With over 96,000 visitors over its six days, the autumn Motorhome and Caravan Show at the NEC Birmingham was clearly a big success. There certainly seemed to be a greater optimism in the halls than in previous years, and judging by the torrent of show sales success press releases from the industry’s key players, showgoers were spending money again, too.
A five-page round-up of the show will appear in the January issue of Practical Motorhome, on sale 19 November, but in the meantime, here’s a summary of what our team felt to be the big trends at the show.
The growth in upmarket campers continues. Alongside the Wave from Auto-Sleepers, the Horizon MCV caught the eye, too. Also based on the Mercedes-Benz Vito, two models are available, including the Sport version on display. The Horizon features more of a conventional camper layout than the Wave, with a rock’n’roll bed in the back and a galley behind the driver’s seat.
Pitched at older buyers who want something luxurious for long weekends, the MCV’s bed is electrically operated, which gives the vehicle a real point of difference. It also has a sliding door on both sides, something it has in common with the flexible Auto Campers Leisure Van, now with a new interior configuration that allows the maximum of four rear seats to be removed and replaced with modular furniture to suit individual usage requirements.
The Leisure Van is based on the Ford Transit Kombi, an excellent alternative base vehicle to the ubiquitous VW T5. As we’ve seen with recent offerings from Auto Campers and in Wellhouse Leisure’s selling-like-hot-cakes Terrier, this smaller Transit includes much useful kit as standard and has affordable options packs, so you can improve an already excellent product for not much extra outlay.
The full-size Ford Transit popped up elsewhere at the show, as the base for new conversions from Murvi (Pimento), Devon (Discovery) and IH Motorhomes (598 RL). This was great to see, as the new and improved Transit is a compelling alternative to the hard-to-avoid Sevel (Fiat Ducato and Peugeot Boxer) bases. If you haven’t driven the new Transit, in either flavour, you can’t fail to be impressed by the ergonomic automotive cabins and car-like drive. And bear in mind the other thing the Transit brings to the party is the option of front-, rear- or all-wheel drive, if the converter offers it.
We await with interest to see how much further the Blue Oval penetrates the UK motorhome market in future seasons. For the moment, if you want one underpinning a 2015 coachbuilt, then your only options are courtesy of Trigano Group imports, across most of the Chausson line-up, and in Roller Team’s entry level Zefiro range.
As usual, there was plenty of foreign quirk on display at the show. We particularly liked the sub-£50,000 Itineo SB 740 A-class (yes, it is possible), which offers up to seven berths thanks to a clever half-dinette located in front of the rear transverse bunks. This ’van went down so well at the show that someone snapped it up there and then.
Itineo is a sub-brand of Rapido, clearly a company not afraid to try out bold layout ideas. Consider the 9094DF Design Edition, with its L-shaped rear lounge – perhaps the best thing we saw at the NEC. Discrete areas for lounging and dining, and separate sleeping areas divided by a midships washroom – what’s not to like? If you have £67,500, this could make an excellent tourer for the UK, that spacious rear lounge equipping it well for the unpredictability of our glorious weather.
But the 9094DF wasn’t the only impressive rear-lounge motorhome at the show. How about a rear-lounge and the comfort and convenience of an end washroom? Well, if you have north of £120,000 to hand, then the Frankia I840 Lounge should be right up there. We first saw this at Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf and it’s a beauty – at last, a motorhome with a lounge big enough for a home cinema setup, and a kitchen close enough to crank out the popcorn while not having to miss any of the action. Perfect for enjoying the complete Breaking Bad box set by keeping it real in a recreational vehicle environment…