Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4

The Parkers VerdictShould you buy a Volkswagen California?

While the number of car-manufacturer created campervan rivals is growing, and there remain countless third-party conversions available on a whole range of vans both bigger and smaller, there’s nothing quite like the Volkswagen California.

This is a vehicle born of decades of practical experience. It is incredibly well designed in terms of fitness for purpose, and although it is expensive we can’t imagine there are many present owners who feel like they’ve got poor value for money.

VW California review - 2019 T6.1 model, all set-up for camping

Considering its size, shape and van-based origins, this is a comfortable and competent vehicle to drive, and one that will happily shrug-off long distances, keeping its occupants relaxed and refreshed all the while. Avoid that basic 102hp engine, and the performance is more than adequate too, with refinement that shames plenty of regular family cars.

Of course, it’s the brilliance it brings to the camping experience that really shines through here. The original T6 model launched in 2015 was already exceptionally well sorted in this regard, but the newer T6.1 facelift that replaced in in late 2019 (though not arriving in UK showrooms until March 2020) still manages to bring meaningful improvements that we suspect will see some existing owners keen to upgrade.

Fit and finish is well up to the task of surviving family camping life, and with all of the newer models now fitted with a kitchen, you really are getting a home away from home – well as long as you don’t mind using communal campsite bathrooms.

VW California versus Grand California – which is better?

To some the larger Grand California’s on-board bathroom will be incredibly attractive, and the top of the regular California range is very close to the bottom of the Grand California range in price. But for others, the need to empty its built-in toilet will prove a distinct disadvantage.

The bigger model also has more living space on board, but the smaller model has a more convenient boot and will be a tad more convenient to park – certainly when it comes to dealing with height restrictors. Both are remarkably easy to drive.

In the end which you choose will come down to what better suits your camping ambitions and lifestyle – the regular California that’s the subject of this review could easily perform double duty as the family car in most situations; the Grand California’s sheer size counts against it again here, but it may prove more flexible if you intend to do really lengthy road-trips rather than the occasional weekend of camping.