New Volkswagen California is a hybridised camper van that has it all

The Volkswagen New California camper van is here, the latest update to VW’s evergreen classic, bringing a larger platform, more flexibility and hybrid power for the first time

New Volkswagen California camper van
Volkswagen California Beach
(Image credit: Volkswagen)

This is the Volkswagen New California, the latest in a long line of factory-built camper vans that can trace its origins back to the Type 2-derived models of the 1950s. With the excellent all-electric ID Buzz snapping at the heels of VW’s conventionally powered vans, it might also be the last VW camper of the combustion era (although electric camper vans are nothing new, of course).

The new Volkswagen California is VW’s first plug-in hybrid camper van

Volkswagen New California

(Image credit: Volkswagen)

However, this new model, officially known as the New California1, is keeping pace with the world and innovative camper van rivals. As Volkswagen’s first camper van to be offered with a plug-in hybrid system, as well as four-wheel drive, it has extended range, performance and practicality as a result. 

Straight away this classic design impresses with sensible upgrades to bolster practicality and comfort. The introduction of sliding doors on both flanks makes it easier to use once parked up, and every one of the five versions comes with the pop-up roof as standard.

Volkswagen New California roof popped up

The pop-up roof on the Volkswagen California Ocean

(Image credit: Volkswagen)

Each version – Beach, Beach Tour, Beach Camper, Coast and Ocean – has a slightly different equipment list, but all have a dedicated app as well as an onboard display in the living space to control the various functions. 

For example, the Beach Camper has a mini-kitchen at the rear, while the more upscale Coast and Ocean models have full kitchenettes inside the van itself.

Volkswagen New California camper van interior

The kitchenette in the Volkswagen California Ocean

(Image credit: Volkswagen)

Other layout upgrades include two individual removeable seats in the rear, instead of a bench, greatly increasing the camper’s carrying capacity. With twin sliding doors also comes the ability to add twin awnings to create a large covered outdoor space.

The app’s functionality also includes an ‘all lights off’ button (something many hotels could benefit from), as well as the ability to check water and waste levels. USB-C ports are scattered around the interior.

Volkswagen New California app on display

Interior functions are controlled by an app or the touch screen display

(Image credit: Volkswagen)

The eHybrid model is joined by a conventional turbo diesel and turbocharged petrol option, with the California Beach model offered as the entry level. Beach Tour is pitched at day trippers who want the option for an occasional overnight stop, while the Beach Camper and Coast are the classic, fully-kitted out camper vans. 

Finally, there’s the flagship California Ocean, which can seat and sleep four, and adds additional details like a roof stowage box, air conditioning and an external power socket. 

Volkswagen New California with awnings on beach

Volkswagen California Ocean with twin awnings

(Image credit: Volkswagen)

Interior packaging has always been a strong suit of the California range. The slightly larger Multivan platform that underpins the new camper creates more flexibility for travelling, eating and sleeping layouts, with added storage and enhanced black-out blind systems.

Volkswagen New California slide out cooker

The Volkswagen California Beach has a slide-out rear kitchen

(Image credit: Volkswagen)

Over the years, VW has built over 280,000 examples of the California, with countless thousands more campers produced by third-party companies. Key elements – like the pop-up roof and two-tone paintwork – keep the New California at the forefront of the genre.

Volkswagen New California

Seats fold flat into a bed in classic camper style

(Image credit: Volkswagen)

Volkswagen New California, sales start in June 2024,

Volkswagen New California camper vans with roofs up

(Image credit: Volkswagen)

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.