Billed as the biggest launch event of the year, this month's Motorhome and Caravan Show did not disappoint. And, yes, it really was a record-breaker!
Running from 11 to 16 October at the NEC Birmingham, 5% more people came to see the 400-plus exhibitors than in 2015, and the 27,546 visitors on Saturday 15 October smashed any previous single-day attendance record for the show.
With 82,191 square metres of floor space to explore, if you were one of the show-goers, we can understand how you could have missed some of the displays. So whether you made it or not, the Practical Motorhome team is here to help.
Check out our October 2016 NEC show stars right here, all in one place – get stuck in!
The best new coachbuilt motorhomes
- Auto-Trail Comanche S
Auto-Trail’s flagship Al-Ko tandem-axle offering gains a new permanent single beds layout. Those newly retired, off on an extended tour, or even considering full-timing will find the level of accommodation (and ‘elbow room’) offered by this size of motorhome (8.78m long) difficult to resist. Add £2040 for the ComfortMatic automated transmission option.
- Auto-Sleeper Corinium RB
Priced from £63,705 OTR, this is the third, and possibly the best, model in this new Peugeot Boxer/Al-Ko-based range of low-profiles. If you’re looking for a spacious upmarket ’van with the supreme comfort and convenience of an island bed, then the Auto-Sleeper Corinium RB should definitely figure in your search.
- Bailey Autograph 68-2
The UK’s love affair with end lounges is set to continue with the second Bailey Autograph model with the living room at the rear. Unlike the 79-6, though, a six-berth behemoth on a 4250kg chassis, the 68-2 creeps in under 7m and has a car-licence friendly all-up weight of 3500kg. It is priced from £49,995 OTR.
- Benimar Tessoro 481
A new entry-level Benimar range based on the Blue Oval? Not much to dislike in that sentence, and in the metal this new line-up doesn’t disappoint. It's priced at £45,995 OTR. You get Benimar’s distinctive contemporary interiors, riding on one of the best base vehicles on the market, for a smaller outlay than sister range Mileo. Five layouts are available. Olé!
- Lunar Telstar/Roadster
These three new motorhomes mark Lunar’s first full return to building coachbuilts since 2008. All are based on a Renault Master, and built entirely in Lunar’s Preston factory. The Telstar is a two-berth with a rear lounge, while both Roadstars are four-berths. The SB has single beds and a central kitchen with two generous worktops, while the island-bed TI eschews the current fad for having a central washroom take up both sides by limiting it to one side. That gives you a larger central kitchen on the other side. What do they cost? From £46,999 for the Telstar, from £56,999 for the Roadstars.
- Niesmann+Bischoff Smove 6.9B and 7.4E
Smove treads the borderline between a low-profile and an A-class, thanks to a sleek design. It is Niesmann+Bischoff’s attempt to make its ’vans more sporty-looking and marginally less pricey (once you include all the optional extras). Both the transverse-bed 6.9B (from £68,400) and fixed-single-beds 7.4E (from £70,800) feature innovations such as a washbasin and toilet that can be rolled out of the way in the washroom, and a kitchen worktop that doubles as a sideboard.
- Roller Team Zefiro 685
More Transit-based goodness here, from Trigano Group’s Roller Team. This affordable range keeps getting better and better. The on-trend fixed twin single beds floor plan makes an appearance, with a sociable lounge up front and interior styling that would be perfectly at home in a boutique hotel in Milan. It is priced from £43,756 OTR.
- Swift Escape 674
Swift Escape sales were up by a whopping 40% at the show. The reason: Swift Group’s best-selling range is much improved for 2017, with all models now being low-profile coachbuilts. This 674 wasn’t displayed at any of the preview events, but we loved what we saw in Birmingham: a 7.41m rear-lounge four-berth with L-shaped kitchen and dinette… It really is one L of a ’van. Price? £44,990 OTR.
The best new elevating-roof campervans
- Devon Vitesse
The Vitesse is Devon’s latest conversion on a Mercedes-Benz Vito. It’s not as expensive as you might therefore think, as it still manages to come in with a base model starting price south of £40k. With a conventional rock’n’roll bed and side kitchen, it includes a pop-up roof with attractive LED lighting all around the upper corners. Devon claims the length of the Vito (4.9m) and its driving capability means it’s the nearest you can come in the campervan world to driving an E-Class estate.
