Friday 19th of February 2016
The booking process was completely straightforward and easy to do, we simply visited easicampervanhire.com and chose our location and holiday dates. Once submitted, our order was placed and we were contacted via email to confirm. You pay in full online via a credit card and leave a deposit to cover the costs of any accidents that might occur.
Picking Up Your Easirent Campervan
We put the postcode for Wigan in to our SatNav and set off early in the morning to collect our campervan. The drive from Liverpool took no time at all and we were greeted by the very friendly staff, Lisa and Mike. You can collect your campervan from multiple branches, Wigan was just the easiest and closest choice for us but you can change that when booking.
Our initial impression of Wigan was lovely, the lot is well decorated and the staff had everything ready for us inside the office. Once the forms had been signed we were shown to our campervan and Mike (Easirent’s Staff Driver) gave us a full tour. We were shown where everything is stored and how to operate the roof, the electrics, the fridge, etc. He was incredibly patient and helpful and we didn’t feel at all rushed to check out.
You can leave your car in Easirent’s secure lot during your vehicle hire which is very convenient and saved us time searching for a parking space in a town we weren’t familiar with. Once we had transferred all our things to the van, we set the Sat-Nav for our holiday destination (we chose Devon) and said goodbye!
When you look at a larger vehicle such as the California, you would naturally assume it will be quite cumbersome to drive but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The model we had was an automatic which of course takes a little while to get used to. I found that the lack of a clutch pedal meant keeping my left foot rested and doing all the braking and accelerating with my right foot. The 7-speed gearbox changes automatically for you as soon as you hit ~2500 revs and you can barely feel the change as it is so seamless. There is an override gear function within the accelerator pedal if you do wish to take back the control, plus the gearbox does switch to semi-automatic should you feel the need to be in control.
The sport mode enables you to accelerate much quicker as the automatic gearbox allows the revs to build higher before shifting up. Once in sport gear, I found that the van handled better and kept a consistent smoothness and range.
On the motorway, it feels very much like you’re in an average car, not a van. The fact that it’s automatic means it maintains set speeds a lot better than a manual would, plus the VW accelerates quickly enough to give plenty of confidence over-taking other drivers in heavier-set traffic. I found it to feel very stable in windy conditions unlike other larger vehicles which feel top-heavy and like you’re in a constant battle. Everything is within easy reach and not much movement/stretching is required to operate the controls. Driving is extremely comfortable given the seating position which provides the ability to drive extremely long distances without the need for a break.
The California Ocean is fairly quick and nimble round corners and narrow city streets. I found it easy to navigate small gaps between cars and even the steepest hills were combated with switching to a lower gear and keeping the acceleration steady. The suspension is fantastic compared to a normal sized car, so much so that you barely feel the bumps and holes in the road, just make sure everything in the back is strapped down and not rattling around inside the cupboards (which we forgot to do on the first journey after an overnight stay!)
During the times I was a passenger, I felt extremely comfortable. Everything in the front cabin is designed for a long journey. There’s tons of legroom, adjustable seats, armrests, head restraints, even heated seats! With dual climate control I found I could keep myself pleasantly warm without the driver being affected. It is so comfy and easy to fall asleep that driving any distances longer than 100 miles will be no problem at all in this vehicle – something very important for long-distance holidaymakers.
The interior dashboard features an AUX in cable but not a USB port, we simply bought an adapter that went into the car cigarette lighter to use as a phone charger. This was inexpensive and sold at the petrol station on the way, only a slight nuisance but on the manual model there is a fully integrated Sat-Nav and USB DAB radio. Everything is where you would expect it to be and operating the radio and the air-conditioning is simple. Cup-holders and lots of storage compartments in the door, seats and dashboard made for convenient at-your-fingertips storage. Having the AUX cable with us already meant that we could use our mobile phones and MP3 players to play music through the sound system, a complete must for a long road-trip although I can’t guarantee you and your passengers will always agree on the playlist! During our evenings, we successfully connected our laptop computer to the van’s surround sound system meaning watching a film was perfectly easy to set up. Easirent provided us with a mains adapter which enabled us to plug in the laptop’s charger (perfect if you’re working away from home). There is a single mains socket located behind the passenger seat, as well as conveniently located 20A power sockets at the end of the cabinet and down the side of the rear seats.
