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Week at the wheel: VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.

Week at the wheel: VW California
Volkswagen's California is a vehicle that comes with absolutely everything - and that includes the kitchen sink.

   



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| Week at the wheel | VW California |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

Volkswagen's California is a van, an expensive van, but a commercial vehicle with some glitz nonetheless. VW's vans have always been cool though and the California is no exception. The only real clues outside that this isn't just an ordinary Caravelle or Transporter are the slightly elevated roof, the pull-out sun blind on the side and inlets on the flanks for drinking water and electricity. This is a van you can live in.

Inside, the California has everything you'd expect from a modern campervan. There's running water, a fridge, a heater, air conditioning, a gas cooker and interior lighting. There are tanks for fresh and waste water and with the right cable you can hook it all up to run off an electrical outlet at a campsite. If you're somewhere more remote then the large extra battery provides power when you need it. Turn the front seats around, pop up the roof and fold the rear seats and you can seat and sleep two in luxury and four if you don't mind being cosy. All in a vehicle that takes up little more space than a large MPV.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

Four-wheel drive, a 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine and a six-speed manual gearbox all make the California a rather civilised drive. That is once the engine has warmed up a bit, it proving rather noisy on the first turn of the key. It's quick enough though, and the manual transmission is slick too, its shift aided by being positioned high up on the dashboard near the steering wheel. It's unlikely you'll ever feel the need on the road for the additional traction the 4Motion four-wheel drive system brings, but you'll be thankful of it if you're trying to get it out of a wet field at a music festival.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

The California is a house on wheels, so to expect it to corner with any sort of enthusiasm is quite an ask. That's not to say that the California doesn't drive well; it's actually remarkably capable on the road, so long as you remember you're driving something with beds and a sink in it. Being based on a commercial vehicle the seating position is upright and the steering wheel close, though the driving environment is otherwise similar to Volkswagen's car range. The ride is firm but not too compromised. However, if you're doing big miles with the drawers and fridge fully loaded you might want to wrap up the cutlery, plates and bottles to stop annoying rattles from the cabin behind you.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

In a vehicle boasting a sink and fridge it's perhaps best listing what the California doesn't have. That'd be nothing, except perhaps bedding, plates and cutlery - VW leaving them to you. Really, everything has been thought of, the California not just coming well equipped, but marvellously packaged too. Open the boot and there's a zipped compartment in the boot door containing a pair of deckchairs. Pop up the roof and there's a double bed, while the rest of the interior is full of handy storage areas and clever use of space.

The only options you need are the iPod connector in the glovebox and parking sensors in the rear to make squeezing it into tight parking spots easier. Official combined consumption of 30.7mpg is decent enough, though if you want to maximise the distance between the pumps then a front-wheel drive California gets better miles per gallon.

Overall: star star star star star

We want one of these. It drives decently, looks great and is hugely practical and fun. Even if you're not into camping the California makes a lot of sense if you have an active lifestyle, it offering a brilliant mobile base from which to start your hikes, bikes, climbs, surfs and the like. At over 40,000 it's not cheap, but it's one of the coolest and most capable vehicles we've ever driven.

Kyle Fortune - 24 Sep 2009



  www.volkswagen.co.uk    - Volkswagen road tests
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2009 Volkswagen California specifications: (SE 2.5 TDI PD 4MOTION)
Price: 40,680 on-the-road
0-62mph: 13.3 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
Combined economy: 30.7mpg
Emissions: 243g/km
Kerb weight: 2562kg

2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.

2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.



2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 VW California. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 






 

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