Volkswagen Caddy California review: luxury car camping
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Volkswagen Caddy California
- Is a campervan that drives like a Golf
- Fuel economical
- Optional kitchenette is an epic addition
- Bed is quite cozy for two
- No interior sitting space means boring rainy days whilst camping
- Interior monitoring alarm can be a pain
Two significant things happened in the year 1951, super glue was invented, and Volkswagen started selling campervan-converted Kombi vans that were built by Westfalia. If we fast forward over seven decades to the present day, super glue is still as useful as ever, and Volkswagen is still selling campervan-converted vehicles, although Westfalia isn’t behind them anymore.
These days, Volkswagen sells three campervan-converted vehicles in the form of the Caddy California, the Transporter California, and the Grand California. All three of these vehicles offer more space and luxury than the last, but for today, we’re focusing on the entry-level Caddy California.
As the name suggests, the Caddy California is based on the Caddy, which is basically just an elongated Golf – which comes with its upsides and downsides as a campervan. And after spending Easter weekend away camping with it, I can confidently comment on these.
First of all, it gets a 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine – which is a fantastic little mill that isn’t offered on the standard Golf in New Zealand. Neither the 90kW power figure or the 320Nm torque figure is overly impressive, but what is impressive is the 4.9L/100km economy figure that it will average during a drive. Because of this, it is also eligible for a rebate of $1,920 under the clean car discount scheme, so that’s another plus.
Before we dive into the camper area of the Caddy, the new infotainment system is great to use, and the wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity is a massive plus. Unlike the Golf 8, this Caddy has retained buttons as opposed to touch pads on the multi-function steering wheel, which is fantastic news.
Next is the level of practicality that Volkswagen has managed to squeeze out of the small Caddy chassis. In regular form, the Caddy California still functions as a regular five-seater, as the bed folds back into the luggage area. Once the driving is done for the day, and it’s time for some shut-eye, the rear seats are folded forward, the front seats are moved forward, and the bed can be extended.
When folded out, the bed is slightly bigger than a king single, and has enough room for two occupants. As far as the mattress goes, it’s a thin foam situation, but the plastic springs beneath provide great support, so it works well.
So by now we know that you can drive the Caddy California, and sleep in it, but what else does it do? Great question, because underneath the bed at the rear of the van is where you’ll find another world of wonders. On the right side is where the (included) fold-out table and chairs are stored, as well as the curtains that are magnetised and perfectly cover every window for a great night’s sleep.
Auckland | Auckland City
$238.70 p/w $954.79 p/m
To the left of this is where you’ll find the (optional) pull-out kitchenette, which is something that I can’t recommend enough. Built in New Zealand by ARB, this unit provides a large stainless steel bench top, a three-burner gas cooker, a storage drawer, and a sink. The cooker is powered by a regular 9kg gas bottle, and I can attest that I was the talk of the campground when I fired it up for the first time.
As the smallest of the California bunch, it sacrifices interior space, but it means that you get a campervan that feels like a Golf to drive. On the open road, the diesel engine has enough torque to get past those punishing full-sized campervans (even up hills during the packed Thames to Coromandel drive at Easter). The adaptive cruise control system is a joy to use, and in conjunction with the lane keep assist system, it’s probably the easiest campervan to drive, period. Unlike these larger California models, the Caddy is easy to manoeuvre around city centres, and I even managed to parallel park it on a Saturday afternoon on Ponsonby road – crazy stuff!
My only real gripe with this campervan came in the form of Volkswagen’s interior monitor alarm. It’ll most likely be something that a dealer teaches prospective buyers, but without knowing about it, it can become a nightmare. If the monitor isn’t switched off on the infotainment screen when the vehicle is turned off, it will detect the sleeping occupant’s movements, and wake up half the campground with the alarm. So just be mindful of this.
As a whole, the Caddy California is definitely a novelty, but great for those looking for a practical daily driver that doubles as a weekend campervan. Without seeing any official figures, I can make a pretty confident assumption that it will be the least popular of the California range in New Zealand, but I’d love for Kiwi buyers to challenge this.
Volkswagen Caddy California
ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
GEARBOX: 7-speed automatic, FWD