- Hillside Leisure Birchover Action
Hillside Leisure builds all sorts of VW-based motorcaravans, from sassy campervans for the get-away couple to rolling palaces for those addicted to a sybaritic lifestyle. The Birchover Action (£43,995 OTR in ‘Highline’ spec) is a pure distillation of high-octane campervanning. Narrower kitchen units facilitate a mine’s-bigger-than-yours rear seat/bed. Great as an ‘only vehicle’.
The best new high-top van conversions
- Autohaus Camelot High-Top
The Camelot has been a staple of the Somerset manufacturer’s line-up for some years – but only with a pop-top roof. Autohaus says customer demand has led it to develop this high-top version, based on a short-wheelbase VW T6 Highline. The extra room provided by the high-top allows for useful cupboards and lockers. It's priced from £42,500 – the £50,000 model shown here comes with a higher-spec 148bhp engine.
- Dreamer D53 ‘Family’
Déjà vu? Well, possibly, because this French import was originally marketed as Campérêve but is now ensconced in the Rapido Group and available through its UK dealer network. Berths comprise two double beds and a short single. With prices starting under £38,000 OTR (the model pictured is £41,000 OTR), these could be great value-for-money ’vans.
- Tribute T 680
Now produced at the Auto-Trail factory in Grimsby, Tribute’s van conversion line-up gets a new model for 2017. The 680 (£39,360 OTR) is a stretched version of the 5.99m-long 670 and uses the extra 0.37m to squeeze in rear parallel sofas that are long enough to use as single beds as well as a make-up transverse double.
- Westfalia Amundsen 540D
Westfalia conversions exude a quiet quality and while many others slavishly add bling to attract customers, Westfalia concentrates on design improvements. This is how they’ve managed to squeeze a layout previously only available on vans longer than six metres on to one that only stretches the tape to 5.41m. The vehicle as shown costs £49,053 OTR (priced from £42,411 OTR).
- WildAx Pulsar HT
The compact yet bijou WildAx Pulsar was our elevating-roof camper of the year in 2015. Buyers who don’t need the additional two berths in the pop-top can now choose this HT version, which offers twin single beds, a kitchen and proper washroom on a 5m-long Citroën Relay. It is priced from £46,995 OTR.
The best niche base vehicles – Renault
- CMC Reimo Trio Style
A recurring theme at this year’s October NEC show was van converters, particularly those who traditionally go with VW, trying out new models on the Renault Trafic. CMC Reimo says its decision to bring out its Trio Style layout on a French base was price driven. But anyone stepping inside this traditional rock’n’roll bed, side-kitchen layout should also be impressed at the extra room the Renault gives you towards the top of the ’van. Prices start at £39,950 OTR.
- Hillside Hartington
This is not the first time Derby-based Hillside has experimented with a Renault base vehicle. It already offers its Ellastone layout on a Renault Trafic, including a tempting twin-turbo version. But the Hartington (£39,995 OTR) fits out the Renault with an end-kitchen and an end-washroom plus a shower – both of which are more usable because this is a high-top.
- Devon Sundowner
Like CMC and Hillside, Devon is another converter with a fondness for VW that is now seeing the attractions of the Renault Trafic. The Sundowner (£42,500 OTR), a high-top with an end washroom and end kitchen plus two single belted seats that convert into beds up front, has traditionally been on a VW Transporter.
The best niche base vehicles – Mercedes-Benz
- HymerCar Grand Canyon S
Hymer has recently shifted its focus towards the expanding high-top market. This popular layout is now available on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter panel van conversion for the first time. Hymer has solved the problem of the narrow width by adding some wider infill exterior panels at bed height. The HymerCar pictured costs £59,710 OTR (from £48,990 OTR).
The best niche base vehicles – Ford
- Nu Venture Ford Custom
Despite the name, this is a joint project between Ford specialist converter Wellhouse Leisure and Wigan-based Nu Venture. Wary of the costs of getting into coachbuilt production, Huddersfield-based Wellhouse has asked Nu Venture, which usually works on Citroëns, to produce a ’van for it on a base vehicle it prefers. The result is this 5.64m-long, 1.96m-wide two-berth with two settees up front plus an end washroom and kitchen. It comes with a 2.0-litre 128bhp engine as standard, with 168bhp as an option, and it's priced at £46,500.