The driver has automatic sidelights turned on, varying speed windscreen wipers, radio controlled wing mirror functions and a non-complicated trip computer that tells you how many miles to the gallon you are using, how far you’ve traveled, and average speed.
Key Controls and Control Panel
From the key fob you can lock and unlock the van, turn on the auxiliary heater and unlock the boot. I found this really useful because it works from quite far away when returning to the van, you can point the key and get the heating fired up for when you arrive. Or great if you’re about to park up and get into the back for a cup of tea or spot of lunch. It is worth noting that the van locks itself after a certain period of inactivity, the radio turns itself off and the doors and boot need unlocking manually from inside or from the key outside. This only becomes a problem when you leave the van to enter the boot, in which someone inside will need to unlock it for you.
TOP TIP: You cannot lock the van from inside using the key remote, as it sets the alarm and sensors which will of course be activated as soon as you move again, emitting a high pitched alarm (most embarrassing in the middle of a campsite). Always lock up for the night using the door controls.
The control panel above the Rear-View mirror has a range of options. From here you can open and close the roof, adjust the temperature of the cabin, set the thermostat timer, adjust the fridge power levels and see the status of the leisure battery. Again it is so easy to use, very self-explanatory but Easirent explained it all and demonstrated everything before we left, plus left the user manual in the glove compartment for us to look up anything unusual. I really feel that the technology is not overwhelming and that all kinds of users would find it easy to operate.
As the T6 is really no longer than an ordinary estate car, parking was not an issue at all. After a few attempts I found a sweet spot to remember where to line up the van which meant I would not be overhanging either end of a space, and with the huge wing mirrors, seeing all around as I parallel parked between two cars was no problem at all. This meant we did not have to worry about where we would be allowed to go, the under 2m height meant no car parks were off limits and anywhere that was covered was accessible. One thing I would advise, is to remember that the boot opens outwards and upwards, so always leave an extra 1m of room for the boot to be opened if you need access to it. There are no parking sensors either so in some situations if you are nervous about room, get your partner or children to get out and assess the vehicle from the back.
We received the VW with a 1/4 tank of diesel and filled up £40 before joining the motorway for Devon. By the time we had arrived in Devon (255 miles) we were back to 1/4 tank. Of course the MpG changes with the driving style, but we found it really efficient and only had to fill up twice. Driving with differing speeds will have different effects on the fuel efficiency but the trip computer tells you how good/bad you are doing and how far you have to go on the fuel that is in the car depending on how you are currently driving.
Filling up was fairly easy although you have to open the passenger door to access the petrol cap which can be slightly inconvenient if the passenger is sleeping against the door(!)
Camping In Your Easirent Campervan
This model can sleep up to 4 people although it is probably better suited to a couple or a couple and two small children. With the roof up, you can stand up and walk around inside. It makes it easier to get about and do things without ducking. The front seats are very spacious and you could even hold luggage and bags by your feet. The back of the van converts from a double seat to a bed with the pull of a lever and the table turns the bedroom into a living room and kitchen. The boot opens up and turns into a roof which helps in poor weather when trying to access the boot. In sunnier weather you can sit in the boot space and your partner can set a chair up under the shelter of the boot/roof.
The boot space can be made bigger by raising the back bar and you could definitely fit the luggage of four adults plus bedding and camping gear in there. Obviously when driving, the space in the back of the campervan can be used for storage but its important to remember that this will all need to go somewhere once the bed is out. The awnings that Easirent provide are useful for this because you’ll have waterproof storage without taking up interior space to live in. Personally we managed to fit all our things in the boot and decided not to put the bed down during the day and just store our things on the bed whilst travelling in the van.
