, red or blue).

The kitchenette in the Cali Coast features a double-burner gas hob with spark-ignition, glass worktops with push-button release mechanisms, a stainless steel sink and plastic washing-up bowl, a 42-litre top-loading compressor fridge and a large base cabinet finished in bright oak wood-effect.

Various other storage units (depending on the trim level) are located towards the back of the van, including a two-part built-in wardrobe with mirror, clothes rail and lockable safe. A 45-litre fold-down storage compartment is fitted above the backrest of the bench seat. Both fresh and wastewater is supplied from onboard tanks, each with a capacity of 42 litres.

This is also a rear cupboard where the various components for electricity, water and gas supply are located: the residual current circuit breaker, the fresh water tank with a recess in which a 2.8kg camping gas bottle fits, and the freshwater drain lever.

The folding dual-belted rear bench seat in the living area can move to infinite positions via a floor-mounted rail system, along with swivelling front seats. California also incorporates a fold-out table (stored inside the sliding door), two comfy camping chairs (neatly stored in a zipped pouch in the tailgate) and a retractable awning to allow al-fresco dining when the sun is shining.

Glazing-wise, the Cali features a rear, heat-insulating privacy glass, sliding windows in the front and fixed windows in the rear passenger compartment. All windows incorporate nifty shades for privacy. On the driver side, there is a sliding door which, in the UK located on the right-hand side, could mean children stepping out into oncoming traffic.

Cocooned in a cockpit

Perched bolt upright on springy seats provides superb forward visibility through the huge windscreen and side windows. Large wing mirrors help eliminate blind spots and the rear parking sensors and a rear camera also help when reversing into tight spaces.

While the dashboard has lots of tough plastic and no-nonsense analogue dials, its simplicity is refreshing and far from distracting. There are, of course, plenty of storage areas dotted around plus large cupholders front and rear. A cockpit floor area is carpeted and non-slip rubber mats are in the rear. Comfort and convenience features in the front include armrests for both front seats, grab handles on the A-pillars to support access, an illuminated glovebox and a handy torch that plugs into the cigarette lighter socket.

A 10.25-inch touchscreen display is positioned in the centre of the dashboard, incorporating (depending on the trim level and specification), a radio and navigation system with integrated eSIM, App-Connect, We Connect mobile online services and Bluetooth.

An LED panel positioned in the headliner is used to manage the vehicle’s electric connection, battery charge status, water levels, auxiliary cabin heating and LED lighting.  It includes an alarm clock and even a digital ‘inclinometer’ (spirit level) display.

A suite of sensors, radars and cameras provides information on the driving environment around the vehicle. These include rear-traffic alert, tyre pressure monitoring system, adaptive cruise control and hill descent assist.

As part of the standard Electronic Stabilisation Programme (ESP), it also has crosswind assist that automatically applies the brakes during strong winds.

On the open road

Our VW California 6.1 Coast is powered by a 2.0-litre TDI 150PS diesel engine mated to a seven-speed DSG gearbox (there is no manual option).

There can be no denying that the Cali is a legend. It’s cleverly designed and very well appointed, catering for just about every need and want while out and about. The fixtures and fittings are sturdy too.  Packed with charm and convenience, everything works well for a quick break whenever the mood takes you. And so it should do for that wince-inducing price tag.  Rival models include the Ford Nugget, Vauxhall Vivaro Elite and Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo.