One thing we have really noticed in the many years Practical Motorhome has been reviewing motorhomes is just how innovative motorhome designers can be, when given the chance. It seems the confines of space and the need to keep things lightweight have really concentrated their minds on solving issues you face when you are living on the road, such as how to cook effectively, or how to create a comfortable bed without making everything too cramped for daytime living. Sometimes we think the solutions they come up with could be taken into the world of conventional home and vehicle design without much adaptation at all.

Here, then, is our list of ten innovative motorhomes we have reviewed over the past two years. While the innovation is mostly in the design of the van itself, it isn’t always. Sometimes it comes in a little extra we weren’t expecting.

Innovative motorhomes

WildAx Elara

  • Price £69,675
  • Berths 2
  • Belts 2
  • Length 5.93m
  • MTPLM 3500kg
  • Base vehicle Mercedes Sprinter

The advantages of a van conversion seem obvious on the outside – they are usually nimbler to drive, easier to park, don’t look so conspicuous, and are almost always cheaper to run than large coachbuilt vans with their extra wind resistance.

But those charms often fade away when people come to look inside. Why? Because a comfortable fixed bed in these van conversions is something of a rarity. A comfortable fixed double bed which both of you can walk around is even more unusual.

So step forward the WildAx Elara, which does indeed have just such a bed in its rear. And at 2m long, said bed is actually longer than a good many you would find in an A-class motorhome.

If you think that means this van will be incredibly cramped elsewhere, you are wrong. There is still space for a washroom, a small kitchen and a front lounge complete with an L-shaped settee and a pedestal table.

And because the back opens as barn doors, there is easy access to the huge amount of space under the bed you can still use for storage.

The icing on the cake is the  base vehicle – a Mercedes Sprinter.

BUY IF… You’ve always wanted to go for a van conversion – but didn’t think you could sacrifice comfort

PROs
The bed, obviously, but also being based on a Mercedes

CONs
That base vehicle does make the price a little high

Read our 2019 WildAx Elara review

Dreamer Living Van

  • Price £53,390
  • Berths 4
  • Belts 5
  • Length 6.36m
  • MTPLM 3500kg
  • Base vehicle Fiat Ducato

The Living Van, a new model in Rapido’s 2020 linep-up, was created with input from the French company’s UK dealers, and it shows. It’s really a masterclass in how to include a lot of comfort into a relatively small space – in this case an internal length of just 6.36m.

Based on Fiat’s heavy chassis, which makes getting in a lot easier, the Living Van includes a large rear lounge with a back-board cushion that can be placed across the barn doors at the back to create more sociable U-shaped seating. But that isn’t the only lounge in here: there’s a front dinette too. Nor does it make up the only bed – there’s a slightly bigger bed that drops down over the front dinette.

The washroom is a clever design too. It includes a separate shower cubicle, but, to save space, this houses the wardrobe when you are not needing to use the shower. At the press of a button, this wardrobe rotates out to allow all the showering space you need.

No wonder the Living Van won the best rear lounge category in this year’s Motorhome of the Year awards.

BUY IF… You want a van conversion which you can invite guests into

PROS
Good size beds, roomy lounge

CONS
Only a double burner in the kitchen

Read our Dream Living Van review

Rapido M96

  • Price £87,800
  • Berths 4
  • Belts 4
  • Length 7.54m
  • MTPLM 3500kg
  • Base vehicle Mercedes Sprinter

If you had spent close to £90,000 on a well-insulated A-class motorhome with an Al-Ko chassis (and therefore a level floor) like this one, you would probably want to use it as much as possible, all year-round, wouldn’t you? Well, yes you would, but hardened motorcaravanners will tell you that one of the problems with doing that is keeping the motorhome warm on those chilly winter evenings. And one of the most problematic areas to keep warm is the area immediately below the table. Because it is cut off from much of the rest of the air circulating in the vehicle, this area can become a cold spot where icy knees are not unknown.

The M96, one of two new Mercedes-based models from Rapido for 2020, gets around this problem by having warm air actually ducted under up through the pedestal table leg. This makes the front lounge, with its parallel seating, a really enjoyable place to spend any evening.

