Our Motorhome of the Year Awards are now in their sixth year, and we are delighted to report that standards in the industry are rising, making it even harder to pick just one winner.
We have selected the best new motorhomes to have emerged in the last 12 months. And we’re delighted that once again the Practical Motorhome awards are run in association with heating and water-systems specialist Whale. The Northern Irish firm has built an enviable reputation for design and innovation, just like our trophy winners.
How do the awards work?
Every new or substantially revised motorhome launched since this time last year was eligible for inclusion. Our judges assessed all the new models in the summer of 2014; they then drew up a shortlist at the October NEC show and refined it using test results over the year.
We have eight categories for motorhomes and one for accessories this year. We carried out on-the-road and full live-in tests on as many of the motorhomes as possible, and we’ve compared many camping accessories in our regular test bench features. After all the testing, our judges have finally agreed on the winners in each category:
- Best accessory
- Best for innovation
- Best rising-roof camper
- Best high-top van conversion
- Best budget ’van under £40k
- Best family motorhome
- Best coachbuilt motorhome
- Best luxury motorhome
- Overall winner: Motorhome of the Year 2015
The full results, judges’ comments and more will appear in the November 2015 issue of Practical Motorhome. Here are the category winners, followed by the overall winner, our Motorhome of the Year 2015.
Best accessory 2015: RAM Mount X-Grip
With the vast plethora of brilliant leisure gear out there, you may be surprised that we’ve chosen a humble screen mount as our accessory of the year for 2015. We limit our choices to products that we’ve scrutinised and tried in our test bench features and we’ve chosen the X-Grip because it’s a great piece of kit to have on tour and outshines all the other camping accessories we’ve seen this year. The model tested is the RAM-HOL-UN7B-KT. We love its simplicity. Cast away any notion of fiddling with delicate levers to fix your phone or tablet firmly in its grasp. As you squeeze the opposing corners of the ‘X’ together, the other corners spread apart. Just place your device between them and let go; spring pressure does the rest. To position, loosen the clamp between the suction cup and the front mount, angle your device for the perfect view and tighten the clamp. It’s also well made and versatile. Runners up were the Bodum Travel mug and the Halfords Multi-purpose inflator.
Best motorhome for innovation: WildAx Pulsar
Designers always try to boost comfort and living space in campervans. WildAx has gone the furthest in this compact 5m ’van for two, which costs £42,995. The Pulsar is a well-equipped, luxurious, all-season motorhome in a campervan-sized package. Most campervans are basic, but amazingly, WildAx has squeezed a proper washroom into the Pulsar, enabling stays on basic sites and even wild camping – often beyond the scope of vehicles of this size. There’s plenty of storage, a well-equipped galley, a generous lounge that converts into a transverse double bed and the option of two more berths in the pop-top.
Best rising-roof camper: Hillside Leisure Ellastone
This brilliant little four-berth ’van features some clever design touches in a tried-and-tested campervan layout of offside kitchen, with a rock’n’roll bed accessible from the side door. It’s well-priced, too, from £33,995. The Ellastone was a comfortable winner here – the judges scored it highly on its value for money. This is a great little camper – the interior is beautifully finished, and all the materials used look and feel good quality. For 10 years, Derby-based Hillside Leisure has carved out a good reputation for converting small vans into campers, whether on the VW Transporter, the Renault Trafic or more latterly the Nissan NV200 and its electric sibling, the e-NV200. Hillside also created world’s first electric-powered campervan, the Dalbury E.
Best high-top van conversion: Murvi Pimento
The winner of our most competitive category is the exceptional two-berth Murvi Pimento, at £47,553. This perfectly formed 5.5m motorhome has an excellent Ford Transit base vehicle that blends seamlessly with the Pimento’s compact dimensions to create a ’van that is really fun to drive. The Pimento is a shorter version of the Morello, the Devon brand’s best seller, with understated elegance and a flexible living space. There’s a choice of two table sizes, two bed sizes and clever storage solutions. A rotating bench makes it easy to swap the set-up from lounge to dinette, and you can have two additional travel belts fitted. Equipment levels are high, notably in the rear, where there’s an L-shaped kitchen and an impressive all-in-one washroom. Good things can come in small packages, and this brand has won more gold gongs than any other in our annual Owner Satisfaction Awards.
Best budget motorhome under £40,000: Rimor Koala Elite 722
This year’s budget category winner combines a low price tag (£39,595) with high quality and a good specification – Italy’s Rimor Koala Elite 722 is a formidable beast.
Each year the choice of budget motorhomes under £40,000 shrinks, but thanks to a weak Euro exchange rate imported models are currently good value for money. The £40,000 upper price limit is important for many buyers, and they’d find it hard to top this, a 7.22m-long overcab behemoth with six berths and a large front dinette. The Koala Elite range is based on the Renault Master, here with rear-wheel drive and twin wheels on the rear axle. A selection of desirable safety and driver aids come as standard, including ESP, hill-hold, cruise control, twin airbags and Bluetooth connectivity. Build quality is high – Rimor is the number one imported Italian brand in Germany. The Koala Elite 722 lost a few points for the visual appeal of its overcab coachbuilt design, but it romped home on value for money.