Volkswagen have clearly thought out all aspects of the camping lifestyle. Everything has a clever function and place to store or conceal it. The van can turn from driving mode to living mode so easily it is purely ingenious. Everyone can get round the table as the front seats swivel round to face the back. You can pull up and set up anywhere although a campsite is always better due to the electric hookup and waste water services. When you are not hooked up to an electrical current, all the interior features use either diesel or the van’s leisure battery which can run out. The van’s control panel will tell you how much energy is left so you won’t be caught out unaware. A few tips for the ultimate convenience I would recommend are:
As well as the roof opening for more space, a large awning comes out from the side of the van creating extra covered space to live in. We used this awning for sitting at the table outside in the daytime and when getting ready (shoes on and off) to talk to the people inside the van. The awning just adds extra room to move about in yet still feel connected to the inside. There is a handle in the main storage compartment under the sofa-seat which you insert into a small hole at the side of the awning and turn the handle to bring the awning out. There are small feet that hook out to support it. Again, Easirent were brilliant showing us how to do it on pick-up and we had no trouble packing it away each morning. Even if you are forgetful with where everything goes, the van beeps an alarm to warn you when you start the engine, prompting you to check everything and make sure the roof is down.
TOP TIP: Don’t have the awning out in times of heavy wind or rain as this can lead to tearing.
We found the upstairs cabin (when the roof is open there is a shelf in the roof that can support the weight of two adults) to be larger and more spacious for sleeping. Although this is colder as the material that the roof is made from is similar to a tent. The downstairs cabin is slightly smaller due to the fridge and cooker taking up some of the room but both are long enough for adults over 6 foot. The crate in the boot that covers the luggage can be angled for a more supported sleeping position and we found this really handy when watching a movie as we could sit up in the bed then lower it for sleep time. Although the top bed is sturdy and spacious, I would much rather put the children up there and sleep downstairs in the main body of the van just for ease, climbing up into the top can be a little tricky if you’re short like me! There is a net that slots into the gap at the end to prevent anything from falling down during the night or you can close the shutters. There is also a little angled lamp upstairs which is really handy for night-times.
Surprisingly we didn’t find the night times to be very cold, the van retains the heat really well and if you keep the door-opening to a minimum you can adequately heat the van before bedtime to last until morning. We just had a duvet and a blanket but with proper camping sleeping bags you would be more than comfortable. My top tip for sleeping downstairs would be to make sure there is a pillow or blanket between yourself and the fridge as it can get rather cold against your back.
There are privacy blinds all along the sides and the back of the campervan and you have screens that you can fit to the front windscreen and driver/passenger doors. From the outside, these blinds block the light and sound out really well meaning you can listen to music/watch TV or a film without disturbing any camping neighbours. From the inside it means no torches or sunlight can come through, waking you up. If you use these at night, always remember to put the blinds up before trying to open the door.
Easirent kindly include everything you need for eating on your trip inside the campervan. Utensils, plates, mugs, cutlery, etc make for a very simple set up that covers all the basics. Once you’ve turned the gas on (in the back-most cupboard at the rear) you can use the two-ring hob to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you set the van up to have the two front seats swiveled round, you can comfortable cook from the backseat with enough room on the table to serve up. There are a few storage lockers to store food and a huge top-loading fridge that has adjustable temperatures for cooling and freezing. Everything worked brilliantly, the cooking was fast and everything was perfectly sized with a camp-stove kettle perfect for cups of tea and coffee every morning.
Style & Look
We found that the overall look of the VW California Ocean Campervan was really pleasing. It isn’t as quaint as the traditional T2 retro VWs but it’s a good attempt at modern styling with convenient features. The bicycle rack on the back gives it a functional yet holiday feel and the front silver grill and logo looks great against any backdrop. Easirent have the vans in a few different colours but we noticed that most of them around Devon and on the motorways were grey or white like ours. The initial impression you get when you look inside is how modern and new the trim looks. The sleek, pale wood of the kitchen compared to the soft grey of the upholstery makes you feel like you are in a holiday home. We got a lot of compliments on the Ocean during our time at the campsite and a few people were interested in buying one or renting one just after seeing the outside!
