The Volkswagen Caddy California was an exciting summer drive option for Michael Moroney that proved versatile on short and memorable runs to the seaside. The restricted travel options during 2021 have made this year the ‘Year of the Camper’ and the arrival of the new Caddy California compact camper by the Volkswagen Group was bang on the mark in many respects.
This is a factory-built camper, that is based on the fifth generation Caddy. It’s compact design makes is a little unique within the camper van segment as it combined variable living, sleeping and storage space very smartly packaged into a long wheelbase Volkswagen Caddy van structure.
Among its very smart features is a new, foldable bed (which is almost double bed size), that has cup springs and a folding mattress, which opens out above the rear seats. There is seating for five, and the second row can be removed for more flexibility. Volkswagen offers an optional standalone tail-tent that provides more living space, and an extra sleeping compartment is also available as an accessory.
Lift the boot door and there’s a retractable mini-kitchen included as standard. This is based on a sliding unit that extends from the rear with single-burner gas cooker and integrated gas bottle. This is coupled with some clever and practical sliding stowage compartments underneath, and beside that there is a soft storage unit for the California’s set of four camper chairs and camper table.
The neat design includes a set of interior blinds fitted to the rear windows double up as window storage bags. There are integrated LED reading lights in the passenger compartment and in the boot tailgate. The standard kit includes air conditioning, power-adjustable wing mirrors and anti-theft alarm and both front seats feature manual height and lumbar adjustment.
In every respect this is a compact camper that’s fitted out in comfort for flexible outdoor living. The attention to detail and focus on safety in the Caddy California’s design and manufacture has meant that it has full type-approval as a motorhome.
All that kit is topped off with Volkswagen’s 2.0 litre turbo-diesel engine matched to the brand’s well-proven DSG automatic type gearbox. Volkswagen claims that this diesel engine emits very low levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) thanks to a new twin-dosing system made possible by a twin-dosing SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) converter.
The economy figures are impressive for the Caddy California and over 1,300km of driving I achieved a figure that was remarkably close to the official economy rating of 18.5km/litre (5.4l/100km or 52mpg). Because of the nature of this camper, I found that I settled into holiday mode driving where the lack of urgency meant a more relaxed approach. That helped achieve those impressive economy figures.
This compact camper is packed with lots of driver assistance technology such as driver alert system, lane assist, cruise control including speed limiter, front assist, and a towing protection system.
The layout is more functional than that of the Caddy van. It comes with the Volkswagen App-Connect system, which allows users to access their apps on their phone, alongside Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ Composition Media system with 8.25-inch colour touch screen, Bluetooth, DAB, and six audio speakers. Standard specification also includes black roof rails and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Volkswagen has a long and envied space in the camper van market. The Transporter has achieved iconic status and now this Caddy California comes in at a more compact level. This is a camper that’s designed for two even if there’s seating for five when the bed is folded.
While the boot tailgate opens up and provides rear covered access to the cooking area, you need to be comfortable with tight space living to spend lengthy periods away in the California Camper. It provides a super day-trip option that can be kept packed and ready for the road, but I’m not sure how practical it can be relative to the larger California, based on the Transporter, for longer away from home holidays.
The entry price for the Caddy California is €43,670 while its too easy to add significantly to that price from the options list. The test car has €13,433 in extras included pushing the price to €57,103. Now that getting close to the Transporter version of the California in price terms, which offers a different world of comfort.
This Caddy California is well-built and offers something for outdoor enthusiast in every single cubic centimetre of its space. It’s economical, very pleasant to drive, and easy to park helped by a well-placed reversing camera. It’s a compact camper with flexibility for two people who are comfortable to live in tight spaces for their outdoor holidays.