Volkswagen Caddy Camper review
Posted on 22 Apr 2013
Motorhome review team
If you’re looking for a step up from tent camping that combines a good bed with a practical MPV then VW might just have the answer.
Pros & Cons
At A Glance
PRICE AS TESTED £27,532
OPTIONS FITTED Rear parking sensors (£300), rear privacy glass (£160), upgraded touch-screen radio with satnav (£560), upgraded 138bhp engine (£2,060), DSG gearbox (£1,055)
TYPE APPROVAL European Whole Vehicle
|Model Year ||2013|
|Class ||Fixed Roof|
|Range ||No Range|
|Base Vehicle ||Volkswagen Caddy Maxi|
|Maximum weight (kg)||2280|
|Price from (£)||23397|
|Price from (€)||-|
|View the full Buyers Guide entry|
Volkswagen own in-house camper range now numbers three. First came California, then California Beach (tested in the August 2012 issue of Which Motorhome) as a no-frills alternative, a kind of T5 with beds and elevating roof, but no kitchen. The third member of the family takes the back-to-basics approach even further, with not even an elevating roof to its name (which has been, understandably, changed from Tramper to Camper for the UK). So what exactly do you get?
The Caddy Camper is just 14mm shorter than a California. But it is lower and narrower and from behind the wheel it feels much more like a normal car.
Where it differs from other car derivatives of the Caddy is in the boot, behind the second row of seats.
Here, there’s a fold-out bed, beneath which stores a coolbox, an awning, two camping chairs and a table. Meanwhile, removable Backpacker storage pockets clip in place over the rear side windows. With the Backpacker units removed and the rest of the camping gear left at home, the Caddy Camper remains a very practical five-seater estate car for use all week.
At the weekend, though, it quickly transforms into something more. There’s no cooker, nor even any water storage, though you’ll have plenty of room for a plastic washing up bowl and a 10-litre water carrier. And unlike the Beach, the Caddy does have one of those clever coolbox-cum-food-warmers with its own 12V socket in the side wall.
But the Caddy really converts to camping mode when you add the awning, which is clipped to the vehicle and is very quick to erect. Even the tent-phobic (like me!) will be able to manage this, as long as they’re tall enough to lift it over the open tailgate.
The conversion from car to bedroom is superslick.
Each of the five seats tips forward and the bed just unfolds over the top. Better still, this is a 6ft 6in long double and the curtains simply attach with hooks and Velcro. It couldn’t be easier or quicker.
You could even use the Caddy Camper without the awning for a night, as the bed doesn’t take up the whole interior of the vehicle. There’s about 490mm (19in) between the end of the bed and the tailgate; room enough for the coolbox to be conveniently at hand, while a Porta Potti could be kept here for night-time emergencies (though remember that there’s only 4ft headroom).
On the road
It’s when you pack up and hit the road, though, that you’ll relish your choice of a Caddy Camper. It drives just like a stretched Golf.
The 140PS upgrade (102PS is standard) gives you lusty performance, and combined with the seamless shifts of VW’s oh-so-successful DSG gearbox, our lime green Camper proved effortless to drive.
If you’ve ever purchased a Passat or Polo you’ll feel right at home, though you’ll be wondering why the stop-start system is so annoyingly keen to turn off the engine and why the hard dashboard plastics are so 1980s.
And having shelled out a fairly hefty £27k-plus for such a simple campervan, you’ll probably be haranguing the after-sales department of your local VW Van Centre for the missing glovebox door.
Nevertheless, the Caddy Camper could bring future California owners into the leisure vehicle market for the first time, though a bog standard £23k version makes most sense. At the price of our test vehicle, a used T5 camper would be our choice.
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