Other inventive touches include having concave overhead lockers to enhance the sense of space, and having wardrobes around the rear island bed that curve outwards to leave more room for the bed itself.

BUY IF… You want to make sure your winter tour is cosy

PROS
Comfy lounge, large bed

CONS
Only a single drainage hole in the shower

Read our Rapido M96 review

Chausson 778

  • Price £53,950 (Ford) £54,580 (Fiat)
  • Berths 4
  • Belts 4
  • Length 7.49m
  • MTPLM 3500kg
  • Base vehicle Ford Transit/Fiat Ducato

French manufacturer Chausson has a well-earned reputation for coming up with innovative designs for motorhomes, and this season has proved no exception. 

Step into the 778 and turn to the back, and you will come across the largest washroom and dressing room you have probably ever seen in a motorhome – complete with his and hers basins and a huge mirror that wouldn’t look out of place backstage in the West End.

If you are then wondering where the bed is in this arrangement is, that is simple. Once you have finished your ablutions it drops down over the basin from above. It’s big too.

Or course, innovative doesn’t always mean popular. Not all of Chausson’s most innovative models have stood the test of time – the Suite with an island kitchen being a case in point. And while we have loved this motorhome from the moment it was launched, observing how others have reacted to it has made us think this might end up being a Marmite van. Because not everyone likes the idea of sleeping in the washroom. Still, the only way to find out if you yourself do is to check this motorhome out yourself.

BUY IF… You want your motorhome to have a washroom that is possibly better than the one you have at home.

PROS
Huge washroom, comfy bed

CONS
That bed is in the washroom

Read our Chausson 778 review

Chausson 711 Travel Line

  • Price £56,750
  • Berths 4
  • Belts 4
  • Length 7.46m
  • MTPLM 3500kg
  • Base vehicle Fiat Ducato

Take your family on long motorhome journeys on the continent and you may well find that two issues keep coming to the fore with rather monotonous regularity: the habitation door doesn’t open on the right side for the UK, so you have to dodge the traffic when you step out; and the bench seats are incredibly uncomfortable when you have been sitting on them all the way from Calais.

The 711 Travel Line gets around this issue in two very clever ways. It has a habitation door on both sides, so you are always safe getting out of the vehicle whatever country you are in. And instead of being bench seats, the two travel seats in the rear are proper car seats just like you get in the cab: you can sit in them for hours.

There’s a comfortable lounge with a large round table right at the back for when you arrive on site. And neither this lounge nor the travel seats further front play any part in making up the beds. They just drop down from the ceiling.

BUY IF… You want to keep the kids happy and comfy on a long journey

PROS
Doors on both sides – everyone is comfortable

CONS
Inside storage isn’t hugely generous

Rear our 2018 Chausson 711 Travel Line review

Elddis Autoquest CV60

  • Price £42,099
  • Berths 2
  • Belts 2
  • Length 5.99m
  • MTPLM 3500kg
  • Base vehicle Peugeot Boxer

If you have a fixed bed in the rear of a van conversion, almost all the time it is either two single beds or a transverse double. Very occasionally it is a French bed. But what you find in Elddis’ Autoquest CV60, new for 2020, is entirely new. There is a French bed of sorts, but you can roll it back to make a day bed, from which you are in a perfect position to watch the world outside through the large window or watch TV.

Nor is this area the only lounge. A pedestal table fits up front next to the swivelled cabh seats and is close to the kitchen, so it makes the perfect spot for the two of you to have dinner.

With a good size central washroom too, we were happy to make this van our Motorhome of the Year for 2020.

BUY IF… You want a little bit more indulgence in your van conversion.

PROS
Clever bed that also becomes daybed

CONS
Not really any garage space

Read our Elddis Autoquest CV60 review

Hembil Drift

  • Price £47,950
  • Berths 4
  • Belts 4
  • Length: 4.89m
  • MTPLM 3500kg
  • Base vehicle VW T6

Innovation and flexibility should go hand in hand. They certainly do in the Hembil Drift, the first in a new brand launched by Kent-based CMC Reimo.

