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Volkswagen Caddy California review

2021 onwards (change model)
Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 54.2
” VW’s third California campervan is compact, inexpensive and perfect for adventurers “

At a glance

Price new £34,726 - £40,072
Used prices £22,980 - £35,970
Road tax cost £180
Insurance group 11 - 14
Get an insurance quote with Mustard logo
Fuel economy 40.4 - 56.5 mpg
Range 506 - 627 miles
Miles per pound 5.9 - 7.2
View full specs for a specific version

Available fuel types



Pros & cons

  • By far the most affordable California campervan
  • Five proper seats in the back
  • Comfortable double bed
  • No lounge space without tent add-on
  • Basic kitchen
  • Irritating cab

Written by CJ Hubbard Published: 30 May 2022 Updated: 18 July 2023


Is the Volkswagen Caddy California any good?

The Caddy California is the newest of Volkswagen’s three California campervans, and being based on the Caddy Cargo van it’s by far the smallest. In fact, it’s around the size of a regular family hatchback – yet still manages to fit in a double bed, storage, a kitchen, and space for everything you’ll need for a weekend away.

Less of a campervan and more of a camper car, the Caddy California isn’t designed for three weeks in the South of France – it’s better suited to the adventurous, those who are happy to up sticks and head off for a night or two at a moment’s notice.

It’s ideal for sporty people, too, as you can easily load bikes or surfboards onto the roof rack and you’ll have absolutely no trouble fitting into any coastal car park or forest trail.


Pricing for the Caddy California starts at a super-low £32,000 or thereabouts – which is around half as much as you’d pay for one of its bigger brothers. If you want all the equipment, you’ll be looking at around £40,000, which is still on the low side for such a good conversion.

It’s also worth noting that campercars like this aren’t a particularly common breed, and as such the Caddy California has very few credible rivals. Mostly, it’s an alternative to cheap, ugly conversions on vehicles like the Citroen Berlingo – crammed with awkward, creaking furniture that was originally designed for a much larger van.

Base vehicle, conversion and driving

The Caddy base vehicle is an excellent small van. You can read our full review of it here.

For the California, Volkswagen offers the Caddy with a selection of engines. First up, and most interestingly, there’s a 114hp 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine. We’re very familiar with this engine in Volkswagen’s cars, and it’s smooth, punchy and economical. If you’re trying to move away from diesel, this could be a really good option – though perhaps not a particularly efficient one if you’re using the van fully loaded.

The diesels make more sense for most people, and you can get the Caddy California with either a 102hp or a 122hp 2.0-litre TDI. Even the former has plenty of low-down torque to enable you to get going, and both make for very relaxed cruisers with remarkable efficiency. From what we’ve seen, the 56.6mpg figure quoted by the most efficient 102hp diesel is a pretty conservative figure if you drive carefully.

VW Caddy California tracking
VW Caddy California tracking

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, but you can specify a seven-speed DSG automatic for the petrol or the more powerful diesel engines. This is smooth and quick-shifting and takes the sting out of city driving.

Two body lengths are available, Standard or Maxi. Interior fittings are identical between them but Maxi affords you a little more space for luggage behind the rear seats.

Up front, the California is identical to a regular VW Caddy, which means the dashboard is a mixed bag. Much of it’s controlled through a touchscreen, including the heating and ventilation, and this feels quite fiddly. However, the hard plastics are well screwed-together, and it feels high-quality in here, while there’s plenty of room for driver and passenger to get comfortable.

As a camping car the Caddy doesn’t have a water system, nor an auxiliary heater. You do however get a gas system with a 1.8kg gas bottle to power the single burner.


The Caddy California’s layout is different to most camping cars, which often try to recreate a larger van without that much success. The Caddy doesn’t try to squeeze additional features into its limited space, instead focusing on two main areas – the passenger seating and the double bed.

To that end, forward of the rear doors the Caddy is almost identical to its passenger van sibling, with five seats. The rear bench folds flat or can be removed altogether for additional luggage space.

