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The best vans for exploring the outdoors

Camper vans are getting increasingly popular as they offer your very own moving mobile home.

Here are the best camper vans you can buy. (Credit: Volkswagen Press)
Here are the best camper vans you can buy. (Credit: Volkswagen Press)

Ever since Volkswagen set the trend back in 1949 with the original Volkswagen Type 1 Camper Van, the market has grown and grown for mobile homes on wheels.

As we approach summer, it’s not hard to see why they mean big business here in the UK. They offer the practicality of a van, with the added benefit of being your very own miniature home and holiday destination.

Beds, kitchens, cookers and gazebos can be fitted as standard or as optional extras, which makes them a very attractive proposition for those wanting to travel around Europe or in the UK.

After the original camper van was launched, there have been many iterations and attempts by other car manufacturers over the years and now there are examples out there that are like mini-hotels on wheels.

Here is our list of some of the very best camper vans currently on sale in the UK today.

Mercedes Marco Polo


The Mercedes Marco Polo is a V-Class that doubles up a mobile home. (Credit: Mercedes-Benz Media)
The Mercedes Marco Polo is a V-Class that doubles up a mobile home. (Credit: Mercedes-Benz Media) (Justin Leighton)

The Mercedes Marco Polo is essentially a V-Class decked out to be your own little home from home.

The driving experience feels more like a car than a van and the dashboard is taken straight from the normal V-Class meaning that there is a nice blend of soft-touch materials and leather.

Inside, the Marco Polo comes with plenty of camping equipment and features that will fit your holiday requirements such as two beds, a wooden floor style decking, ambient lighting, cupboard style draws and an optional side awning.

However, the Marco Polo is rather expensive to buy starting at £51,550, while the interior may be packed full of storage features, it’s still not as practical as rivals from Volkswagen.

Volkswagen California

The California is the benchmark among camper vans. (Credit: Volkswagen Press)
The California is the benchmark among camper vans. (Credit: Volkswagen Press)

The California is commonly seen as the benchmark when it comes to camper vans. There is a larger variant called the Grand California, but with a rather hefty starting price of £82,000 – the smaller version looks like a better deal.

The standard California is based on the very popular Transporter van which means you get all the Volkswagen’s familiar switchgear and lofty driving position.

Inside, the California has rotating and swivel passenger seats that can be adjusted 180 degrees. If you go for a Beach model, you get a fold-out kitchen with a single gas hob, too.

Higher specced Coast and Ocean models come with all the camping equipment you’ll ever need including both getting full kitchens with twin gas hobs, a sink with fresh and waste water tanks and a fridge.

The top-of-the-line Ocean model gets an electric roof that is operated with a control panel, and a fold-out awning is an option on the base Beach model, but standard on higher spec versions.

A 230V socket which allows you to hook up to the mains comes as standard with all California models.

Ford Transit Custom Nugget

One of Britain’s best-selling vans can be a mobile home, too. (Credit: Ford Media Centre)
One of Britain’s best-selling vans can be a mobile home, too. (Credit: Ford Media Centre)

The Ford Transit is a motoring success here in the UK, and now you can have one for your camping trip away.

The Transit Custom Nugget may have an odd name but, behind the rather anonymous exterior lies a bench seat that can fold flat to make a double bed and a roof that tilts up to reveal another double bed, however, the roof unlike the California and Marco Polo is manually operated.

The ground floor houses a kitchen, a hob, a sink and a fridge and there are plenty of cupboards and drawers to stow things away.

There is a table between the rear seats, too. However, all of this is spoiled by the Transit’s driving experience which gives a harsh ride and numb handling, which isn’t the end of the world, but the Mercedes Marco Polo does offer a sharper driving experience.

Volkswagen Caddy California

The Caddy California offers great value for money. (Credit: Volkswagen Press)
The Caddy California offers great value for money. (Credit: Volkswagen Press) (Malcolm Griffiths)

The baby sibling compared to the more mature California and larger Grand California is the Caddy California.

The Caddy California starts from £35,600 which sounds like great value for money. It’s also available with petrol or diesel power and unlike the rest on our list, feels more like a car to drive thanks to its lower centre of gravity and ride height.

Inside the Caddy, there is a logically laid out dashboard with decent-quality materials used throughout.

Further back, drop the second row of seats and you’ll find lurking beneath them a fold-out bed big enough for a pair of two adults to sleep in as well as a mini-kitchen – which is located in the boot.

Also, there is a single-burner cooker with an integrated gas bottle and there is even a custom made bag designed to carry two fold-out chairs and a table.

Toyota Proace Matino Campervan


The Proace makes for a great camper van. (Credit: Toyota Media UK)
The Proace makes for a great camper van. (Credit: Toyota Media UK)

The Toyota Proace Matino is based on the Proace Verso minivan, with the added benefit of side graphics and an extending roof for a bed.

The Matino’s interior layout is simple and easy to use, if not a little cheap feeling to the touch, and the front seats rotate 180 degrees, too.

The rear bench seats can slide and adjust to make a double bed and you get the option of a secondary bed by raising the roof. The problem is, unlike the Mercedes Marco Polo and Volkswagen California, everything in the Matino is operated manually instead of electrically.

There is a kitchen with twin gas hobs and a sink with fresh and waste water tanks. A fridge is also present and located in one of the larger cupboards you get a toilet cassette –  but unfortunately does take up a lot of space.