Super-premium producer Niesmann + Bischoff only builds A-classes, but it’s really rather good at it – as sackfuls of award wins testify. Based at Polch in Germany, the brand is part of the Hymer Group, and it can rely on many well-heeled customers across Europe who are eager to enjoy the fruits of its tightly focused R&D and continual innovation.
The result of this is an elegant design, supreme comfort and specification lists to die for. Last year, the marque won a prestigious design award from the automotive industry, the first time a motorhome manufacturer has done so.
For 2016, Niesmann + Bischoff is consolidating and strengthening its offering. Feedback from existing and potential customers at shows and dealerships led the iconic brand to review many of its models and make careful changes across the portfolio. So the sentiment for the new season is literally ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ – just tweak the details instead.
As such, seven 2015 models aren’t carried forward. To replace them, one new model in the top-tier Flair and three models in the Arto range have been added. This makes a total of eight Flair and 13 Arto ’vans for 2016.
The Ducato-based range of Arto liners gets a few modifications. There are three new models: the rear-transverse-bed 72 L, island-bed 79 F and twin-single-bed tag-axle 88 EK. Six models are pruned: the transverse-bed 64 GL, 74 L and 76 B, French-bed 66 F, and island-bed 76 F and 83 F. The transverse-bed 66 L and 76 L, twin-single-bed 74 E, 76 E, 79 E, 79 R, 83 B, 85 E and 88 E, and island-bed 88 F models are carried over with range-wide detail improvements.
The new 72 L follows the same transverse-bed floorplan as the 66 L, but has a body length of 7.23m. This allows for a lounge that’s 20cm longer, with a larger table. The 72 L also replaces the 74 L.
The island-bed 79 F is a longer version of the now-deleted 76 F, on a body length of 7.92m; which again facilitates a 20cm-bigger lounge. The longest single-axle model in the Arto range, the 79 F, is also a replacement for the 83 F and addresses high demand in France. You can also specify a 25cm-lower rear bed, for the same price; although this will affect garage height.
The new tag-axle 88 EK features a similar floorplan to the twin-single-bed 88 E, but with a significant design trade-off: the lounge is shorter to allow for a larger kitchen work area, with a worktop that’s 35cm longer.
The island-bed 88 F receives a tweak, too, with a shorter kitchen (around 23cm, the same as in the 88 EK) to facilitate the inclusion of a full-height slide-out ‘apothecary’ storage unit.
Portfolio-topper Flair received an upgrade last season, to accompany the facelifted Iveco Daily base vehicles. A key part of the improvements was the introduction of automatic transmissions manufactured by ZF Group, which supplies drivelines and chassis to premium car and commercial-vehicle brands. Orders from last winter are now making their way to customers.
We road-tested an 880 BE with an automatic transmission from ZF on hairpin bends – it is very smooth. Little surprise, then, that 99% of Flair vehicles sold in 2015 were ordered with the system.
Existing transverse-bed models 840 L and 840 B continue for 2016, as do the twin-single-bed 820 LE, 880 LE, 880 BE and 920 LE, as well as the island-bed 920 LF and 920 BF.
One new Flair model will launch this autumn. The twin-single-bed 920 LS is similar to the popular 880 LE, but has been stretched by around half a metre. This allows three double wardrobes and drawers to be fitted between the kitchen and the bedroom, which was a request for customers who tour full-time.
There are improvements to the 880 BE, which now has the option of an electric drop-down bed in the lounge. The 880 L with transverse rear bed has been deleted, because island- and single-bed models are more popular.
One clever development that will make its debut at this year’s Düsseldorf show is a space-saving wardrobe that will be available in all Flair models with rear single beds. It will be mounted in the foot of a bed, and slides into the gangway to be loaded; when not in use, it ‘docks’ back under the bed. Niesmann + Bischoff has applied for a patent to prevent these wardrobes being imitated. We were shown them in the 820 LE, where such clever thinking allows the manufacturer to offer this popular floorplan on a shorter body length.
In other news
A new style of backrest cushion has been rolled out across the Niesmann + Bischoff portfolio. These have a much fuller shape and are super-comfortable; they’re also available in different styles, but you can still mix together leather and textiles.
Habitation doors have also been upgraded. New aluminium frames have been added on the inside, to replace the previous plastic ones, and the covering that protects the electrical cable which runs between the door frame and the door has been improved.
Textile coverings have been added to the interior of rear-garage doors, while garages themselves get LED lighting. Larger bedside steps to ease access to island beds have been added, and kitchens will receive two dustbins.
Enhancements have also been made to optional equipment.
Comfort springs in the chassis pack are now sourced from Hymer Group subsidiary Goldschmitt, replacing those manufactured by VB, and LED lights on the underside of canopy awnings can be dimmed via remote control. Radios are now equipped with DAB+, and roof antennas now come as standard with every radio order. Smartphone control for Alde heating systems, over the iOS platform, is now available, and there’s also a choice of satellite system: Oyster Vision, or – for those who need a unit with a reduced height clearance of 10cm – CTrax is available for the same price.
A new optional ‘mineral’ kitchen surface is also available for 2016, there’s a new design of alloy wheel, and 120-litre toilet tanks are available in all tag-axle Artos. Weight upgrades to 5500kg are available for all tag-axle models; for single axles, it’s 4800kg.
If you do uprate your weights, special alloy wheels have to be ordered, too.
Finally, a new Niesmann + Bischoff model was unveiled for 2016. With its twin-single beds and sociable lounge, the Arto 88 E is bang-on trend as far as popular floorplans go. However, some might find it a little on the small side, because this miniature version – from German toymaker Siku – is a 1:71-scale model. Like the model on which it’s based, it sports a matte-grey body with orange details and launches this summer, with a production run of 10,000. Available for just €8, it’s a Niesmann + Bischoff that everyone can afford!
Practical Motorhome's star 'van – Niesmann + Bischoff Arto 79 F
The longest single-axle model in the Arto range, the 79 F has the rear-island-bed and split-washroom floorplan. Our picture (above) shows the version with the bed lowered by 25cm; this makes a significant difference to the sightlines towards the rear of the vehicle, creating a feeling of greater space. It also makes accessing the bed much easier. The kitchen is compact, but the 79 F’s lounge is 20cm longer than that of the 76 F it replaced.