It includes a sliding door on either side of the van, for convenience, and for that extra bit of summer style the side kitchen can rotate out 90 degrees so that it almost becomes an outdoor kitchen. As the van also comes with two awning rails, you could potentially put a cover up here as well as on the other side and have a really grand space.

The optional roof bed is roomy and comes with handy USB sockets, so whoever sleeps up here should not feel disconnected.

BUY IF… Camper vans for you are all about getting outside

PROS
Adaptable kitchen

CONS
In outdoors mode it may be a little high for some.

Read our Hembil Drift review

 

Auto-Sleepers Symbol Plus

  • Price £57,700
  • Berths 2
  • Belts 3
  • Length 5.99m
  • MTPLM 3300kg
  • Base vehicle Peugeot Boxer

Auto-Sleepers’ Symbol Plus takes the best parts of two other Auto-Sleepers vans – the Symbol and the now discontinued Stanway – and makes them into a really compelling proposition. You have the spacious L-shaped kitchen of the Stanway at the rear, and the Symbol’s front section with its oh so pleasant sideways facing sette that really lets you look out and admire the view.

There is even a partition of sorts between the two areas which means you can extend the corner washroom out to be a little dressing area as well.

And for a can conversion, there is plenty of storage.

BUY IF… you want a bit of everything in a van conversion

PROS
Useful kitchen

CONS
Corner washroom is narrow

Read our 2019 Auto-Sleeper Symbol Plus review

VW Grand California 600

  • Price £68,899
  • Berths 2-4
  • Belts 4
  • Length 6.0m
  • MTPLM 3500kg
  • Base vehicle VW Crafter

Of the two new California models based on the VW Crafter rather than the Transporter, the shorter one – the 600 – is possibly the more innovative. The 680, while including a very sleek interior not unlike an aircraft cabin, just has a standard pair of fixed single beds in the rear. But the 600 includes a bulbous roof – admittedly not the most attractive of features. As a cost option, this can include a roof bed that slides out over the front dinette and should be large enough for teenagers and smaller adults. As this is encased within a hard GRP shell it should mean you can take the camper van touring with the kids all year round. The large window at the front is a bit of a watering down of VW’s original concept van, which had a much larger glass roof. But it is still large enough to mean your kids can go to bed and stargaze.

Downstairs, meanwhile, the standard bed is a transverse double in the back.

You still get VW’s sophisticated interior design, with highly engineered (some might say over-engineered) overhead lockers and a very sleek side kitchen.Finally, iif you go for the 600 model, MTPLM is still 3500kg, so anyone can drive it. The 3850kg 680 is only for those with a C1 licence.

BUY IF… You like to rely on trusted design and engineering, and want to use your camper van all year around.

PROS
Sleek design, and hard shell roof bed

CONS
Pricey

Read our 2019 VW Grand California 600 review

Sun Living S70 SP

  • Price £52,865
  • Berths 5
  • Belts 5
  • Length 6.99m
  • MTPLM 3500kg
  • Base vehicle Fiat Ducato

The whole Sun Living range, effectively Adria’s budget brand, is only a couple of seasons old. But it immediately gained attention when it was launched, thanks to its innovative interior design that really emphasises a sense of space.

This is mainly partly achieved by having loads of headroom, a level floor, and by removing a lot of clutter, such as overhead locker door handles. But the main bonus is having a washroom with a tambour door that can be rolled right back when the washroom is not in use, leaving a vast and open area that the cook, for example, can move about in.

This is apparent even in a model like the S70SP, which has a large transverse bed at the back. And there is  an extra bit of cleverness with this transverse bed because it has a hatch beneath it that gives you easy access to the garage under the bed. No more having to dash outside and open the garage door last thing at that night because you forgot you packed the duvets in there.

BUY IF… You can live with modern design it if means more space

PROS
Loads of space and headroom

CONS
Holes that are used instead of locker handles can be tricky

Read our 2018 Sun Living S70 SP review