With restrictions easing and life slowly, oh-so-slowly, starting to return to normal, you might be dreaming of hitting the open road and exploring new parts of the country in a camper van this summer. Here are some of the best available, both from the manufacturers and from aftermarket specialists.
Volkswagen Caddy California
This list is going to be dominated by Volkswagen, because it’s the only carmaker in Ireland to offer official camper vans itself. The range kicks off with the Caddy California, a new model that is essentially a small Caddy panel van with a four- to six-person tent to graft onto the back of it available from Volkswagen Accessories. Even if you don’t go for the tent, there’s sleeping for two in a rear bed inside, plus a pull-out kitchenette to cook on and a stowable folding table complete with a couple of chairs. >> View Volkswagen Caddy's For Sale
Volkswagen California 6.1
The California is the one that can trace its roots back to the VW camper vans of the 1960s and it’s based on the Transporter panel van. It’s bigger than the Caddy California so it can sleep four people, two in a convertible seat/bed arrangement in the back and then two on a mattress housed in the pop-up roof. All models get a small kitchen and a folding table plus chairs on which to sit outside, while variants above the basic Beach version (the trim hierarchy then runs Coast and finally Ocean) even come with a fridge and other luxuries. The most desirable camper there is, if we’re honest – but watch the limited-time Edition special, which costs from €82,235. >> View Volkswagen California's For Sale
Volkswagen Grand California
Like the Caddy California, the huge Grand California is a relatively new addition to Volkswagen’s line of campers – it doesn’t have the long lineage of the mid-ranking California, having only launched in 2019. It is based on the larger Crafter panel van rather than the Transporter and comes in two vast specifications: the four-berth 600 or the two-berth 680. If that sounds counter-intuitive, then know that the longer, grander model (6.8 metres from tip to tail, hence its name) is designed for affluent, semi-retired couples who want the ultimate in camper-van luxury; it therefore is stretched in the body but has a lower roof than the 600, which sleeps an additional two people in a bed above the vehicle’s cab. Whichever Grand Cali you pick, though, its party piece is that it comes with a bathroom onboard, including a toilet, small sink and a shower. That’s some deeply impressive packaging. >> View Volkswagen Grand Califonia's For Sale
Ford Transit Custom Nugget
This is Ford’s own camper, based on the mid-sized Transit Custom commercial vehicle. Somehow, Ford has managed to cram two double-beds into the Nugget, as well as swivelling front seats, a fold-out dining table, a kitchen complete with sink (insert an ‘everything AND the kitchen sink’ comment in here), a 40-litre fridge and a gas stove. And as Ford UK sells the Nugget, then it might be worth looking at importing one if you don’t fancy a Volkswagen van of some kind. >> View Ford Transit Custom's For Sale
Mercedes-Benz V-Class Marco Polo
Like the Ford, Merc’s V-Class-based Marco Polo camper is not available in Ireland but is on sale in the UK, meaning it would theoretically be possible to import one here without too much difficulty. The Marco Polo advocates the pop-up roof arrangement, like the VW California 6.1 and the Transit Nugget, which allows for the inclusion of two built-in beds and a fully equipped kitchenette in the Mercedes van. Not likely to be cheap, but with that three-pointed star on the prow there will be few classier ways to go on a touring holiday than at the wheel of a Marco Polo. >> View Mercedes-Benz V-Class For Sale
Compass Navigator 105
Good as the manufacturer vans are, sometimes you can’t beat a polished aftermarket conversion by a specialist camper-van company – a conversion based on an existing chassis-cab frame of a commercial vehicle. An attractive, compact (two- or three-berth) example is the Compass Navigator 105, built upon the underpinnings of a Peugeot Boxer 2.2 HDi and featuring not only up to three beds, but also a bathroom and a kitchen complete with a three-hob top as well as an oven. It’s a relatively low vehicle overall, too, worth bearing in mind as there can be height restrictions on certain tourist-destination car parks that preclude towering vehicles like the VW Grand California 600 from entering.
Elddis Encore 250
Larger than the Compass Navigator, this four-berth behemoth is 7.4 metres long and weighs 3,500kg, so it’s not for the novice camper-van driver. However, Elddis (it’s the founder’s first name, Siddle C. Cook, reversed) has been building caravans since the 1970s and it knows how to lay out a good motorhome. The Encore 250 sits on a Fiat Ducato 2.3-litre turbodiesel chassis cab and has a large seating area just behind the front two chairs, with a full onboard bathroom as well as a kitchen with three gas hobs and an electric plate. You also get an awning thrown in, blinds and flyscreens on all the windows, fresh and waste water tanks, and even the brilliantly intriguing ‘Exterior BBQ Point’. Such camping luxury isn’t cheap, mind, with a starting price of around €83,000.
Another one based on the Fiat Ducato 2.3 configuration, the Carado A461 can sleep up to seven people – although it doesn’t have seven seatbelts, so bear that in mind while travelling in it. For the larger family, it has all the mod cons like a full kitchen, a decent bathroom and plenty of interior storage, and then at the back of the vehicle there’s even a lockable stowage area for larger items like bikes and so on.