Right at the beginning, I wrote about a “certain compromise”, but I would immediately clarify that the necessary compromise is minimal in the case of California. If you do not absolutely insist on a seven-seater minibus and a four-seater delivery capacity is enough for you, you will actually only have to deal with some noise during the week, for example from a poorly folded table or carelessly stored garden furniture. And maybe sometimes a hot moment in the underground garage – the Volkswagen itself would still fit in 99 percent of the cases, but the additional awning (plus less than eighteen thousand) sometimes cuts into the pessimistically set height restriction bars at the entrance. And that’s not a very pleasant feeling.

But that’s really one of the few things that can limit you when using the Californie on a daily basis, which can’t really be said for classic motorhomes, which are specifically and narrowly focused. But with California, you can relax after shopping (watch out for those underground garages) and at the weekend you can set up a built-in tent and even the awning at the weekend, as if you find one. You slide out a folding table from the side door, a pair of chairs from the fifth, and you’re already floating. At the same time, the awning can be stretched and anchored even by otherwise downright inept individuals. I confirm from my own experience, I only sweated a little.

Photo: Lukáš Kukla

At first – and probably not even at second glance – it doesn’t look like it, but the additional awning actually reaches a little higher than the roof. Be careful in underground garages!

From the point of view of everyday usability, therefore, a minimum of compromises, but the same applies – as I will explain below – also to the residential properties of California. I have some experience with residential homes, and the Californie solution seems very meaningful to me. Definitely more meaningful than the Grand Californie, which, on the basis of the large Crafter, tries to create a more complete living space, but it doesn’t succeed very well (mainly the beds are surprisingly small). With the dimensions of the Crafter and the raised roof, you can’t talk about everyday usability even a hint. And the small motorhome Caddy, which weaves through the city without any problems, is simply too small for a motorhome.

Photo: Lukáš Kukla

During daily use, you will definitely fold the table and move the bench a little forward.

Thus, the VW California 6.1 Ocean can really be considered an extremely successful all-rounder, which can remarkably easily transform from a family stagecoach into an almost full-fledged camper. So let’s live!

Digital already even among residents

One of the quite visible differences in the interior is (among other things) the display in the space above the interior rear-view mirror. It controls a variety of residential functions, such as cooling the refrigerator, reading the level of drinking and dirty water or – and I appreciated this the most – electrohydraulic unfolding of the roof tent (in the case of the top-of-the-line California Ocean as standard). Definitely a mandatory item for me, I have tried to handle similar roof tents manually a few times and they are ugly memories.

Photo: Lukáš Kukla

The central brain of California. Among other things, it also measures the inclination of the car – so that you don’t sleep on your side.

The unfolded tent offers a sufficiently comfortable bed for two people, the bed can be flipped up during the day so that you can have fun in the kitchen without height restrictions. You have at your disposal the already mentioned refrigerator (with a volume of 42 liters), two gas burners and, of course, a sink (the potable water tank has thirty liters). There are also cabinets for dining service and similar matters, which then complete the already mentioned inimitable sound of driving with a motorhome (it’s especially fun on bumps).

Photo: Lukáš Kukla

The bed in the lower part of the car…

You can store the other two sleepers on the unfolded second row of seats, the area of ​​which is complemented by something else that resembles a cover plate in the trunk. Then add a fold-out mattress, which takes up minimal space when folded, and you’re off to a great start! None of the beds are king size, but for me you will sleep more comfortably than in the larger California Grand. A reasonably tall couple will have no problem with a weekend overnight stay on either floor.

Photo: Lukáš Kukla

… and on the second floor.

With the aforementioned Grand California, you can blame the tested smaller California for the absence of a toilet and shower. If I were to speak from experience, I only used the on-board chemical toilet in every cabin in an extreme emergency. It’s not a very nice job to empty a full toilet… Likewise with the shower. I practically didn’t fit anywhere either, and I measure an average of 181 cm and the constitution is below average. It is far better to address these needs within camps, which in most cases have changed a lot since our childhood years. Today, their facilities resemble a decent boarding house rather than a stale and musty football locker room. And besides, you have an outside shower at California Ocean, which is more than enough for such a summer splash.