Best compact motorhome: Chausson Flash 610
The French manufacturer packs in plenty of inventive ways to make the most of the living space in this four-berth compact coachbuilt, which comes on a Ducato or Transit base vehicle. The Chausson Flash 610 doesn’t feel compact and we can hardly believe it costs less than £43,000. The sense of space, quality and specification makes it feel as if it belongs in a higher league. The Flash 610 has a big rear garage for bikes, with three large access doors. There’s also a non-slip floor and two 230V sockets. Above it is one of the largest wardrobes we’ve ever seen in a motorhome. Designed for year-round touring, the Flash 610’s full-width rear washroom has a frosted window and a huge, fully lined separate shower cubicle. There’s a generous 122-litre fresh-water tank, too, and diesel-powered blown-air heating. The spacious central dining and lounging space is among the Flash 610’s best features, with room for up to seven. At night, the table drops down electrically so you can make up a double bed, then, at the turn of another key, a second huge double descends from the ceiling. The Chausson was up against talented compact motorhomes from Swift and Benimar, but it packs in a whole lot more space for less cash. This is truly the consummate all-rounder, and a worthy winner.
Best family motorhome: Swift Escape 696
Flexibility is key to the Swift Escape 696’s enduring popularity – it offers spacious, well-priced accommodation for six to tour in comfort, all for just £41,095. There’s nothing dramatically new about the 696, but it has consistently combined quality, space, flexibility and affordability over the years. In our awards shortlist, we asked: ‘Could this be the best family-friendly six-berther?’ Now we have the answer – and it’s a resounding yes. The Swift Escape 696 faced tough opposition from Bailey’s impressive new entry-level Approach Advance 665 and the spacious Elddis Autoquest 180, but the way this fixed-bunk Swift works for families with kids of all ages makes it well worth the small price premium.
Best coachbuilt motorhome: Pilote Pacific P716P
With a French bed and a stand-out lounge, the 2015 Pilote Pacific P716P is a fine coachbuilt for touring couples who prize comfort. We were very impressed by this French gem. The square front lounge seats six, or eight if you use the cab seats. It’s perfect for dodging bad weather, stretching out or inviting neighbours in. There’s even a bar, with space for eight stemmed glasses and six bottles under a hinged flap. The P716P costs £53,108 and is a 7.18m-long low-profile with a rear French bed and nearside midships kitchen, separated by a nearside corner washroom. Two more can sleep in the electrically operated drop-down bed over the lounge. Clever Pilote designers put the water boiler/space heater under a kitchen unit to free up storage space under the rear bed, and the lounge table is hinged to allow direct access from the cab to the rear. The Pilote was our clear coachbuilt motorhome winner.
Best luxury motorhome: Knaus Sky i 700 LEG
Any ’van considered for this gong must be packed with luxury features that lift it towards perfection. This restrained 7.44m four-berth from German maker Knaus has it all, for £73,495. The Sky i 700 LEG is a refined ’van with a good specification, masses of storage and genuine innovation. A proper master suite is a must in this class, and the 700 LEG delivers with attractively lit, fashionable rear twin beds that can be made into a large double. Forward of the bed is a flexible split washroom that converts into a full-width en suite. Up front, there’s a spacious drop-down double bed and a bright, airy six-seater lounge. There’s also a stylish and practical L-shaped kitchen, 190-litre fridge/freezer and a whopping rear garage. The 700 LEG is also the most affordable contender on our shortlist and with quality like this it’s easy to see why Knaus sells more motorhomes in Germany than any other maker.
Overall winner – Motorhome Of The Year Awards 2015: Murvi Pimento
A British-built high-top van conversion grabs the gold medal in this year’s awards – we salute the Murvi Motorcaravans team in Ivybridge, Devon, and its winning ’van. The Pimento provides plenty of value for the money – which is not the same as ‘cheap’. The kitchen and cupboards are perfectly practical. The corner washroom is compact but brilliantly executed and well finished. The durable soft furnishings will resist heavy wear and look good. The Murvi Pimento costs £47,553 and stands head and shoulders above the rest of our contenders because it combines a practical, fully developed layout built on what many feel is the class-leading base vehicle.
Pimento ticks many boxes, with few compromises. The interior is the result of Murvi’s many decades of motorcaravan design and construction. Its dedicated team liaises closely with customers to produce what global motorcaravanners want. The soft furnishings resist heavy wear and are muddy-paw-friendly but remain attractive and modern without looking like an explosion in a jam factory or a sea of white hide. The kitchen workstation is perfectly practical, well thought-out and brilliantly realised. The main salon’s open-plan seating has room for mod-cons but remains light and airy.
At first glance, the OTR price appears higher than those of some of the competition – especially some cheap imports. But remember that switched-on buyers go for the best value, not the cheapest model; they are rarely, if ever, the same. This qualifies the Pimento as an investment, not just a purchase.
Congratulations to all our winners!
Don’t forget that you can read more about each of our winning motorhomes in the November 2015 issue of Practical Motorhome.