The fundamental question about a car (who would buy this, ahead of any other car?) is already answered by the VW California Ocean. This is for people who want to camp in their van. All those existential questions, like “If you want a shower and a cooker and a kettle and a sofa and a bed, why not stay in a building instead?” we just have to park, which will be easier to park than the California. Ours is not to interrogate camping in principle: only in practice.
Especially if you’re eight, but even when you’re 43, the sudden acres of space at the push of buttons blow your mind. The controls are very intuitive, and the showstopper is the roof: make sure the ignition is on, the van is not moving (that bit is crucial), the windows are open, the tap is not running (just because it makes a distracting noise), you are not having a shower, the side door is open (unless you listened to me about the windows) and press the central button. The roof pops open like a clam shell. The top bed is gigantic. A small amount of jigging joins the passenger seats into a bench behind and a second double bed emerges. They are actually not as large as I thought: I thought I could sleep on the bottom with two children. When this didn’t work, it set in train an epic, childhood-defining row over which kid I would choose, which ended with me sulking in the driver’s seat like a dad in a 1960s cartoon strip.
But my God, it is amazing. You could load four adults horizontally into a vehicle that isn’t much more cumbersome than a Zafira. The drive is fine; you’re definitely aware of hoisting about more than an average load, but it has plenty of acceleration. The cornering has that distinctive white-knuckle frisson of a vehicle with high sides and a not particularly large engine, but you’re in a mobile home and should not be bouncing all over the road anyway.
Far, far more delightful than driving the thing is playing with its accessories. Pretty well everything turns into something else: the driver and front passenger’s seats, for instance, swivel 45 degrees, to become seats at a weird angle. We spent a mind-bending amount of time just playing; it was like being an incredibly spoilt womanchild with a doll’s house.
This van is amazing. The only thing I don’t know is whether or not all recreational vehicles are this amazing; if they are, modern life is incredible.
VW California Ocean
Top speed 121mph
Acceleration 0-62mph in 11 seconds
Combined fuel consumption 44mpg
CO2 emissions 169g/km
Eco rating 5/10
Cool rating 10/10