Motorhomes are often described as design-led, but few actually are.
Sure, the designers have their say over a few twiddly bits or signature swirls, but their concept is often so watered down, production models lack the impact and purity of the original design.
The Laika Kreos (built between 1999 and 2004 on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter) is a notable exception.
It really was design-led, and production models mirrored the concept very closely.
A quote at the time from a company designer confirms this: “The personality of (our) Kreos leapt off the CAD drawing board straight onto the production line.”
The extensive use of yacht-grade moulded GRP facilitated the curvaceous exterior, and other high-end contemporary materials used in the cabinetwork continued the theme.
Take a look at the images. See any sharp corners? Exactly!
Some described the interior as ‘space age’, but we prefer ‘organic’.
Folk chose to allude to space travel partly because of the use of contemporary materials and designs, but also because the company is named after Laika, the first dog in space. Hence the winged canine logo.
A game-changing motorhome
My first sighting of a Kreos was in the grounds of Laika’s Italian manufacturing facility, in the heart of Chianti-shire.
I immediately fell in love. We had never seen such stylish, family-friendly, multi-berth coachbuilts.
Terms such as ‘perfectly practical’ or ‘hard-wearing’ are usually applied to such models, with only ‘bright young things’ and ‘empty nesters’ thought worthy of motorhomes that give form an equal or greater importance than function.
The Laika Kreos 3004 was the most popular in the UK – seating and sleeping five, it featured one of the UK’s then most popular layouts.
A forward lounge consisted of a double Pullman dinette on the offside, with a long inward-facing sofa opposite, ahead of a kitchen either side of the central aisle, and an enormous rear-corner washroom.
The Kreos 3003 moved the entrance door forward. On entering, one found a double Pullman dinette, but this time on the nearside and with the kitchen opposite.
The washroom in the nearside corner had an additional single Pullman dinette opposite.
An option replaced the single dinette with permanent longitudinal bunk beds.
This increased the sleeping berths from five to six, but decreased the passenger seats to five.
- Laika Kreos on Mercedes-Benz Euro Sprinter chassis-cab
- Built 1999-2004 in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Italy
- Luton overcab coachbuilt
- Overall length: 6.78m (22’3”)
What to look for
You’ve found a Laika you like the look of in the used motorhomes for sale pages, but what next? Here we tell you what to look for in any prospective purchase.
These rear-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinters were available at two different weights.
It is possible to upgrade the chassis retrospectively, but it’s better to buy the most appropriate one in the first place.
Standard was a 3500kg one offering a payload of just 333kg (not enough to cover the potential passenger load).
A 3800kg upgrade was an extra-cost option. The latter increases the payload to a more user-friendly 513kg, but would require all drivers to have group C1 on their licence.
Back then, the three-pointed star used the Sprintshift robotised automatic gearbox, which didn’t use a torque converter.
Some journalists criticised this as being jerky, but our Owner Satisfaction Survey showed that owners took the opposite view.
Look for a full service history and check the tyres, which are likely to be out-of-date rather than worn out.
If it isn’t immaculate, walk away.
These were mega-expensive when new (dearer than Laika’s A-class offerings) and were built up to a spec, not down to a price.
Insist on a recent habitation service and – as with any ’van of this age – a comprehensive water-ingress check.
- Truly design-led
- Those curvaceous and fluid lines
- The family-friendly layout
- Rear-wheel drive
- The entrance door is on the offside
- The soft ride (air assistors can help considerably)
- Their rarity
What to pay
Over the past year, asking prices have been from £18,000 private and from £23,000 trade.
At the time of writing, there were none advertised for sale on the internet, which suggests that one shouldn’t hesitate when they do become available.
Our pick of the range would be the Kreos 3004 on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 316, with the larger, 156bhp engine.
Or you could try the low-profile Laika Kreos on Fiat Ducato, the next-generation Luton overcab Kreos on Iveco Daily, or the Mobilvetta Icaro.
We had never seen such stylish, family-friendly, multi-berth coachbuilts