Cali Review - 4 motion 2011 onwards

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Cali Review - 4 motion 2011 onwards

Post by Admin on Thu Mar 01, 2012 10:52 pm

(MSN CAR REVIEW)

Model: Volkswagen California SE 4Motion
Bodystyle: four-door camper van
Engine: 2.0-litre BiTDI 180hp
Transmission: six-speed manual, four-wheel drive


What is it?

VW California

For the well-to-do hippy-at-heart with a penchant for festivals and a dislike for sleeping under canvas, meet the Volkswagen California.

It is descended from the classic split-window campervan, which was as much a part of the hippie movement as folk music, marijuana and endless love-ins.

That scene might have died out, but summer music festivals in the UK are hot right now, so where better to test the California than at last month's Latitude in Suffolk?

With four-wheel drive to glide over the wet grass, a fridge for cold beer, a cooker for bacon sarnies and sleeping accommodation for four people, is this the perfect anecdote to the traditional mud, rain and misery music festival experience?

Where does it fit?

VW California

Few other car manufacturers build a bespoke campervan, but you can buy or build a conversion from a van or you could opt for a coach-built motorhome, though they tend to be expensive.

Unlike a motorhome, the California is more of a couple-of-nights-away-from-home type of vehicle as it lacks washing or toilet facilities and has a rather 'bijou' interior.

Is it for you?

VW California

If you have a hobby or interest, like motor racing, fishing or music festivals, which takes you away from home a couple of nights at a time, it is perfect.

If you're thinking of it as something to take you and the family to the south of France for two weeks every year, then it is less so.

The interior is so cleverly laid out Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen would have a tizzy fit; seats that slide, rotate and fold, numerous drawers and hidden cubbies, an awning that can be winched out and a canvas roof that is raised electrically.

There are even two tables stowed smartly away, one that you can pull out into the middle of the floor between the two sets of seats, the other a fold-out table that you can take outside. In a pouch in the boot are two deckchairs, while inside there's a small wardrobe, and a fridge that runs off its own battery supply.

What does it do well?

VW California

At a wet and muddy festival, with everyone else complaining about slumming it in a tent, the California offered a comfortable and warm place to eat, sleep and relax.

The model we tested was the 4Motion four-wheel-drive version, which is well worth the £2,655 upgrade over the standard model (it's only available with the 170hp diesel engine). It's only when you realise how easy it is to get stuck in a drenched field that you are thankful for the additional grip.

VW California

Turning the California into a sleeping compartment is simple. Slide the rear bench seat forward, recline the seat back and whip out your sleeping bag. For more than two people, you can also pop up the canvas roof in just a few seconds. Or, it doubles as a handy - and private - changing room.

On the road, it feels heavy and cumbersome, but it's not much different to a van and with a powerful diesel upfront you can easily sit at motorway speeds comfortably.

What doesn't it do well?

VW California

You can't stand upright in the California and there's very little space in the main living area, so with more than two people inside it can start to feel like one of those Japanese capsule hotels.

The sliding door is also on the wrong side for the UK, but the cost of re-engineering a left-hand opening and moving the fridge, sink, two-ring gas burner, wardrobe and lighting would have bumped up the cost of our already-expensive £46,605 California considerably.

The rear tailgate is also appreciably heavy, especially with the £463 bike rack fitted. The £375 roll-out awning means you can adjourn to the great outdoors if the claustrophobia inside is getting to you, but a full-size, enclosed awning would be better and would stand up to the wind and rain with more aplomb.

What's it like to live with?

VW California

With on-board gas canisters and water tanks, the California is perfect if you're out in the wilds and fancy pulling over for some kip or a cup of tea.

The batteries even lasted the course of a four-day festival where there was no means of plugging into the mains, and with a display panel above the driver's seat you can see how much juice is left. Running the engine for a few minutes will send some charge back to the batteries.

Behind the rear seats is a substantial split-level luggage area and, with the tailgate open, you're covered from the elements while you rummage through your bag looking for fresh underwear or toothbrush.

How green is it?

VW California

Despite lugging around 2.5-tonnes of living room and kitchen with you, the California should average 33.6mpg. Over the course of our 280-mile round trip, the 80-litre fuel tank still had enough diesel left to do at least half the journey again.

Carbon emissions of 221g/km are less than a Range Rover's, remarkable given its size.

Would we buy it?

VW California

The California isn't as easy to live with as a full-scale motorhome, but it drives better so you'll arrive at your destination faster, and it is fully equipped with all the essentials you could need for a few days away from home. Better still, it is a thousand times more comfortable than sleeping in a tent. But a thousand times more expensive.

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