Nick HardingSee other Advice articles filed in ‘Used motorhome buying guides’ written by Nick Harding
Micro-coachbuilts – we Brits just love ’em. They manage to combine day-to-day driveability with economical running costs, and a habitation side that’s capable of providing at least some of life’s luxuries. And, it goes without saying, they also cost less than their full-size cousins.
While the offerings from Romahome have come to typify the micro-motorhome, the company is not without its rivals: two feature in this article. Nu Venture is a smaller-scale manufacturer, typically selling direct (although it’s a franchise long held by Todds, the subject company of this dealer visit), but it found a niche with such vehicles.
And Auto-Sleepers, that most mainstream of manufacturers, couldn’t help having a little dabble in the micro-camper sector, with its Mezan.
There are certainly a few pre-owned examples to be found if you’re prepared to scour the market. Typically, a micro-motorhome will have a smaller than average base vehicle, which of course also results in more compact dimensions for the finished article. Through sheer necessity, that can mean that the specification is a little bit restricted.
It’s definitely unusual, though, to see three or more such vehicles for sale together. Indeed, there were a greater number on the books when I paid my visit.
All three come with a one-year Silver warranty underwritten by MB&G.
Todds Motorhomes – more than just micro-campers
It’s very unusual – possibly unique – for a motorhome dealership to have all of its display vehicles under cover. However, that’s the case at Todds Motorhomes, based at Tardy Gate Trading Estate, Lostock Hall, Preston, Lancashire; it’s a company that’s been in the same family since it was founded in 1985 by David and Edna Todd.
It had a slightly different entry into the market, too, in that David had originally completed two motorhome conversions of his own. They doubled up as vans for his garden centre business, before he decided to take the step of retailing them. Even then, the company initially specialised in tents and trailer tents; it wasn’t until 1985 that motorhomes became the focus, some three years after the move to the company’s current premises.
Son and daughter Stuart and Julie took on the running of the business; however Julie has taken a step back – it’s her daughter, Jessica, who’s more involved in day-to-day matters.
Recent work has also seen that showroom space increase. Sales manager Craig Stephens explains: "We can now get 100 vehicles in if we organise it right."
In fact, not only is Todds unique in being able to display all of its sale vehicles indoors, it’s quite possibly the UK’s greenest motorhome dealer.
A full programme of roof refurbishment has seen the installation of some 120 solar panels, and there’s now a biomass heating system. As Stuart puts it: "We now produce more energy than we use."
Todds Motorhomes has several new franchises, selling Autocruise, Auto-Trail, Devon, Nu Venture, Roller Team, Swift and Trigano motorhomes. When you visit you'll find there's a motorhome workshop, accessories shop, habitation servicing and accessories fitting and customer parking.
Todds Motorhomes won a Gold Award in the used motorhome dealership category of Practical Motorhome's Owner Satisfaction Awards 2016 and Silver in 2015.
As-good-as-new option: 2008 (58) Auto-Sleeper Mezan LL
At Todds we found a good-as-new 2008 (58) Auto-Sleeper Mezan LL for sale for £21,995. It would have cost £28,760 when new and is based on a Peugeot Partner with a 1.6-litre turbodiesel, 89bhp engine, with just 12,786 miles on the clock. It's a two-berth micro-camper with two seats belted for travel. It measures 4.95m long, 1.73m wide and 2.06m high. The MTPLM is 1930kg and payload 350kg.
It’s no secret that the Mezan was Auto-Sleepers’ attempt to knock Romahome off its perch. It certainly matches its rival in terms of layout, with twin settees that can be made into single beds (or a double, but that’s not so easy), and a step down at the back to the kitchen. This is the smallest ’van here, but it does have an elevating-roof – it’s signified by the 'LL' in the model’s name.
The rear of the ’van gives you a hob and grill on the offside, and a sink opposite. Both are in units with good storage, and there’s room to stow a portable toilet in a floor locker.
The Mezan’s bodywork is all-GRP, and it’ll probably outlast the Peugeot on which it’s based. This example has the 89bhp engine and has covered fewer than 13,000 miles. It also has cab air-con.
There’s a superior heating system for the Mezan's living area, thanks to an Eberspächer blown-air unit that sips from the base vehicle’s fuel.