The best niche base vehicles – SsangYong
- SsangYong Turismo Tourist
Wellhouse Leisure’s latest van conversion tie-up, unveiled at the NEC Motorhome and Caravan Show, is with SsangYong. The Turismo Tourist is based on a SsangYong Turismo and comes with seats that convert into two seven-foot-long beds, plus a pop-up roof and a kitchen at the back. As it’s built on a people carrier rather than a van base vehicle, the company says it drives more like a people carrier than a van. The Turismo Tourist, priced from £29,995 OTR, will initially be sold through SsangYong dealers.
The best quirky and clever ’vans
- Chausson 611 Travel Line
Year after year, the innovations keep on coming – and this one is right up there with the best of them. Meet the low-profile with habitation doors on both sides, for maximum flexibility when touring the UK and the Continent. And in another twist that will delight British buyers, this sub-7m tourer from Chausson also has two lounges, with one at the back. C’est magnifique! And it's priced from £51,320 OTR.
Priced from £49,995 OTR, Brook Miller’s first mainstream motorhome range is geared at rugged adventurers. Based on 4WD versions of the Isuzu D-Max or Ford Ranger, the three-strong Trail-Breaker range all have a five-seat cab that is entirely separate from the rear section, which includes a triple bed over the cab and two settees that make a further double. You also get a 48-litre fridge, a toilet, a shower, and a rear awning to make use of an outdoor gas cooker. Because the design includes a pop-up roof, the 5.7m-long ’van can shrink down to 2.4m in height.
- Wingamm Micros
A moulded GRP monocoque coachbuilt body is the best to have by a country mile. They are immensely strong with no ‘joints’, so there are fewer potential leak sites, plus they are pure eye candy. Available with or without a longitudinal drop-down double-bed, VW’s T6 base gives a magic-carpet ride. The overall length is 5.3m and it's priced from £62,000 OTR.
The best new A-classes, liners and RVs
- Bürstner Elegance I 920 G
The I 920 G is one of two twin-axle models Bürstner has added to its A-class range for 2017. This one comes with an island bed over a rear garage. You get a luxurious central washroom and a comfy front lounge with a huge table. From a starting point of £89,995 OTR, optional extras on this model that take its price up to £107,247 include leather upgrade upholstery, habitation air con, a bigger engine and Fiat’s ComfortMatic transmission.
- Frankia I 740 FD
Unlike other Continental manufacturers who seem to be phasing out the French bed, Frankia’s newest A-class offers a solution to those struggling to get past their sleeping partner at night-time: its French bed includes an illuminated step at the bottom. Thanks to keeping the French bed, you also get a huge rear corner washroom in a ’van that’s still only 7.5m long. Optional extras taking this model up to £99,814 incude Truma Combi 6 heating, a media pack and a full cooker. It costs from £90,450.
- Hymer DuoMobil B DL 534
More UK-friendly rear lounge goodness, here served up by Hymer in B-Class Dynamic Line flavour. For the uninitiated, this means using the very latest design and build smarts to create ’vans well under 3500kg – this 534 (from £75,160 OTR) has a 520kg payload, for starters. With longitudinal twin singles above the cab, and a central split washroom, this is a humdinger of a two-berth.
- Morelo Empire Liner 100BG Pearl
Taking up a whole corner at the NEC, with people queuing to view, was this example of German luxury liner manufacturer Morelo’s latest Empire Liner range. It’s not the smallest in the line-up, but even that will set you back £335,000. This 10.29m model (£382,960 OTR) includes a garage for a car and is based on a Mercedes Atego chassis with a 7.7-litre engine. Features inside include a rain shower and even an integral vacuum cleaner.
- Pilote Galaxy 650U
Pilote’s one new coachbuilt model for 2017 (which is also available as a Pacific low-profile and with sister brand Bavaria) is a 6.59m-long ’van with a UK-friendly U-shaped rear lounge and foldaway table. This layout allows all your guests to relax and have a good time, especially as the ample cushioning is extended around the rear corners.
- Rapido 8065dF
The new twin-single-beds with end-washroom A-class from Rapido joins a range that has been significantly revamped inside to give a more yacht-like feel to the upholstery and furnishings. If you don’t like the spacious Castello look, you can, as here, opt for Elegance which is halfway back to the maple tones Rapido is known for. It is priced from £66,100 OTR. Items added on this model to take its price up to £73,430 include Alde heating and a more powerful Fiat engine.