Mr and Mrs 50 Plus dipped their toes into the world of campervans recently with the versatile Volkswagen California Ocean.
Mrs C has had a strange fascination with campervans and motorhomes for quite a few years now. It was probably to do with seeing Robert de Niro driving around in his huge RV on ‘Meet the Fockers’. Up until last week though, she’d never taken the plunge into the real world of campervans.
We had the use of one of VW’s latest campervans on the market, the Volkswagen California Ocean. Though very modest-looking on the outside – they’re basically a Caravelle/Transporter externally – it was one of the most cleverly thought-out designs I’d ever seen.
So we hit the road and headed for the ever lovely New Forest. We booked a pitch at the Ashurst Campsite, part of the Camping in the Forest group of sites and realised straight away how great a position this was. Only 20 minutes from Southampton and set in a peaceful corner of Hampshire’s prettiest corner. There were two family-friendly pubs close by, so perfect for a couple of sundowners. It was quiet, peaceful and thoroughly relaxing throughout.
Everything Including the Kitchen Sink
The Volkswagen California Ocean is an amazingly clever use of space, giving the owner everything they could want in a campervan, yet with no compromise on comfort or space. The list of standard equipment was staggering; fridge, cooking hob and sink included. There’s a retractable awning, perfect for sitting under on these hot sunny days. There are also some very comfy picnic chairs and a sturdy picnic table neatly fitted into the side and rear doors. The sink drains into a waste tank, which holds any grey water until suitable disposal facilities are found. There’s a gas cylinder stored in its own dedicated bin at the rear of the van. Gas safety isolation valves are located in two separate places.
You can top up the domestic water externally via a lockable cap. We topped this up when we set off and it was still showing over half full 4 days later. The site we stayed at didn’t have any electrical hook-up facilities. However, there is an option to connect to an external supply. This will recharge the separate domestic batteries (for the fridge and interior lights) and simultaneously power the campervan’s domestic 230v sockets.
Use of Space
The Volkswagen California Ocean has a powered lifting roof space which doubles as extra headroom during the day. It accommodates the generous and very comfortable double bed in the night. To give an idea of scale I could stand fully upright in the living area with plenty of room to spare. The bed isn’t just a flimsy mattress on a plank either. There’s a fully supportive slatted double bed base with its own dedicated mattress. We both managed to pack in really good night’s sleep on each night, surprisingly. The roof sleeping space has three zippable window flaps with fly mesh. These allow fresh air to blow through but keep the biting thingies out.
In addition to the generous and comfortable living space there’s oodles of luggage space too. There’s some brilliantly designed cupboard space with plenty of shelving to allow lots of easy access to the bits and bobs without having to turn everything upside-down every time. Rotating the two front seats allows 4 adults to sit comfortably around the retractable dining table. It then becomes a roomy and comfortable lounge with plenty of cat-swinging capability.
There’s a dedicated control panel in the cab which allows you to lift and lower the roof, switch the fridge on and off, even control the temperature of the fridge and switch the auxiliary domestic heating on and of for those cooler weather campers. You can use the super-efficient air conditioning in either the driving cab, the rear living space, or both.
On the Road
You may be wondering, what with all this stuff packed in that it would be a bit of a snail when it comes to performance, but quite the contrary! There was no rattling and clanking involved and it was quiet and smooth when driving. Everything in the VW Ocean is well designed and all of it fits together so well. The tighter bends occasionally created a slight wallowing sensation, but that’s only to be expected of something weighing three tonnes. Despite this it returned a very economical drive and we didn’t need to top up once on our 4 day trip. It’s also surprisingly easy to drive, with a great high driving position. All the strain of town driving was made that much easier by their excellent 7-speed DSG gearbox.
It costs a bit more than a Caravelle, but you’re not buying a van, you’re buying a completely new lifestyle. It really has opened our eyes to a world of opportunities that we never knew existed. We’ve been bitten!