Photo: Lukáš Kukla

The kitchen is definitely equipped!

The stronger two-liter is fine for traveling

I recently took a “human” Transporter on a trip to Italy with practically a full crew, luggage on board and a two-liter TDI with 110 kW. I was surprised how even this version coped with the German highways, a constant speed of around 160 km/h was not a problem for our crew.

Even so, I would recommend a stronger version with two turbochargers and 150 kW for California. After all, an operating weight of around 2.6 tons and the sight of some vacation luggage to go with it… I drove the tested unit with a maximum of two travelers and a dog, so no load test, the two-liter was absolutely superb in this configuration. The dynamics were convincing in all circumstances, you can overtake with the living box without any worries, on the highway more adventurous drivers can easily get past our limit (yes, the 110 kW variant can also do this, but the more powerful one, unsurprisingly, manages it even better).

Photo: Lukáš Kukla

The chairs are “parked” in the back door.

I really appreciate the connection to the seven-speed DSG. So it’s not completely smoothed out yet, but two or three years ago, Transporters/Multivans/Californias suffered from an unbelievably shaky start with DSG dual clutches. Now this practically does not happen anymore.

To the list of pluses, I also add the fuel consumption, which can be kept at around eight liters for a long time. In addition, our white piece indulged in an additional 80-liter tank (it comes to just under two thousand), the range was then around a thousand kilometers. I’m not saying anything! With no ID. I’m not comparing with Buzz!

Photo: Lukáš Kukla

There is still plenty of space under the bed to store holiday essentials.

The tested California Ocean was a bit unlucky in that a few weeks before it I had spent a long journey in the latest Multivan T7. Thanks to the basic (but significantly revised) MQB personal platform, the driving behavior of the latter really came close to the now virtually non-existent segment of large MPVs. The California Ocean 6.1 is still first and foremost a van – compared to the latest Multivan T7, it is significantly more restless and jumpy on bumps. I have already written about the inimitable sound experience of driving with a motorhome.

Buy while they last!

For me, the six-speed California remarkably skilfully combines everyday use with weekend trips, there are a minimum of compromises. Sure, it doesn’t offer a chemical toilet or an indoor shower, but that’s about all you could consider a compromise. Otherwise, four travelers can comfortably sleep inside, cook in the kitchen, sit under the awning… And during the week you can use the California in complete comfort as a passenger car. Just a little bigger, true.

Now – at the end of the test – should come the traditional, but related to VW California campers. That’s right, high price. BUT! He won’t come this time! So it’s still not a bargain, no reasonable person would have expected that, after all it is a large car with living accessories, the basic price tag of CZK 2,394,234 for the most luxurious Ocean specification tested with a more powerful version of the two-liter TDI diesel and DSG transmission is, however, against the standard price list by some four hundred thousand cheaper. And that’s a decent discount. The specific tested piece with some extra equipment (for example, better infotainment, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, the mentioned awning or towing device) then came to 2.6 million. You can currently buy the cheapest California for 1.5 million crowns, which represents a discount of 300,000 crowns.

If you’re upset, don’t think too long, next year the six-figure California will be off the menu. This year, Volkswagen already presented the concept of the new California based on the seven-seater Multivan, the production version (which should differ only minimally from the concept) will be available next year. And in this case, you certainly can’t look forward to hundreds of thousands of discounts…

Motor diesel inline four-cylinder, front transverse, 2 turbochargers
Displacement volume 1,968 cm3
Performance 150 kW (204 hp) at 4,000 rpm
Torque 450 Nm at 1,400-2,250 rpm.
Transmission automatic, 7 degrees
Tree front wheels
Standby weight 2 438kg
Acceleration 0-100 km/h 10,9 s
Maximal speed 203 km/h
Consumption (combination) 6.9 l/100 km
Fuel tank volume 80 l
Wheels and tires 215/60 R17
Dimensions (length/width/height) 4 904/1 904/2 030 mm
Wheelbase 3 000 mm