This Mezan has had one owner and, as an Auto-Sleeper, commands a premium price. You can also expect good after-sales support from Auto-Sleepers itself, in terms of spare-parts supply and so on. Indeed, the ’van’s residual value has dropped by just £1000 for each year of its life.
So, to sum up, what are our likes and dislikes about this 2008 Auto-Sleeper Mezan LL?
- Likes: All-GRP coachbuilt bodywork.
- Dislikes: Rising-roof means that upper-level storage is lost.
Value-for-money option: 2003 (03) Nu Venture Rio Sand
We also spotted this bargain at Todds, a 2003 Nu Venture Rio Sand micro-camper for sale at £17,995. It was first registered in 2003 and when new, it would have been sold for £23,995. The Rio Sand is based on a Fiat Scudo with a 2.0-litre turbodiesel, 109bhp engine. It has clocked up just 38,825 miles, so it's pretty young at heart. The Nu Venture Rio Sand is a two-berth micro-camper, with two belted travel seats in the cab. It's 5.15m long, 1.95m wide and 2.5m high and comes with an extra awning thrown in. The MTPLM is 2335kg and the payload is 370kg.
If you’re tempted by the Auto-Trail Tracker, you’d be daft not to give this vehicle a second look. It’s three years younger and, although it’s smaller and doesn’t manage the same specification, it’s still more than viable.
It also has the same Scudo base vehicle; albeit with a standard Fiat chassis, rather than the better riding and handling Al-Ko extension. However, it does have the superior two-litre Euro 4 engine (compared with the 1.9 in the older vehicle).
It’s a Romahome-esque floorplan here, with a stable door at the very back of the traditionally built coachbuilt body with aluminium sides and GRP overcab pod. The interior styling will appeal to many, while the two-settee lounge can be made into a pair of single beds or a double.
Then it’s a step down to the kitchen and washroom. The latter is cramped. You get a fully plumbed-in Thetford toilet, but you’ll need to leave the door open to use it – a curtain helps provide some privacy.
The kitchen has a two-ring hob and separate sink, both with enamel finish, and a 60-litre fridge.
The ’van has had four owners, but there’s every indication that each has been fastidious in their care.
So, to sum up, what are our likes and dislikes for the 2003 Nu Venture Rio Sand micro-camper?
- Likes: Comfy interior, traditional surroundings.
- Dislikes: Cramped toilet facilities.
Super-saver option: 2000 (W) Auto-Trail Tracker
If you're looking for micro-campers for sale up to £15,000, you'll love our super-saver option. We spotted a 2000 (W) Auto-Trail Tracker for just £14,995, which is a big saving on its price of £27,999 when new. Based on the Fiat Scudo/Al-Ko, the Auto-Trail Tracker has a 1.9-litre turbodiesel, 90bhp engine. It has clocked up a modest 37,980 miles since it was first registered in 2000 and comes with an awning included, which would have been an 'extra' when the first owner bought the campervan. The Auto-Trail Tracker is 5.52m long, 2.07m wide and 2.62m high. The MTPLM is 2510kg and the payload is 370kg.
The Tracker may be a key model in Auto-Trail’s current portfolio, but did you know that it started out as something of a ground-breaking micro motorhome (certainly by Auto-Trail standards), based on Fiat’s Scudo with an Al-Ko chassis extension?
An excellent little motorhome built to a high level of luxury, this very early example has the 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine. It didn’t quite possess the zest of the later two-litre, but gave a handy turn of speed in all five of its gears.
It was exceedingly well equipped for such a small vehicle – the kitchen has a full-size cooker and a sink with a drainer, for example. Plus, there’s good storage and worktop space. There’s a decent washroom, too.
Even the lounge is an okay size, given that the cab plays no real part when you’re onsite. Despite Auto-Trail offering a swivel facility for the passenger’s chair, it’s still a squeeze from the living quarters into either front seat. The third travel seat lacks any upper back and head support.
At night, the lounge seating makes up into a transverse double bed. The cushioning is rather soft, but a bigger challenge could be the way the bed cuts right across the habitation doorway.
So, to sum up, what are the things we like and dislike most about our cheapest used micro-camper, the 2000 (W) Auto-Trail Tracker?
- Likes: Full-size coachbuilt fittings; generous kitchen.
- Dislikes: Bed blocks; habitation-door access.