Neatly stacked in the ‘boot’ you’ll find all the camping gear – the cabinet containing the gas burner and kitchen storage, space for two outdoor chairs and a table, zipped storage bags that cover the rear windows and, neatly folded in three, a large double bed that concertinas out over the folded rear seats.


The kitchen can only be used with the tailgate open. This does mean you’re somewhat beholden to the elements, as while it provides a little cover you won’t want to be outside cooking in inclement weather too often.

This will hopefully be addressed soon with the addition of a driveaway awning that sits across the rear of the van, encompassing the kitchen. This will arrive soon, and we’ll test it when it does. Once attached it will provide the only real ‘lounge’ space in the van, plus an additional bedroom pod for more sleepers and cover for the chef.


Folding the Caddy California’s bed out is pretty simple. First, you have to fold the rear seats flat (or remove them altogether), then slide the front seats forward and tilt their backrests past vertical.

The bed itself is in three sections, and two flip-out legs simply meet with slots on the B-pillars. It can be a little awkward fitting them in, and it certainly helps to have someone on the other side of the van, but with practice you get the knack fairly soon.

VW Caddy California boot
VW Caddy California boot

Once folded out, the bed is 1,980mm long and 1,070mm wide – generous dimensions right up there with those you’d find in much larger campers. It sits on plastic Froli springs, giving it a fair degree of cushioning and ensuring it’s suitable for side-sleepers. Headroom is at a premium, though, and you can’t sit up in bed.

And if we were to moan, we’d like a positionable reading light – the LED dome lights are bright but not ideally positioned if you fancy a few pages before bed. The optional panoramic glass roof is really nice to stare out of on a nice night, but it’s an absolute heat sponge – make sure you cover it up or you’ll be in for a very cold night.

Speaking of covering up, you’ll find a pack of magnetic blinds stored in the Caddy’s rear section. These fit easily around the windows and are far more secure-feeling than the traditional curtains you’d find in rivals, though a bit fiddly next to the roller blinds you get on larger Californias.

Cooking and eating

Crack out your one-pot cookbook as the Caddy California only has a single ring for cooking. It’s set at a comfortable height, and on a sturdy set of runners, but if you’re intending to feed a crowd you’ll probably want to supplement it with a separate camping stove or perhaps a BBQ.

Until the driveaway awning attachment becomes available, cooking in the Caddy California has to be done al fresco. The van’s tailgate has to be open in order for the cooker drawer to slide out, and though you do get a little protection from the elements you’re still very much outdoors.


Most of your dining will be outdoors, too. Though you could eat inside – the front seatbacks have tray tables – you’ll be more comfortable sat at the folding table in one of the Caddy California’s comfortable (albeit bulky and heavy) folding chairs.

Underneath the hotplate is a second drawer with a cutlery tray and some storage, but conspicuous by its absence is any cold food storage. Luckily, the rear 12V socket is ideally sited to run a coolbox.


The Caddy California is a tiny campervan so don’t go expecting tons of storage. However, it’s surprisingly capacious as long as your expectations aren’t too high…

The rear of the van is largely taken up by the cooking facilities as well as the built-in storage for the folding table and chairs. In long-wheelbase models, you do get a decent chunk of boot space behind these, but for shorter vans you’ll need to put bulky items on top of the folded bed.

You can liberate some more space for larger baggage by removing the second row of seats, which gives you a large storage area underneath where the bed sits.

VW Caddy California campervan review - storage and cutlery drawer on rails
VW Caddy California campervan review - storage and cutlery drawer on rails

You get a large drawer under the kitchen unit, which is useful for food and utensil storage, while smaller items can be stored in two hanging soft storage units that sit over the rearmost windows. These are zipped up and could be useful for small items you want to keep close at hand, like a first-aid kit.

What else do I need to know?

The Caddy California comes in a single, well-equipped trim level, but the options list is extensive and can quickly add a tidy sum to this camper’s price.

You’ll also need to buy the Caddy California from a Volkswagen Vans Centre, as with all Californias – so don’t go knocking on your local Volkswagen car dealer’s door.

Should you buy a Volkswagen Caddy California? Click on our verdict to find out what we think

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