We chose a very-well recommended campsite in South Devon called Cofton Country Holiday Park. It was extremely well-equipped and had many other campervans settled in before and after our arrival. We found the campsite through Tripadvisor and booked through their website directly. If you are thinking of doing the same, we recommend you book early as you get a discount and money can definitely be saved. The site is self-catering and there are a few extra charges for things like WiFi and swimming but it was the perfect place for us to try our first taster of the campervan life.
On arrival, you check in at the reception of the campsite where you will be given all the information you need and a map of where to go. We were told all about the facilities and entertainment on offer that we could partake in and we were sent on our way to settle in. For the VW California it is best to choose a 7m berth, we reversed in (giving us room to use the boot space) and put the roof up straight away. Then we used Easirent’s hookup cable from the storage drawer and plugged the van into the electrical outlet, giving us power for our stay. There is space on the gravel for a car which many other campers made the most of using. There is no need for steadies or levelling ramps as the gravel and handbrake hold the van in place adequately and the ground is fairly level.
TOP TIP: If you are returning at night to the campsite, be sure to use the torch provided so you can see when you are hooking up as there are no exterior lights on the van.
There are of course, rules of any campsite and we found it easy to fit in and become part of the life there. Everyone around is helpful and friendly, respect is a necessary part of living in such close quarters to ensure everyone enjoys themselves. Neighbours come and go in their own caravans and cars. Just in our field, we saw 3 other VWs all with their roof up and some with the awning out. There was a real sense of neighbourly community and the camping village next door were equally friendly. The shop and retreat at the site made it easy to socialise and make friends and the privacy inside the campervan enables you to hide away or pack up and leave if you need to.
Travel Recommendations: There are so many places to explore along the coast of Devon, if you do choose to camp down South here are a few of our suggestions for your stay.
A truly beautiful spot to view the sea. We pulled up here for a cup of tea and to take in the views of the valley.
Mostly for the kids, an exciting day out in a small dinosaur exhibition right in the heart of Torquay.
Big pots of fudge can be seen being churned and so many flavours can be chosen, from peanut butter to lemon meringue – real Devon fudge not to be missed. Or you can grab some homemade ice cream in incredible clotted cream flavours, perfect for walking along the bay with.
Grab breakfast in the window of any of the fine eating establishments along here and watch the sea’s impressive waves.
If you can find your way through the ridiculous car sales village(?!) to Exeter Retail Park, you can find everything you need for a spot of Saturday shopping.
The infamous train line runs along the coast and leads you to this traditional seaside funfair resort, a great day out for the kids in the right season.
Returning Your Easirent Campervan
Once your holiday has come to an end, it’s time to pack up and head home. We hit the motorway very early in the morning in an attempt to beat the traffic but half-term was busy and it took a few service stops to make it back to Wigan. On our return we were met by the same staff, who checked out the motorhome to ensure everything was still in working order and nothing had been damaged and we signed another form and had to sadly say goodbye to our beloved campervan home for the holidays.
Is the Campervan the right choice for me?
We will definitely be hiring from Easirent again after our experience and would encourage any potential customers who are debating whether or not to go for this model, to have a read of all the good points about campervan-ing and consider all the options (price, spending money, sleeping arrangements, ease of access, long distance driving, etc.)
We are thrilled that our customers are enjoying the new campervans we stock and we were glad to offer a discount to these customers for reviewing the van during their holidays. If you would be interested in doing a review or appraisal of your hire then please get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are looking for something bigger then from March 2016 we will be offering the new Roller Team Zefiro Motorhomes that can sleep up to 6 people and come with an interior bathroom. Watch this space for more reviews!